The most commonly asked international electricity questions.
Remember, if this is all too confusing, just ask Dr. Electricity.
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.
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. Our Walkabout Solution will convert both voltage and Hz. 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:
Volts times Amps = Watts. (V x A = W)
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.
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.
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