Home Books & Maps Gear World Views Family Travel Gifts Holidays
ELECTRICITY


CONVERTERS AND TRANSFORMERS

We know this whole electrical issue is confusing.  Please call us if you have any questions and we'll help you determine what you'll need to take to use your electrical items abroad.
 

Electrical appliances built for use in North America are designed to operate on 110-125 volts AC (Alternating Current). Most of the rest of the world operates on 220-250 volts AC.

Converters and transformers convert/transform the electricity that comes from the wall in any country so that it will be compatible with most electrical appliances.

To use the appropriate converter or transformer with non-dual voltage devices in most foreign countries, you need to know:
THE VOLTAGE OF THE COUNTRIES YOU ARE VISITING
  Link to voltage chart
THE WATTAGE RATINGS OF THE DEVICES YOU WILL BE USING
 

This information is usually listed on the the label embedded in each electric or electronic appliance or in the specifications section of the appliance owner's manual. The label or manual will show

 
  • the input voltage (e.g., 100, 120, 220, 240 written as: 120 volts, 120V, 120 volts AC, or 120VAC)
  • the wattage (e.g., 100 watts or 100W)
  • or the amperage (e.g., 0.5 Amps or 0.5A or 500mA).

    If only amps are shown, multiply the input voltage by the amps rating to find the wattage rating.

    Volts x Amps = Watts (e.g., 120V x 0.5 A = 60W)

    If the details are not apparent in the instructions or on the appliances themselves, check with the manufacturer.

THE TYPES OF DEVICES YOU WILL BE USING (motorized, electronic, heating, etc.)
   
  • Devices with a high power heating element or mechanical motor such as a hair dryer or iron are electric. 

  • Devices using electronic chips or circuits such as a computer, printer or VCR are electronic

  • Is your use continuous and long-term or is it sporadic and short term?

Transformer or converter?

  • Practical stuff

    • If your device is electric, you MAY USE a converter.

    • If your device is electronic, you NEED a transformer.

    • If you will be using your device for only an hour or two at a time, you may use a converter. If you'll be using your device long term and continuously, you will need a transformer. 

    When in doubt about the type of device, use a transformer.  Both electric appliances and electronic devices work with a transformer, but only electric appliances work with a converter.

  • Technical stuff (what you probably don't need to know)

It relates to how the device "converts" voltage current.   AC power is supplied in alternating bursts that are in a shape called a "sine wave."  To reduce 220V to 110V, a converter chops the sine waves in half, a transformer alters the length of the sine waves.  This is a critical difference because electronic devices require a full sine wave for operation and therefore can operate only with a transformer.  Electric appliances function with either a full or a half sine wave so can be operated with either a converter or a transformer. 

The converter's short-term use and "chopping" off of sine waves are relatively simple and compact functions.   The transformer's continuous use and alteration of sine waves are relatively sophisticated functions and require more space.  As a result, transformers are generally larger, heavier  and much more expensive than converters.

Electric devices that are designed for use with 110V systems require foreign 220V current to be  "stepped-down." 

Devices that are designed for use with 220V systems require foreign 110V current to be "stepped-up"

TRAVEL SERVICES
About Electricity in Foreign Countries
 
Country by Country
 
Dual Voltage Appliances
 
About Converters & Transformers
Converters/
Transformers
 
Adapter  Plugs
 
Travel Power Strip
 
Cycles/Hz
 
Surges & Spikes
EURAIL PASSES
 
TRAVEL INSURANCE
 
TOURISM LINKS
 
Gift Certificates
 
MORE TRAVEL TOOLS
POLICIES
View Cart
The Savvy Traveller
Chicago, Illinois
Telephone: 773/525-9300
E-mail:
mailbox@thesavvytraveller.com