Adaptors vs. Converters: Which do you need?

If you are planning a trip to a country that uses different plugs than your own, you must be sure to pack an adaptor or converter if you want to use your own appliances or chargers.  The task of choosing which one is necessary is a little more complicated.

-Adapters are plug extensions that literally only change the shape of the prongs that go into the outlet.  In other words, adaptors do not change anything about the way your device functions, but just change the plug of your device to fit another outlet. For the adaptor pictured below, you plug a U.S. device into the plug adaptor effectively making it fit into European plugs.

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A typical adaptor

 

– Converters: Converters are also almost always adaptors, but instead of just changing the type of prongs on your plug, they adjust the amount of electricity that goes through your device. If your device is not a dual voltage appliance (see below for more details about this), then you will need a converter.

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Converter box in the center with multiple adaptors to connect to the box

 

How to determine if your device is dual voltage: Most devices will have a sticker on the plug specifying the details of that appliance (see photo below).  Look under the “input” section on this sticker, if your device states a range of voltage (such as 100-240v in the photo below) then your appliance is dual voltage.  If there is only one number stated here you will need a converter; if there is a range then you will only need an adaptor.

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Electricity sticker specifying voltage information

 

Some devices, including most hairdryers, will have some form of knob or switch which you must change from the lower voltage setting (typically 100 or 120v) to the higher voltage setting (usually 240v).

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the black circle at the bottom of the dryer changes the voltage input

 

If your device is not dual voltage and you do not use a converter, one of two things is likely to happen.  First, your device may just heat up more than usual but may still work.  This is common with straighteners (even dual voltage ones).  Since the voltage is higher, the device gets hotter than usual.  Be very cautious when using a device with a different voltage, multiple girls I know have singed their hair using their curling irons and straighteners because they did not move them quickly enough through their hair with the excess heat.  The second thing that may happen, is the extra voltage will fry your device and it will cease to work completely.  Even if you use a converter this may happen since they are not the most reliable devices, despite the cost and quality of the converter.

It is best to buy dual voltage devices before you leave, or just pick up a cheaper version of your hair dryer or iron once you get to your destination country.  Avoid taking expensive appliances as the change in voltage can cause them to break very easily.

Here is a list of each country’s plug type and standard voltage:  http://www.starkelectronic.com/fzfv.htm

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