From 220 to 110 Volts, or avoiding to throw stuff away ...

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by igmolinav, Oct 31, 2007.

  1. igmolinav macrumors 65816

    Aug 15, 2005

    I was a student in Germany. I bought there an external hard drive, a CD-DVD burner, and even a small ellectric coffee grinder machine.

    I want to keep all these devices. However, all these products run with 220 volts (as most products for the european market), as opposed to 110 volts (like in the U.S.).

    What specifically I need to do to use these products in the U.S. and how much can this solution cost ??

    Thank you,

  2. ab2650 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2007
    Most newer (or higher priced) electronics are made to use both.. You need to carefully inspect the power requirements, usually listed on the transformer block. From my experience, I've found that Laptops and many DVD players will accept both 110 and 220 power, meaning all you must do is change the physical plugs; easy to get a travel adapter at an electronics store. My old dell laptop, macbook pro, camera battery chargers are all 110/220 interchangable; that's good news.

    The bad news is I've had a few items that weren't made for both, and I've fried a few of them. What you're specifically looking for on your electronics is the line: "Input: 100-240 VAC, 50-60 Hz." If it says something like "Input: 220 VAC" don't plug it in, at least in the US. (Notice the first line covers a range that you would use in both the US and EU? The second is EU only...)

    The good part of the bad news is all the items I've fried had a "wall leech" (Some people call them "Wall Warts," basically the transformer is built onto the plug as is the case with many smaller electronics devices. The good news part is you can look at the physical size of the plug (that round one that's fairly standard and goes into your electronics) and look at the transformer's "Output" line, which is usually something like "9 VDC, 1.0 Amp."

    If the case is that you have a transformer that is 220 only but has a standard plug and outputs in a standard DC voltage, you can often buy a replacement at a electronics store (i.e., Radio Shack). You must match the volts spot on, but you can supply more milliamps than required by the device, but don't under power it. For instance, if your device is 12 Volts, 700mA, then you can get a 12 Volt, 800mA transformer and have it work; If you absoloutly can't find the same sized plug, then you can always cut your original device's cable and use the plug part (replacing the 220 with the 110 transformer block).

    Hope that helps! The big thing is check to see if your electronics support 110/220.
  3. ab2650 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2007
    I attached an example of what lines you're looking for on the transformer. In this case it was a Dell Transformer that works with 110 as well as 220.

    Attached Files:

  4. ab2650 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2007
    igmolinav - Any luck finding out what your devices are?
  5. igmolinav thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 15, 2005
    Thank you for your messages and advice !!!

    I have just realized, that the website failed to post my message the same day you had answered to me !!!

    In my message, the one that failed to appear, I had thanked you all for your help and I had written that I was moving back home from Germany. I also wrote that unfortunately I couldn´t check any information on the devices because they were already packed. However, I had wriiten in my message that I would be again very grateful if I could please send you a few questions once I am back home next Sunday.

    Thank you, thank you very much !!!!

  6. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    For the devices that cannot use 110/120VAC, it should be safe to get a "step up" transformer (step up from 110VAC coming from the wall to 220VAC for the device).

    This is a device that has a plug on one side that goes into the US wall outlet and a port on the other side into which you plug in your device. Be careful that when you get such a device, you get an actual transformer and not some sort of plug converter. If it's a transformer, it will have the ferrite or other metal core in it, and it will be fairly heavy.

    If you use these devices at a desk in your room or office, you can probably buy one big converter that plugs into the US wall outlet and provides several 220VAC outlets.

    Do be careful, however, if you do that, to NEVER plug a US device into the 220VAC outlet (unless, I guess, it supports 220).
  7. ab2650 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2007
    Our doors are always open. Don't forget to use the search as the forum is a database of information that's been asked/answered.

    I had such a let down the first time I put a 110VAC device on a 220VAC outlet. Not even a fizz, not a puff of smoke. It just smelled a little funny and the transformer refused to work from then on. I was surprised that it didn't fry the actual electronics (it was a battery charger) but only blew the wall leech. I suppose that is ONE advantage to leeches; They take the hit rather than a transformer inside the device, thus rendering the whole device useless.

    But seriously; Don't do it - I realize that I could have done a lot more damage than I did.
  8. Erasmus macrumors 68030


    Jun 22, 2006
    Hiding from Omnius in Australia
    What you need is a whole lot of massive iron washer type things. Flat, a couple of mm thick, with an outside diameter of ~20cm, and an inside diameter of ~16cm. Then, you need to layer them in a stack about 2cm high with rings of something non-conductive. Cling wrap or just thick glue would probably work, but plastic or felt would be better. Now, take a roll of thick copper wire, and wrap it, over the top, through the middle, back underneath and up the side, 2000 times along one half of the ring. Take the same type of wire, and make 1000 coils on the other half of the ring, in the same fashion. Connect one of the ends of the 1000 coil wire to a 110V 1 amp fuse, and connect the other end of the fuse to another length of wire. Place 1000 turn wire with fuse in American power socket, and attach 2000 turn wire to 220V appliance.

    Turn on power, and turn on appliance. If somehow you manage to not electrocute yourself, not fry the appliance, and not blow all the fuses in your house, congratulations.
  9. Scarlet Fever macrumors 68040

    Scarlet Fever

    Jul 22, 2005
    would you care to give us a demonstration? :p
  10. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    From experience, I would just recommend: Don't do it. Sell the stuff before you leave, and buy it new in the USA. Otherwise, whatever equipment you buy to make things work (and transformers are big, ugly and expensive) will get on your nerves in no time and things will not be used anymore.
  11. torpy macrumors regular

    Jul 28, 2007
    Sydney + Los Angeles
    I've been in the same boat before. Basically, don't worry. You can buy a ~200W transformer step up transformer from Fry's here for about $40. This will basically allow to you to use almost any type of small 220v electronic device here (I use one to drive my PS2 here ;) ).

    The key is, of course, to check the wattage (usually located in the same place that the voltage is on the device) and to buy a transformer that can handle about 1.5 times that wattage. You don't want your device to accidently fry the transformer by pulling too much power.
  12. cazlar macrumors 6502

    Oct 2, 2003
    Sydney, Australia
    When I moved from Australia to the US, I only brought 3 (non-Apple) things that needed power (an external HDD, my old phone and an electric shaver thing). All the Apple stuff is multi-voltage, and was just a matter of using the US plugs. The HDD and phone were the same, although I couldn't swap the plug as easily. The shaver I forgot to check if it was multi-voltage, and it wasn't, so I just bought a new 110v one.

    One idea I had which has turned out to be a good one was to bring a power strip from Australia with me. That way, I only needed one plug adapter to run all the above (multi-voltage) items (including the Apple stuff before I got enough US plugs).
  13. ab2650 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2007
    I'm really surprised the PS2 isn't a multi-voltage device. I've had far cheaper equipment that can handle 100-240VAC. IIRC, my PS1 is multi-voltage.
  14. imac9556 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 12, 2004
    hahaha that is some applied physics there... reminds me of back in highschool physics.. ahh not fun lol
  15. igmolinav thread starter macrumors 65816

    Aug 15, 2005
    Hey !!!

    Thank you once again !!! The Hard Drive is working very, very well !!!
    and I´ll try tonight the DVD brenner !!!

    Best regards : ) !!!


    P.S. As I checked on the cables of the devices, they can be used
    for both 110 and 220 : ) !!!

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