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Old 15.11.2012, 11:53
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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.
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