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Read This Before Plugging in a Foreign Appliance at Home

You traveled overseas, found some wonderful foreign appliance or device and just can't wait to use it in the comfort of your own home. You know that the prongs are different but if you have a wall plug adapter you should be good to go, right?

Not all the time.

Most small, portable devices will work with nothing but a wall adapter, but larger devices and appliances are often specifically designed for the country they were manufactured in. Regardless of what the foreign salesperson told you, you should check for yourself to be sure.

Determining Appliance Voltage

Look closely at the wall plug of any electric device you have on hand – your computer or cell phone charger will do – and you will see a great deal of technical information printed in very, very small print.

The only thing we're looking for right now is the input section. Taking a European device as an example, it will have one of two things written on it:

  • Input: 240v AC 50/60hz, or
  • Input: 120-240v AC 50/60hz

As you can see, the only difference is in the input voltage. Electrical goods sold in Europe use 240-volt power, while American goods use 120-volt power. Some devices can accept any voltage between 120 and 240 volts, while others only accept a single voltage. Kitchen appliances, televisions, stereos, and professional equipment typically accept a single voltage.

If you try to plug in such a device using only a wall adapter, you run the risk of damaging your equipment. Before you plug it in, you need to buy a voltage converter.

Finding and Using a Voltage Converter

You can find voltage converters at nearly any electric hardware store, as well as electric hardware manufacturers online. Before you buy a voltage converter, you will need to determine how many watts of power you need to convert. Your appliance should have this information written on its packaging – use your phone's camera as a translator if needed.

Once you know the wattage of your device, you need to either double or triple that number, depending on what type of appliance it is. Televisions, washing machines, and power tools draw an initial surge of power when turned on – that surge can be up to three times higher than its regular wattage.

When it doubt, go for the higher wattage. A 1500W voltage converter will reliably power just about anything that draws 500 watts of power. Now you're ready to reliably and safely enjoy the use of your foreign appliance at home!


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