Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Are you plugged in: 2.0


"Recharging" on vacation just got a whole lot easier.

About a year and-a-half ago I wrote piece titled Are you plugged in: A guide to recharging on vacation. In the article I discussed the dos and don'ts of running electrical equipment while traveling in a foreign country. That was a year and-a-half ago, and a few things have changed.

The most notable change concerns voltage converters. I originally stated, “You’ll fry your U.S. camera charger if you take it to Switzerland and just put an adapter on it.” In addition, “You also need a converter that will “step down” their higher voltage to meet the lower voltage requirements of your device.” These statements may, or may not, be true depending on your device.

More and more electrical devices use a universal power supply these days because electronic manufacturers realize that lugging around voltage converters can be a pain. Take a look at the power supply on your electrical device. (Or better yet, read your owner’s manual). Those designed for use just about anywhere have a section on the label that looks something like this:

Input 100-240V 50/60HZ

This means that your device can handle nominal voltages in between 100 and 240V on a 50 or 60 HZ AC system. Put simply, if your device has a label with these parameters, then you CAN take it to Switzerland and just put an adapter on the end of the plug. The power supply will automatically adjust to accept to the higher voltage. Likewise, the device will also accommodate the lower voltage that we use in the U.S. All you have to do is change the shape of the plug to fit the outlet. If in doubt, read your owner’s manual.

This is what the label looks like on my Canon battery charger. (Click for larger image)


…and the one from the power supply on my MacBook.



Please note that devices with these labels are designed for alternating current (AC), the power supply that most utilities companies use today. They should not be used with direct current (DC). DC systems are not common but they do exist. Small, developing countries and people living off the grid sometimes use DC. Just be aware.


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