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Voltage Converters: What You Need to Know

Planning an overseas trip? If you're taking your consumer electronics items with you, you've probably done a bit of research on voltage converters. You may wonder if you need one, and if so, which of the many voltage converters on the market you should buy. These quick facts can help you make the best decision and choose the best electrical accessories for your 110v to 220 volts consumer electronics.

Why You Need a Voltage Converter

Most consumer electronics and electrical appliances are built to operate at a certain voltage of electricity supplied by the wall outlet or power source. If the electricity coming out of the wall socket is at too low a voltage, your electronics item won't work, or won't work well. If the electricity coming out of the wall outlet is too high a voltage, it can fry the circuits in your electronics item, damaging it or even destroying it.

Over the years, various countries in the world have standardized the way that they deliver electricity to homes, but because there are several different national electrical standards around the world. In the United States, for example, standard household current is delivered at 110 volts. Consumer electronics sold in the U.S., including the battery chargers for your iPhone, iPad, cell phones and digital camera, the power supply for your computer and your new multisystem LCD plasma and LED TVS are designed to use electricity delivered at 110 volts.

On the other hand, many European countries deliver household electric current at about 220 volts - twice the voltage used by U.S. appliances and consumer electronics. Obviously, the appliances and consumer electronics sold in those countries are designed to use electricity delivered at that voltage. If you try to plug your U.S. consumer electronics into the wall outlet in your Austrian hotel room, there's a good chance that you'll destroy your clock radio or computer.

Types of Voltage Converters

Obviously, if you're going to use your consumer electronics in another country with different electrical standards, you need something that will change the voltage of electricity between the wall outlet and your piece of equipment. That's what voltage converters do - they take in electrical current from the wall outlet and either reduce it (step down converters) or increase it (step up converters) so that your electronics items can use it safely. If your electronics item uses electricity at 110v and you're in a country with 220v outlets, you need a step down converter, and vice versa.

Step Up and Down Voltage Converter-Transformers

Voltage converters are also often referred to as voltage transformers. One popular option for people who travel often is a step up and down voltage converter, which, as the name implies, can modulate the electricity in either direction. Cheap step up and down converters require you to set them to the right setting before using them. Better quality voltage transformers automatically detect the electricity coming from the wall and the electricity needed by the appliance or electronics equipment, and adjust it automatically.

If you're planning to travel overseas, choosing the right voltage converters can make your life easier and save you a lot of money in fried electronics.

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