What are Power Converters?
You are a global citizen. Everything today has gone global from the economy to satellite TV. The exception to this globalization is the electrical power grid. Whether you’re moving from North America to another region or vice versa, you could be faced with the issue of mains power line differences when trying to power your electrical or electronic devices. In the new country, the voltage and frequency power standards may be very different from what you are using today.
In North America the standard mains power is 115V AC at 60Hz.
Outside of North America the standard power is generally 230V AC at 50Hz.
You are taking your valued electronics overseas, like high-end audio, perhaps a clock, a recovery boot kit, or professional-grade salon clipper. You are worried about plug compatibility between your prized electrical devices and what’s available in the country you plan to visit. What will you do about your plug-in devices once you arrive there? It might be good to do a brief refresher on the topic!
What are the power requirements for your electronic device?
Somewhere on your device there is probably a tag that indicates the required power for the device. It’s not always in an obvious place. It might be in small font, and perhaps less than legible. If you cannot find it, do a quick Google search on the device’s model number and look for the specifications. A quick glance at the tag or the specifications, and you are sure to find the ratings, in a format similar to this example:
Power Requirement: 115V AC, 60Hz, 25W
What does the above rating mean? This is the voltage, frequency and power your device needs to operate properly. Lets look deeper.
What is voltage?
The first item listed is the voltage, which in this case is 115V AC. The issue most of us are familiar with is Voltage, often abbreviated Volts, or simply “V.”
Every plug-in device will be AC (alternating current) rated. Voltage is the potential difference present at the power plug terminals, which is what causes power to be delivered to your prized device. Some devices will indicate 90-250V AC, which means that your device is “Universal” and can work on any voltage standard across the globe. But, many will not be universal. If the voltage is too low your device will not activate. If the voltage is too much your device will very likely be damaged.
In general, the way the world is divided with respect to voltage is as follows:
North America: 115V AC
Rest of the World: 230V AC
Some exceptions do exist. For example, Taiwan is 115V AC, as is Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia. So, it is best to check!
What is Frequency?
The next term in the rating is the intended Frequency for the device. Frequency is the number of times that the electric current switches polarity per second, expressed in a standard called Hertz, or abbreviated Hz. On electronics with motors that turn or vibrate, frequency will determine the speed at which they operate. Some devices will indicate 50/60Hz, which means it can operate at either 50Hz or 60Hz and perform well. However, many devices are designed for only 50Hz or only 60Hz, but not both.
North America: 60Hz
Rest of the World: 50Hz
Again, some exceptions exist. Taiwan is 60Hz, as is Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia. The western half of Japan is 50Hz and the eastern half is 60Hz. So it is always prudent to check!
What is Power?
The last term in the rating is the power the device requires to do its job, expressed in Watts. When you go to select a power converter, you will need to know this since the power converter must be able to deliver this much power, or more. If the converter does not have a rating greater than this number, then it will not reliably operate your prized device. For instance, your hair clippers require 30 watts of power. You will need a power converter that provides at least 30 watts; perhaps 40 watts or more.