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Click here for travel guides that will help you determine what you might need for international travel and dealing with foreign electricity with your U.S. electrical devices.

INTRODUCTION


    Most of the world outside of North America uses electricity at approximately 220 volts/50hz. while most North American appliances are designed for 110 volts/60hz. In addition to the voltage/frequency problems, the wall outlets (receptacles) configurations are also different from country to country (there are 10 different grounded wall outlet plug adapters and 6 different ungrounded wall outlet plug adapters). The solution to the different voltage/frequencies you will encounter as you travel is either a VOLTAGE CONVERTER or a TRANSFORMER depending on the type of appliances or equipment you plan to use. The solutions to the problem of wall outlet (receptacle) differences are Plug adapters (but remember: plug adapters don't change the voltage).


UNGROUNDED CONVERTERS

If the appliances or equipment you intend to take overseas with you are all ungrounded and you will only need to use them one at a time for short periods of time, then you might consider an ungrounded voltage converter as a solution to the differences in voltages as you travel.
Ungrounded Converters can be used only for ungrounded appliances (2 pins on the plug) and only with "electric" (never "electronic") appliances, that is, appliances that are used for heating purposes and / or use "universal" motors (curling irons, hair dryers, steam inhalers, bottle warmers, irons, etc). Converters and Transformer/Converters do not change the frequency differences (Hz or cycles) you will encounter outside of North America. The issue of frequency will be covered below.

You must always read and follow all instructions about converters and all electrical devices for your safety. U.S. visitors to foreign countries will want to convert the 220 volts to 110 volts through the use of one of our "step down" converters.

Solid state voltage converters are for ungrounded (2 pins) appliances only. Most solid state converters are not designed for "continuous duty" and should be used for short periods of time, 45 minutes to an hour. They must be unplugged from the wall when not in use and never left unattended.



GROUNDED TRANSFORMERS


Transformers can be used with grounded plugs (3 pin) and can be used with "electric" and "electronic" appliances alike (unlike a ungrounded converter that can only be used for "electric appliances"). "Electronic" refers to those devices and appliances that contain electronic circuitry of some sort such as: most radios, some shavers, fax machines,computers, printers, laptops, etc. We carry transformers that just "step down" 220/240 volts to 110/120 volts (as would apply to a U.S. visitor to a foreign country) and we carry step up / step down transformers that will, with just the flip of a switch, "step up (110/120 to 220/240 for the foreign visitor to the U.S.)" or "step down" 220/240 volts to 110/120 volts.
Features of all the transformers include: off/on power switch, replaceable safety fuse, heavy duty metal case, 5' of cord with either a European grounded "schuko" plug (on the step down transformers) or a grounded U.S. plug (on the step up / step down combination), and a power indicator light. The transformers like the solid state voltage converters do not change the frequency. That issue is covered below.


WALL OUTLET (RECEPTACLE) PLUG ADAPTERS


If you were looking for a worldwide standard, forget it! There are at least 13 different configurations that we know of, each requiring its own adapter. And if that wasn't complicated enough, some countries use 2, 3, 4, and even 5 different configurations in different areas within their borders. Adapters are a simple solution (once you have found the right one[s]) to the configuration problem and we have attempted to provide you with the best source for finding the correct adapters with our World Electric Guide

Plug adapters are available as either grounded or ungrounded. Which one you need depends on the plug of the appliance or equipment you intend to use overseas. A plug with 2 pins or blades is ungrounded and one with 3 pins or blades is grounded. Usually you can use an ungrounded plug in a grounded adapter but not vice versa. One very important warning!! Remember that plug adapters do not change voltages!
In creating the World Electricity Guide we used the most reliable sources we could find, including the U.S. Department of Commerce and travelers like yourself. We appreciate your assistance in trying to create a reliable source for what is obviously a complicated issue and to make this information available to all travelers with no obligation to buy. We've done a lot of research in order ensure the accuracy of the information you find here (there are over 220 countries listed here), but we can only guarantee that it isn't infallible and there will be some mistakes and/or omissions. In cases where we found sources that recommended different or additional adapters for the same country we included them all (we hope that "it is better to have and not need than to need and not have" applies here).


FREQUENCY, CYCLES, HERTZ, HZ (60 HZ vs. 50HZ)


AC frequency refers to the number of cycles that electrical voltage or current (maximum positive values then maximum negative values) goes through each second. In North America the frequency,expressed as Hertz, is 60 cycles per second (60 Hz). This information about frequencies would never be important in your life if you never left North America. But if you do leave the U.S., in addition to having to deal with those higher voltages in other countries, you may also have to contend with the lower frequencies (50 Hz) in most foreign countries . Because of the lower frequency, as an example, most AC motors will rotate 17% slower.   

Appliances and equipment that simply contain heating elements with no electronic timers, microchips, or other electronic circuitry are unaffected by frequency. Many appliances have DC (direct current) motors and convert the incoming AC into DC which is not affected by frequency. Many appliances are "multi-voltage" and have electronic circuitry that automatically senses and then compensates for the frequency and voltage differences. There are also some appliance that are "dual voltage" that can be manually switched from one voltage to another.


WATTAGE CALCULATION (volt X amp = watts)


Watts refers to the amount of power (electricity) consumed by your appliances and equipment. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Actually it is very simple and it is important to know a little about it because you need to know wattage in order to choose a Converter or a Transformer.

The wattage of most appliances and equipment is found on decals or labels of some sort on the appliance or equipment or in the owner's manual. In addition, the decals or labels also usually give the voltage and/or amperage of the appliance.

If the watts aren't given you can still figure it out if you know the voltage and amperage. If you multiply the voltage times the amperage, the result equals the wattage of the appliance. For example, the decal on the appliance you want to take overseas doesn't list the wattage but gives the voltage as 120 volts and the amperage is 1.1. To find the wattage of that particular appliance, multiply the voltage 120 times the amperage 1.1, 120X1.1=132 watts


What Is A Transformer?

In its most basic form, a transformer is a laminated steel core wrapped with insulated copper wire with at least two coils or windings. A transformer, again in its most primitive state, has no moving parts and is normally a trouble-free device. Transformers are designed to step up (increase) or step down (decrease) AC voltages through the principle of mutual inductance which causes a voltage to be induced from one coil into another coil because of the relative motion of the collapsing and expanding magnetic field resulting from the constantly alternating current (60 times per second). The primary coil is the input coil or power source and the secondary coil is the output coil or load.

The core is not a solid component but rather is many layers of thin steel called laminations. This core is the "link" that magnetically "connects" the primary winding to the secondary winding. When AC power is applied to the Primary coil a magnetic field is produced within the core, also known as Flux, that induces voltage in the Secondary coil or output.

The ratio of the number of wire turns in the primary windings versus the secondary windings determines whether a transformer is a step up or step down. For example, 120 turns on the primary versus 30 turns on the secondary is a 4:1 ratio and if the input voltage was 480 volts the secondary or output would be 120 volts. This would, obviously, be a step down transformer.

The type of transformer we have been describing so far is an isolation transformer. That is, the windings or coils are physically separated from each other. Another, very common, type of transformer is the autotransformer which consists of a single "tapped" coil in which the turns between the tap and one end of the primary winding comprise one coil of the transformer and the entire primary winding comprises the other coil. An autotransformer in the lower winding ratios is very lightweight, physically smaller, and therefore more economical than its isolation transformer counterpart. The transformers we sell here and elsewhere for international voltage converter purposes are all autotransformers.



Transformer Calculations

Watts refers to the amount of power (electricity) consumed by your appliances and equipment. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Actually it is very simple and it is important to know a little about it because you need to know wattage in order to choose a Converter or a Transformer. The wattage of most appliances and equipment is found on decals or labels of some sort on the appliance or equipment or in the owner's manual. In addition, the decals or labels also usually give the voltage and/or amperage of the appliance.

If the watts aren't given, you can still figure it out if you know the voltage and amperage. If you multiply the voltage times the amperage, the result equals the wattage of the appliance. For example, the decal on the appliance you want to take overseas doesn't list the wattage but gives the voltage as 120 volts and the amperage is 1.1. To find the wattage of that particular appliance, multiply the voltage 120 times the amperage 1.1, 120X1.1=132 watts.


TRANSFORMER SELECTION

The manufacturers of all transformers recommend that the connected watts not exceed 90% of the Transformer's rated wattage. For example, don't connect more than 450 watts to a 500 watt transformer.

Now that you know how to figure the wattage (either look on the label or do the simple math) you are ready to select a converter and/or a transformer. To choose either one you first decide which appliances you want to use, second get the wattage of each item, and third, decide how many appliances you will use at one time. See which of the three situations below applies to you, then look at the solutions and examples:


1). You will bring and use only 1 appliance.

2). You will bring more than one appliance but use only one at a time.

3). You will bring and use more than one appliance.

SOLUTION 1). Just find the wattage of that one appliance and choose the converter or transformer that suits your needs.

SOLUTION 2).If you know for a fact that you will never use more than one appliance or piece of equipment or combination thereof at one time then you find the highest wattage of your appliances and choose the converter or transformer that has a higher wattage than that one appliance.

SOLUTION 3). Add all of the appliance wattage you will use at one time and once again choose the Converter or Transformer with a wattage rating higher than the total of all the appliances you intend to use at one time:

EXAMPLE of SOLUTION #1. If your ungrounded appliance has a wattage of 550 watts you can choose between the ungrounded step down Hi-Lo converter (use it with the wattage switch set before plugging into the wall at the 25-1875 watts setting) or the VC-1000 step up / step down transformer. If your appliance is grounded or you want to use it for long periods of time, you will have to choose one of the Transformer model because the converters aren't grounded and can't be used for longer than 45 minutes to one hour. The advantages of converters are: inexpensive, lightweight, and compact.

EXAMPLE of SOLUTION #2.In this example you could choose the ungrounded Hi-Lo converter that has two settings 0-25 watts and 25-1875 watts. WARNING! Always switch to correct wattage range before plugging into an adapter that should already be in the wall outlet, if an adapter is used. You could also choose the step up / step down transformer VC-2000. The Hi-Lo converter is not intended for continuous use and must be unplugged from adapter which also must be removed from wall outlet as soon as you are finished with appliance or equipment. The advantages of converters are they are: inexpensive, lightweight, and compact.

1ST EXAMPLE of SOLUTION #3. You are bringing 3 ungrounded appliances that you have to use at the same time with the following watts: 1400, 350, and 150. The total of all the watts is 1900 watts which is too high for any of the converters but you could choose the step up / step down transformer model VC-3000 . Remember you don't want to load the transformer more than approximately 90% of its rated wattage.

2ND EXAMPLE of SOLUTION #3. You want to bring a 300 watt grounded appliance, a 500 watt ungrounded, and a 800 watt grounded appliance and you have to use them all at the same time for long periods of time. You would add all of the watts, 1600 watts total, and choose the VC-2000 model transformer. You couldn't choose a straight converter, even though it has a wattage rating above the 1875 watts of all these appliances for two very important reasons, 1). you have some grounded appliances and 2). you intend to use them for long periods of time. Either of the previous reasons preclude the use of a Converter, they can't be used for long periods of time and they aren't grounded.


Differences in international electricity and what it means to you when you travel. This world travel guide covers some of the important issues without overwhelming you with more information than you actually need.
Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guam, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Micronesia, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Palau, Puerto Rico, Saba and Saba (St.Eustatius), Taiwan, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks/Caicos Islands, United States of America, Venezuela, and Virgin Islands
Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guam, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Micronesia, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Palau, Puerto Rico, Saba and Saba (St.Eustatius), Taiwan, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks/Caicos Islands, United States of America, Venezuela, and Virgin Islands
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