Europe Voltage

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If you’re traveling to Europe and you wish to use your own appliances and gadgets abroad while you’re there, then it’s important to understand Europe voltage, why it’s different to American, and how you can work with it.

In the US electricity is supplied in much lower quantities than Europe voltage. Most local power companies provide around 110-120 volts of electricity at a frequency of 60 Hz; while European voltage is different at 220 at a frequency of 50 Hz. While the voltage represents the force of the electricity, the Hertz indicates the frequency at which it switches polarity between positive and negative.

This then means that without a transformer to lessen it, European voltage can blow a fuse in your appliance – or if it doesn’t have a fuse damage the circuitry itself and ruin your device. Many systems then use a dual voltage switch that allows you to switch from US voltage to Europe voltage (110-220). If you purchase such an appliance then you can safely and easily use it with Europe voltage when you’re travelling abroad. However normally to find a dual voltage appliance you have to go out of your way, and if you don’t travel to Europe often this might seem like an unnecessary hassle. As such, those of us who travel to Europe less often are less likely to have dual voltage systems ready for Europe voltage. Similarly some of the dual voltage systems will not be able to achieve full power when used with Europe voltage.

Another option for getting your appliances to work with Europe voltage is to use a 220 to 110 volt transformer. These will work for smaller applications such as razors or radios. However this will not solve the problem of the different Hertz, and so you might still risk damaging the appliance unless it is marked 50/60 Hz (which fortunately some are). With larger appliances such as laptops however it will be a different challenge to adapt them to Europe voltage. Most of these will come with a rechargeable battery pack and this should have its power requirements printed on it. Fortunately most of these battery packs should work with Europe voltage, though they might get hotter than normal. If it does not then you will again need a transformer, or a replacement battery pack.

Bear in mind that in order to use Europe voltage you will likely need an adapter to help your plug fit into the socket at your hotel. This will depend on the European country you’re going to, with many continental countries utilising two pronged round pinned plugs while the UK uses three pronged square pins. Also consider that the difference works both ways, so if you buy any appliances in Europe you will normally need an adapter and a transformer to convert the voltage the other way from Europe voltage to US.