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German Travel (for international patients) Discuss Electricity... in the Travel forums forums; ... or "Scheisse, I just smoked the hair dryer!" In the US, we plug into a wall socket that ...

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Old 07-17-2008, 03:46 PM
mmglobal's Avatar
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Default Electricity...

... or "Scheisse, I just smoked the hair dryer!"

In the US, we plug into a wall socket that provides alternating current (AC) at 110 volts. In Germany, they have different shaped plugs and use 240 volts.

Most of our devices that run on AC will be damaged if you plug them into a 240 volt outlet.

There are many different types of converters. The two types that travelers use I call:

> voltages converters... These convert the 240 into 110 (or something approximating 110). You can buy them at Radio Shack, other electronics stores, or stores that cater to travelers.

> plug changers... These devices simply are adapters that change the plug style from one type to another. They do NOTHING to the electricity, they simply allow you to plug your American Plug into a German receptacle.

Many of the items you plug in will not need a voltage converter. My rule of thumb is that battery powered devices typically will take 240 as input. These are the devices that have an AC adapter. Really, the device runs on direct current (DC) and the thing you plug in includes an AC to DC converter. Your laptop, cell phone, video camera, camera charger.... most of these types of devices will run (or charge) on 240 volts. DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT. I don't trust my intuition... I always check. Somewhere on the AC adapter, you'll find the input and output specifications. You are looking for something like, "INPUT: 110-240 volts." If you see that, you should not need a voltage converter... just a plug changer will do. (I don't even bring a voltage converter with me.)

Other devices like hair dryers, curling / straightening irons, rechargeable battery chargers, juicers.... most devices without batteries will NOT run on 240. If you plug them in with just a plug changer, you will fry them. In my experience, it's instant. By the time you hear and smell it... it's already cooked. Some of these things can be very expensive, so it's frustrating to throw the money away, but even worse... you need what it does and now, it's dead in the water.

EVEN WITH THE VOLTAGE CHANGER, some devices will still fry. The voltage changer works effectively for low power devices, but my experience is that high watt devices like hair dryers or juicers will not run for very long on the crappy power that comes out of the voltage changers. They device will work for some time, but when you start to smell something, turn it off. You can use it for a while, but don't keep using it for too long if it's going to cook. Hindsight is 20/20 and I've seen several expensive devices cooked while the operator says, "well I thought I smelled something, but it seems to be working, so it must be OK".

I have German power cables that work for my laptop and video camera. It's so much more convenient to not need the plug changer. Any electronics store (in Germany) should have these cables for about 2 Euro.

Bring an American extension cord with you. (3 ft ungrounded is lightest... most of the devices I use are OK with 2 prong connectors.) That way, with one plug changer and 1 voltage converter, you can plug in several American devices. It really helps to be able to plug in your cell phone charger, camera battery charger and still have a plug left for something else... all with one adapter!

All the best,

Mark

PS. I look forward to someone with better knowledge of electricity to step up and provide a more coherent explanation!
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Last edited by mmglobal; 08-23-2008 at 05:05 AM.
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