Voltage Converters and Transformers
ABOUT VOLTAGE CONVERTERS
Converters change the voltage of the electricity coming out of the wall outlet to be compatible with your appliances. Going In Style has both converters for both Americans traveling to Europe and Europeans traveling to America. It is important to remember that converters are only designed for short-term use (20 – 25 minutes) - prolonged use will cause the converter to automatically shut down after time – but without damage to either your converter or your appliance.
Do I need a Voltage Converter?
In most cases, Yes. Appliances in the United States typically use anywhere between 110 and 130 volts of alternating current (AC). A majority of the world’s countries, however, use 220 – 240 volts. If your appliance can only run on 110 – 130 volts, you will need to use a converter.
If, however, your appliance is dual voltage you will not need to use a converter. Dual voltage appliances require only a plug adapter and can then be plugged directly into any foreign outlet. Additionally, the country to which you are traveling may not use a different voltage than the United States. For example, Canada and Mexico both use 120V which is the same as us. If your destination country does not use a different voltage, you will not need a converter nor a transformer.
How do I tell if my appliance is dual voltage?
All appliances have an electrical specification sticker located somewhere on the item. It may be on the handle, power cord, or on the reverse side of the appliance. Locate this label and look for the following:
120/240 VAC or 120 – 240 VAC
The numbers may be slightly different, but if you see this designation with a 200 number in it, then your appliance is dual voltage ( anywhere from 220-260 volts is okay). However, if the 200 number is missing, your appliance is not dual voltage.
It is more and more common for appliances to be dual voltage. If your appliances are relatively new, this is probably the case…. But check that electrical spec sticker just to make sure. Note to Mac users: All Apple products are dual voltage, including computers, iPods, etc. You do not need a converter to run these appliances; however, you will need an adapter plug.
OK, so I need a converter. Which one do I use?
The type of converter you use is dictated by the wattage of the appliances you are planning to use. Remember that spec sticker? Check it again, and this time look for a number followed by a “W” for Watts – for example “35W.” ( Note: If it has a number with an A next to it, then take that number times 120 to get the total Watts. 0.5A means 0.5 x 120 = 60 Watts). Most chargers, such as for cameras and cell phones, are low-wattage appliances. Small electronics are also low wattage. A 50W converter should be sufficient for these devices, but always be sure to double-check your appliance. If your device draws more than 50W, you cannot use this converter.
Most higher powered appliances, especially hair dryers, coffee makers, and other heating appliances often draw between 900W and 1600W, and they may go as high as 2000W. For all appliances rated 51W – 1600W use a 1600W converter. For appliances above 1600W use a 2000W converter.
I have a 220 – 240 volt appliance that is not dual voltage, and I want to use it in a 110 – 130 volt country. What do I need?
Besides an adapter to fit the country’s outlets, you will need what is called a reverse converter. These converters are designed to allow current to be converted from a higher voltage down to a lower voltage. To find the reverse converter that is right for your device, simply determine the wattage of your appliance, and choose an appropriate converter.
Do I need a surge protector?
If you are taking any electronic equipment such as a laptop computer that might be subject to damage from an electrical voltage or current surge, it could be useful to carry a 220 volt surge protector such as our Travel Surge Protector – 220 Volt.
ABOUT VOLTAGE TRANSFORMERS
Transformers (sometimes deceptively called converters) perform the same function as a converter; namely, to modify the electrical wall voltage to be compatible with your appliances. The key difference here is that transformers are designed to operate continuously, whereas converters are meant only for short-term use. The trade-off is that voltage transformers are heavier in weight than voltage converters.
Do I need a voltage transformer?
If you are planning to bring a laptop computer or other electronic or electric device that is not dual voltage you will need to use a transformer. In this case, you will need to double-check the wattage requirements of your computer or device in order to choose the right wattage transformer.
Any other appliance which you plan to use continuously and which is not dual voltage will require a transformer. Note: Our most common transformer is rated up to 85W. It is labeled as a “converter,” but is really a transformer because it is designed to operate continuously.