Converters, Transformers, and Plug Adapters: What’s the Difference?
When using your appliances outside of the United States and Canada, there are two major points to keep in mind:
: The United States and Canada use 110-volt electricity, while most countries outside North America use 220-volt electricity. Unless your appliance is dual voltage, you need to use a converter
or a transformer
to change the 220-volt electricity into 110-volt electricity in order to use a 110-volt appliance.
If your appliance is dual voltage
, you can switch it to work on 220-volts without a transformer or converter. (Remember to switch it back to when you return home). To see if your destination country uses 110-volt or 220-volt, please visit our Worldwide Electricity Guide.
Different Electrical Outlets:
The electrical outlets outside the United States and Canada are usually different from those in North America. The plug on the appliance that you use in the U.S. won't fit into the outlets in most foreign countries. Therefore, you will need a plug adapter in order to plug your appliance into foreign outlets.
Converters should be used only with "electric" appliances. Electric appliances are simple heating devices or ones that have mechanical motors. Some examples are hair dryers, steam irons, toasters, mixers, blenders, incandescent lamps, heating pads, electric blankets, and small fans. Converters should not be used for more than three hours at a time.
Transformers are used with "electronic" appliances. Electronic appliances have a chip or circuit. Some examples are radios, CD players, shavers, battery rechargers, computers, computer printers, fax machines, televisions, answering machines, DVD Players, radios/stereos, and fluorescent lamps. Transformers can also be used with electric appliances, as well, and they may be operated continually for many days. (The advantage of converters is that they are lighter and less expensive.)
Plug Adapters are different from converters and transformers in that they do not convert electricity. They simply allow a dual-voltage appliance, a transformer, or a converter from one country to be plugged into the wall outlet of another country. The plug of an American appliance will not fit into outlets in most foreign countries without an adapter. To see what type of adapter is needed for your destination, please click here to view our Worldwide Electricity Guide.
So, What Should I Take?
Follow these steps to figure out what electronic accessories you'll need to take on your trip.
1) First, use our Worldwide Electricity Guide
to determine if the voltage used in your destination is the same as that used in your household. If it is not, you will need a converter or transformer.
2) Second, ask yourself if what you are taking is electric (such as a shaver, an iron, or a portable hair dryer) and requires a converter, or electronic (such as an electric toothbrush, CD, radio or cassette player, camcorder battery recharger, or laptop computer) and requires a transformer.
3) Next, find out the wattage of that appliance to determine what kind of converter or transformer you need.
Converters and transformers are available for appliances of different
wattages. To find the wattage of your appliance, look at the label
located on the appliance or in the owner's manual. The label or manual
will show the input voltage (100, 120, 220, or 240, written as volts, V,
volts AC or VAC), the wattage (written as watts or W), and sometimes
the amperage (e.g. 0.5 Amps or 0.5 A or 500 mA). If only the amperage is
shown, multiply the input voltage by the amps to find the watts.
Volts x Amps = Watts
(Example: 120V x 0.5A = 60W; meaning a 120-volt appliance rated at 0.5
amps is a 60 watt appliance and requires a transformer or converter of
at least 60 watts.)
One of our popular units is the Auto-Adjusting Converter/Transformer
. It is both a 50-2000 watt converter and a 1-50 watt transformer and automatically acts as either a converter or transformer depending on whether the appliance is electric or electronic.
4) Finally, choose the appropriate plug adapter for the country that you are visiting. If you are not using your converter or transformer in a country whose outlets match its plug, you should purchase the plug adapter for that country. Our widget can help:
Note: If your appliance is dual voltage, you don't have to worry about converters and transformers. You just need a plug adapter for the country you will be visiting.
Should I Take a Surge Protector?
If you plan to use expensive electronic equipment abroad (especially a laptop computer), it is advisable to use a surge protector. The surge protector that you use in the United States or Canada is for 100-volt electricity and should NOT be used in countries with 220-volt electricity. We offer a travel-size 220-volt surge protector for use in Europe and other 220-volt areas.
Do I Need Something Special to Use My Computer in 220-Volt Regions?
Computers are electronic devices and therefore must be used with a transformer (not a converter) unless they are dual voltage. Fortunately, 99% of laptop battery chargers and AC adapters are dual voltage. (To check, look for 110-240 V somewhere on the power cord.) If your computer is dual voltage, it can be used with only a plug adapter for the country you'll be visiting. In addition, it is advisable to use a 220-volt surge protector in 220-volt countries. Simply plug your dual voltage charger or AC adapter into the 220-volt surge protector. Then plug the surge protector into the electrical outlet (using the appropriate plug adapter).
Have more questions? Feel free to email Info@TravelProducts.com or give us a call at 1-800-210-3966.