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Old 15.11.2012, 12:53
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US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

Okay guys, at the risk of boring everyone, I thought that I'd have a go at this, since is seems to come up about once a week.

Electric appliances run on electricity right? So far no problem. Where we get into trouble is when we try to shove 220-240 volts 50hertz (Swiss/Europe wall outlet) into an appliance designed for use in North America which is roughly half that, at 110-120 volts, 60hertz.

In order for this to work out, the appliance either has to be be happy with a wide range of voltage inputs, or the big scary swiss electricity needs to be reduced to happy friendly US electricity before it goes into the appliance.

Please don't get freaked out if you don't understand the difference between volts/watts/amps/hertz, or the mystery of AC/DC current. For what we're talking about here, you don't really need to.

What we need to understand here is that anything that has a transformer is already drastically reducing the voltage before it ever gets to the appliance. For example, the power cord for my MAC takes input of anything from 100 up to 240 volts of AC current and transforms it to an output of 16.5-18.5 volts DC and 4.6 amps. To put this into perspective, this is about the same voltage you would get from two tiny 9 volt batteries. In other words, the transformer is designed to take pretty much anything you can get from any wall outlet and reduces it by about 95% before it gets into the dainty guts of my laptop.

However, the transformer for my Xbox calls for an input range of 100 up to 127 volts and transforms it to 12 volts. (1st picture) This particular transformer is designed specifically for North American 110-120 voltage. Therefore I can plug my MAC right into the wall in Europe with just a plug adapter, but bad things would happen if I tried the same thing with the Xbox.

The solution here is that I can either get a more robust transformer from Microsoft that will handle higher European voltage, or I can reduce the voltage before it goes into the wimpy north american transformer with a step down converter. The Xbox uses over 200watts of power (says so right on the transformer label) so I bought a 500 watt converter from Amazon (picture 2). I plug a power strip into the converter and still have plenty of juice to run the Xbox, TV and Kinect all at once

As previously stated, if the transformer or appliance can handle the higher European voltage (again; read the label for the input voltage) then it can be plugged directly into the wall with just an adapter This happens to be a curling iron in picture 3&4, but the principle would be the same with anything.

Hopefully this was helpful.
Attached Thumbnails
us-appliances-vs-swiss-voltage-tutorial-pictures-xboxtransformer.jpg   us-appliances-vs-swiss-voltage-tutorial-pictures-inverter.jpg   us-appliances-vs-swiss-voltage-tutorial-pictures-curlingiron1.jpg   us-appliances-vs-swiss-voltage-tutorial-pictures-curlingiron2.jpg  
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Old 15.11.2012, 14:33
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

What about the hertz problem?
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Old 15.11.2012, 14:39
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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What about the hertz problem?
AC alternates between positive and negative values. Frequency which is measured in hertz is how often per second the polarity reverses.

For the record DC does not alternate so therefore has zero Hertz.

Last edited by Jack of all trades.; 15.11.2012 at 14:41. Reason: more info'
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Old 15.11.2012, 15:17
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

It's not a problem if you are talking about a gadget that has a transformer.

Hertz is a measure of how many times the alternating current (AC) alternates polarity each second. Standard is 50hz in europe but 60hz in the US. Direct Current (DC) doesn't alternate (kinda obvious from the name, right?).

Transformers convert voltage, but they also convert AC to DC (direct current). Take a look at the transformer for your computer or whatever. If it accepts 100-240-ish volts, 99.99% sure it will also accept 50-60 hertz. The output side of the transformer won't say how many hertz, because when the AC gets changed to DC, the hertz rate becomes zero.

I guess in theory the hertz difference might cause an issue in an old AC current electric motor.

I probably wouldn't want my life support machine run this way, but something like a food processor isn't exactly running at max efficiency in the first place, and it doesn't seem to notice the difference in hertz.

We have a blender, food processor, mixer, etc. that came over from the States and even though they all say 60hz on the label (I just looked), they all run fine just being plugged into a Step down converter.
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Old 15.11.2012, 15:18
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

Darn, Jack of all trades beat me to it, curse my slow typing!
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Old 15.11.2012, 15:38
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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We have a blender, food processor, mixer, etc. that came over from the States and even though they all say 60hz on the label (I just looked), they all run fine just being plugged into a Step down converter.
We brought appliances as well, and while they do run fine on a transformer, our vacuum in particular does seem to run slow - since there are about 17% fewer cycles, I suppose that makes sense. Regardless, buying the transformer works quite well and is far cheaper than buying all new appliances at once.

It's a bit offtopic, but we also found that HD is universal, thus our TV works just fine without having to worry about PAL/NTSC differences.
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Old 15.11.2012, 15:50
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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It's not a problem if you are talking about a gadget that has a transformer.

Hertz is a measure of how many times the alternating current (AC) alternates polarity each second. Standard is 50hz in europe but 60hz in the US. Direct Current (DC) doesn't alternate (kinda obvious from the name, right?).

Transformers convert voltage, but they also convert AC to DC (direct current). Take a look at the transformer for your computer or whatever. If it accepts 100-240-ish volts, 99.99% sure it will also accept 50-60 hertz. The output side of the transformer won't say how many hertz, because when the AC gets changed to DC, the hertz rate becomes zero.

I guess in theory the hertz difference might cause an issue in an old AC current electric motor.

I probably wouldn't want my life support machine run this way, but something like a food processor isn't exactly running at max efficiency in the first place, and it doesn't seem to notice the difference in hertz.

We have a blender, food processor, mixer, etc. that came over from the States and even though they all say 60hz on the label (I just looked), they all run fine just being plugged into a Step down converter.
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Darn, Jack of all trades beat me to it, curse my slow typing!
I think I wasn't clear... Hertz is a measurement of frequency, which impacts things like how frequently a motor turns or a quartz crystal vibrates, etc. This is why, despite transformers and adapters, US clocks plugged in over here won't keep accurate time, and US electrical motors will eventually burn out over here...
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Old 15.11.2012, 15:55
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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US clocks plugged in over here won't keep accurate time
Only if they are the old type with AC motors.

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US electrical motors will eventually burn out over here...
Not in my experience, but they will turn 17.6% slower, which makes a big difference if it's pumping the jets in your Jacuzzi!

Tom
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Old 15.11.2012, 16:37
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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Only if they are the old type with AC motors.
Tom
I thought the frequency of input electricity would affect the frequency at which the quartz crystal (which keeps the time, as a function of vibrations per second) vibrates? Am I off here? What time is it anyway?
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Old 15.11.2012, 16:44
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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I thought the frequency of input electricity would affect the frequency at which the quartz crystal (which keeps the time, as a function of vibrations per second) vibrates? Am I off here?
Crystals run in oscillator circuits, which run from DC. The line frequency has no effect.

Tom
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Old 15.11.2012, 16:56
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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Not in my experience, but they will turn 17.6% slower, which makes a big difference if it's pumping the jets in your Jacuzzi!

Tom
I guess it depends on the quality of the motor and how near it is running to its limit as a lower frequency of AC could result in a higher current draw and extra heating. Couple this reduced speed and hence reduced cooling from a derived cooling fan/effect and the motor's life could be greatly reduced.

Perhaps your fan pumps are running well below their limit or, they actually burnt out ages ago and something else in the water is producing all the bubbles?
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Old 15.11.2012, 17:00
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

Not mine, someone else's (but I modified the wiring for him).

But the motor on my food processor was still fine when I finally junked it.

Unless the motor is really crap, and already at it's design limits when running at the correct line frequency, it should be fine.

Tom
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Old 15.11.2012, 17:07
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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Crystals run in oscillator circuits, which run from DC. The line frequency has no effect.

Tom
Learn sumfin' new erry day...
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Old 15.11.2012, 18:39
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

I'm not even going to pretend that I really understood any of that.

But since you're on topic: Should I bring over my laptop to Switzerland from Canada. It's only 2 years old (I know - ancient in tech terms), but I bought it top of the line, blah. blah. blah.

What do you think?
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Old 15.11.2012, 18:59
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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I'm not even going to pretend that I really understood any of that.

But since you're on topic: Should I bring over my laptop to Switzerland from Canada. It's only 2 years old (I know - ancient in tech terms), but I bought it top of the line, blah. blah. blah.

What do you think?
Go for it! I still use my old laptop from Canada and never had a problem. I didn't even need to change the adapter, only the plug part Enjoy!
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Old 15.11.2012, 19:05
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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I'm not even going to pretend that I really understood any of that.

But since you're on topic: Should I bring over my laptop to Switzerland from Canada. It's only 2 years old (I know - ancient in tech terms), but I bought it top of the line, blah. blah. blah.

What do you think?
It will be fine. The square part on the chord should have something like 100 to 250v. This means it will work on both sides no troubles.
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Old 15.11.2012, 19:10
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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What about the hertz problem?
Is that when you stick your finger in a live socket?
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Old 15.11.2012, 19:11
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

Oh man, I leave to pick up the kids and we totally go all techno nerd in 2 hours.

Okay, to the best of my ability and fuzzy memory, here's the answer to the hertz questions for motors and clocks.

Clocks- If it's quartz, the crystal oscillation measures the time, and that's not effected by hertz (my watch works this way, and it's powered by a tiny DC battery therefore no hertz). However, I think that I remember if it's a super cheap digital clock that isn't quartz, it can measure time by measuring the hertz of the input power source, in which case, it would run slower.

For A/C induction motors- They will run slightly slower, but probably not enough to notice. Okay, maybe in a vacuum cleaner, but definitely not a blender or whatever. Since it's turning slower, the built in cooling fan on the end of the armature is moving less air i.e. not cooling as well. Also, due to some electronic voodoo having to do with the magnetic field, it's possible that it may be drawing more amps. Those things combined may shorten the motor life on something that gets a lot of use (vacuum cleaner), but probably not something that's used in short bursts like a food processor.

For Mandy_Moe

Short answer- yes

Longer answer-

Look on the transformer in power cord- if it has a sticker that says something like "input volts 120-240" get a plug adapter and it will work fine
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Old 10.09.2013, 10:24
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

Hi, does anyone know where you can buy a Step-Down Transformer here in CH for use with appliances from the US?
Thanks, Greg.
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Old 10.09.2013, 10:26
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Re: US appliances vs Swiss voltage- a tutorial with pictures!

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Hi, does anyone know where you can buy a Step-Down Transformer here in CH for use with appliances from the US?
Thanks, Greg.
What sort of appliance?

Power rating?

Tom
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