World Travel Guide #5 - Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ
The vast majority of the most frequently asked questions are answered by the following:
Scroll down through the commonly asked questions below but if you don't see your question please email us with your specific concern.
Many appliances are what they call "multi-voltage" or "dual-voltage". If you have an electrical appliance that you want to use in a foreign country (where the voltage can be 220/230/240) and the appliance is multi-voltage (says input 100-240 volts) or dual voltage (says input 125/250 volts) you usually only need a plug adapter. The input voltage (and the watts or amps) information can usually be found on a charger but it could be anywhere on the appliance. It is often on the main body of the appliance in the same color where it can be difficult to see. Some dual voltage appliances have switches and some others are self-sensing and switch to the higher volts for you automatically.
We state that you usually only need plug adapters. We don't say definitely, on purpose. There are entirely too many appliances manufactured for us to know if some have limitations or restrictions put on them. If you aren't sure contact a tech rep with the manufacturer or your retailer.
If you determine that you only need plug adapters take a look at our World Electric Guide . It is a list of all the countries in the world showing their voltage, frequency and, when you click on the country name, it shows which plug adapter(s) are needed there. Many countries have more than one configuration so there are often more than one adapter required.
Dual voltage appliances are extremely convenient when traveling. They allow you to avoid the weight, hassle and having to deal with heavy transformers and voltage converters. They save money also because most are ungrounded and ungrounded plug adapters are less expensive and more compact than grounded adapters. Dual Voltage Appliances can be bought here and a complete set of ungrounded adapters, such as our AK-UNGR Kit, can be had for under $20.00. All of the Dual Voltage Appliances that we sell require just ungrounded plug adapters and the ungrounded adapter kit AK-UNGR is available here
If an appliance is not multi or dual voltage but you still want to use it when you travel, you will need a transformer or a combination transformer / solid state voltage converter. Any appliance containing any electronic components such as laptops, chargers, some hair straighteners and curling irons, etc. will require an actual transformer while many non-electronic appliances (most, but not all, hair dryers, travel irons, most curling irons, etc) can just use the solid state voltage converters and don't usually require a transformer. Unfortunately, most appliances (not necessarily hair dryers) have some type of electronic feature. Even an automatic shut-off feature usually requires electronics.
If your appliance is not multi or dual voltage, but you still want to use it when you travel, there are voltage converters like the VCSP or the VCAP that can perform both functions with some restrictions. These voltage converters can handle both electronic appliances up to 50 watts and non-electronic appliances up to 2000 watts. Most small electronic appliances are under 50 watts. Most hair dryers are under 2000 watts. We said most, not all, so be sure to check your appliance or with the manufacturer to be sure. The VCSP and VCAP combination voltage converters all have some limitations on their use. Follow instructions carefully. Usually they can only be used for short time periods and only with ungrounded (2 pin plugs), non-electronic devices or appliances. Transformers usually have no such limitations other than to be sure you don't exceed its watt rating. Again, to avoid all of this hassle, we recommend dual voltage or multi-voltage appliances found at our Dual Voltage Appliance Store or sometimes at retail stores like Target
If you want to use a surge protector for your appliance while overseas, you definitely want to consider one of these surge protectors most of which are rated up to 250 volts A US surge protector cannot be used since they are designed for maximum voltage of 125 volts. We also have power strips if you just need to provide more outlets than most rooms provide
If your appliance requires a transformer and needs more than the maximum 50 watts available with the VCSP and VCAP you will need one of these POwer Converter Store transformers. As you can see, these transformers are available in sizes from 100 watts up to 8000 watts and in a variety of types which may or may not apply to you. Transformers are sized according to the maximum watts (amps) that they can provide.
All appliances have the watts (or sometimes amps) they require posted somewhere on them. The appliance may list the power required as so many amps (for example, .5 A) in which case you can multiply volts times amps to find the watts (V x A = W). In the example .5 A times 120 volts equals 60 watts. It may also show the amps as so many mA (milli-amps). In this example, 50 mA converts (50 divided by 1000 = ..05) to .05 amps. In the same formula, .05 times 120 (volts) = 6 watts.
Why does your web site show so may plug adapters for some countries?
First, the web site shows both the grounded (3 pin plugs) and the ungrounded (2 pin plugs) for every country. If your appliances all have just 2 pin plugs (ungrounded) then you would only need the ungrounded plug adapters shown for that country and they can be purchased individually here. If your appliances all have 3 pin plugs (grounded) then you would only need the grounded plug adapters shown for that country and they can be purchased individually here. If you have both grounded and ungrounded appliances then you would need all those shown. In the “bundles” shown, you will see a discounted price that make it less expensive than buying them individually
Second, those countries with multiple grounded and ungrounded plug adapters shown will have different outlet configurations in different areas of the country for a variety of reasons, political, geographical, practical, etc. Keep in mind that most foreign countries do not have as many grounded (3 pin) receptacles (outlets) as the US and Canada have. If an appliance is grounded (3 pins) you definitely want to plug it into a grounded outlet with a grounded plug adapter but grounded outlets, as mentioned before, will not always be available in many countries.
What will I need to take a cell phone charger, digital camera charger, and hair dryer to a 220/230/240 volt country?
Presuming that the appliances listed are ungrounded (2 pin plugs) and are not multi or dual voltage (see top of page), you will need a voltage converter kit. These kits include a voltage converter and plug adapters. They are available in a hard case and a soft case and each having different features such as maximum watts, length of warranty, number of adapters included, and price. We recommend the VCSP or the VCAP voltage converter kits.
These voltage converters can handle both electronic appliances up to 50 watts and non-electronic appliances up to 2000 watts. Most small electronic appliances are under 50 watts. Most hair dryers are under 2000 watts. We said most, not all, so be sure to check your appliance or the manufacturer to be sure.
These combination transformer / voltage converters all have some limitations on their use. Follow instructions carefully. Usually they can only be used for short time periods and only with ungrounded (2 pin plugs), non-electronic devices or appliances. Transformers usually have no such limitations other than to be sure you don't exceed its watt rating. All solid state voltage converters, including these, are never to be used continuously or ever left unattended.
What do “grounded” and “ungrounded” mean?
These are references to the number of pins on the appliance plug. Appliances with 2 pins on their plug are called “ungrounded” Appliances with 3 pins on their plug are called “grounded”. Most foreign countries do not have as many grounded (3 pin) receptacles (outlets) as the US and Canada have.
What is the difference between a voltage converter and a transformer?
Transformers convert electricity from high voltage to a lower voltage, and vice versa, through induction. They produce what is called “full sine wave” electricity which is what you get from your outlets at home and office. All electronic devices and some appliances that contain any electronic components (often as simple as an automatic feature such as auto-on or auto-off) require full sine wave electricity or they will malfunction.
Solid state voltage converters, in simple terms, use electronics (not induction) to convert high voltage (220/230/240 volts) to a lower voltage. They produce “modified sine wave” electricity which is fine for most hair dryers, travel irons, and appliances like those but will not work with any electronic appliances or devices.