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Remember: adapter, then converter/transformer,
The most commonly asked international electricity questions.
Remember, if this is all too confusing, just ask
Is there a difference between an adapter and a converter or a transformer?
Yes. An adapter allows a dual voltage appliance, converter, or transformer to be plugged into a wall outlet that is different from the pin configuration on the appliance, converter, or transformer. Adapters do not convert electricity. Converters and transformers convert electricity. If your appliance(s) use 110V electricity and you are traveling to one with 220V electricity, you need a "step down" converter or transformer which converts 220V to 110V. If your appliance(s) are 220V and you are traveling to a country with 110V electricity, you need a "step-up" converters or transformer. Walkabout Travel Gear LLC carries step-down converter and transformers, as well as step-up transformers.
What is the difference between a converter and a transformer?
There is a difference. The explanation can get technical, but here is a summary: use converters only with electric appliances such as hair dryers, etc. Use a transformer with anything electronic, such as computers. Also, if your electronics are grounded be sure to use a transformer which is grounded. Walkabout Travel Gear LLC only carries grounded transformers. (With the exception of the 50 watt model.)
Now the technical explanation. Most commercial power generators supply electricity that varies in strength and direction. This is called alternating current and the electricity moves in the shape of a sine wave. The variations in the current are not detected because the changes occur 50 or 60 times a second, depending upon the country. A step down converter turns 220V current into 110V current by cutting these sine waves in half. A step down transformer
alters the length of sine waves to create 110V current. Electronic appliances require a full wave and should therefore ONLY be used with a transformer. Electric appliances can operate with either a half wave or an altered wave and can be used with a converter OR a transformer. Transformers are for long term use while converters are not. A converter should not be used longer than is necessary to use the appliance and certainly not longer than 2 hours. Transformers are usually much heavier than converters. While transformers are designed for long-term use, you still should unplug them when not being used.
What are electric appliances?
Electric appliances are simple heating devices and products with mechanical motors. They are generally higher wattage items than electronic appliances. Some electric appliances are hot pots, hair dryers, steam irons, immersion heaters, heating pads, electric blankets, toasters, mixers, blenders, fans, electric knives, coffee grinders and coffee makers. Items with timers such as some coffee makers and electric blankets cannot be used with a converter.
What are electronic appliances?
Electronic appliances are those with electronic motors, circuits or chips. They are generally lower wattage products than electrical appliances. Some electronic appliances are computers, computer printers, fax machines, radios, stereos, shavers, bread makers, DVDs, clocks, answering machines and televisions.
Is the 50/60 cycle difference important?
It can be, depending upon the appliances you are taking. In North, Central and parts South America, as well as scattered other countries, the current alternates 60 times per second. In most the rest of the world, it does so 50 times a second. Converters and transformers do not convert cycles. Many electronic appliances convert the incoming power to DC so the cycle difference is irrelevant. Some electronic appliances, such as analog clocks, turntables, and others with motors will run faster or slower. Televisions built only for 60 Hz may or may not work; try to get a 50/60 Hz model if possible. We cannot be responsible for the effects of the cycle difference, and suggest you check with the manufacturer if in doubt.
Do I need a converter or transformer?
Ask two questions: Is the appliance electric or electronic? What is the wattage of the appliance? A general rule of thumb that can be used to decide whether an appliance is electric or electronic is that straight heating appliances are usually electric and any item with a circuit or a chip is electronic. An electric product can be used with either a converter or a transformer. An electronic appliance MUST be used with a transformer. Microchips are finding there way into even the most basic products so we would recommend a transformer if you are not sure.
Most products will have the Watts (W) printed somewhere on the items themselves. The wattage of an appliance is important in order to determine the size of converter or transformer that is required. Some appliances list only the amps. If so, there's a simple formula for determine the wattage:
So: if you do not know the watts, but know the amps and that it is a 110 volt appliance, then multiple the amps times the volts. A product that indicates 2 amps will be approximately 220 watts. (2 amps x 110 volts = 220 watts.) It is best to use 125 volts for 110 appliance to give yourself a safety margin.
Volts times Amps = Watts. (V x A = W)
If an item is marked 110V/220V or 110V/240V, it means that it is dual voltage and a converter or a transformer is NOT required. However, an adapter plug may be needed. Refer to the
Walkabout Travel Gear Worldwide Electricity Index for a complete list of adapters for use around the world. If you get completely confused, ask Dr. Electricity.
Can I take lamps overseas or bring them from overseas to North America?
North American lamps can used in Europe with a transformer -- the 100 watt model is
recommended for lamps 100 watts or less. Also, be sure to bring extra 120 volt bulbs as they are very difficult to
find internationally. The other option is to rewire the lamps with a 220 volt lamp kit and then use local 220 volt bulbs.
If bringing lamps from overseas to North America, you need an adaptor and you also need to change the bulb to a 120 volt
What about sleep apnea (breathing) machines?
Most sleep apnea machines are built to handle the voltage worldwide. You can confirm this
by checking the power supply on the machine -- it will indicate 100-240V. If it says 100-240V, you
only need adapter for the countries you are visiting. (Or, if you prefer, a surge protector.)
If the sleep apnea machine does not say 100-240V or you do not know, you will need a transformer. Be sure to get a
true transformer like our 100 watt model and not a converter.
Can I use a power strip to plug in multiple appliances?
Yes, but only with a transformer. Only use a power strip, not a 110V power strip/surge protector. If you
need a surge protector, get a 220V model and put it in front of the transformer.
Also, you have to make sure the combined wattage of the appliances does not
exceed the capability of the transformer. And if the power strip
is made for 110V, be sure to plug it into the transformer, not the wall.
(Appliance then power strip then transformer then adapter ((if necessary)) then wall.)
Our 300 and 500 watt transformers come equipped to handle two appliances at once.
I'm coming to North America, not from it.
No problem. We stock step-up (reverse) transformers which convert 110/120 power into 220/240.
I don't know the wattage of the product(s) I am taking. Which transformer do I need?
Here's a general guide, but remember it's up to you to make sure of the wattage of your appliance(s). It is always better to error on the big side; there is no such thing as too large of a transformer, only too small of one. (Wattage-wise, that is. There is of course weight and price to also consider.) Be aware that motorized appliances (tools, coolers, etc.) tend surge at times to higher wattages than their ratings. Thus you may want to consider a higher wattage transformer for those items than their wattage rating.
Also remember transformers do not convert cycles, and televisions will not receive broadcasts in most foreign countries but can be used with VCRs to play tapes recorded in country of origin.
300 watt transformer
(Some of the products listed for the 300 watt transformer can be under 100 watts -- so the 100 Watt transformers can be used. However, to be safe we recommend the 300 watt transformer if you are not sure. (But be sure, please!)
Small Fax Machines
Small Stereo Systems
500 watt transformer
Large Fax Machines
Mixers (Stand Type)
Large Stereo Systems
Small Hand Drills
800 watt transformer
Large Food Processors
Plain Paper Fax
We do our best to suggest the correct solution for your
"current" needs, but Walkabout Travel Gear LLC cannot be held responsible
for any damage or injury incurred from the use of electrical products. You
are responsible for reading the manufacturer's instructions and using the
equipment in a safe and proper manner.
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