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Studying Abroad: The Ins and Outs of Voltage Converters

If you're heading overseas for school, you have a thousand details to attend to. You've already thought about your wardrobe, got your passport, and brushed up on your language skills, but you may not have considered your electrical needs. If you're taking your computer, your cell phone, your alarm clock or any one of many other consumer electronics and appliances, there's a good chance you'll need think about voltage converters. One of your best bets may be to purchase a step up and down voltage converter transformer rather than a simple voltage converter. Here's why.

In North America, electrical current is delivered from the wall outlet at 110 to 120v, and most of the electrical equipment and consumer electronics that you buy are designed to use electricity at that voltage. European countries, on the other hand, typically deliver electrical current to your appliances at 220 to 240v. Plugging your 110v appliance into a 220v outlet is strongly advised against. The usual result will be a shower of sparks or a fizzling zzzzt sound, and your hair dryer, coffee maker or computer will probably never work again.

Not all that long ago, students heading off for a semester or a year at a European college were advised to leave their electrical and electronic equipment at home and simply buy what they need when they reach their destination. For most college students, their "electronics" consisted of a hair dryer, a radio alarm clock, an electric shaver or perhaps a coffee maker or hot pot. Voltage converters were expensive, electrical devices were mostly cheap, and it just made more sense to pick up what you needed in the country where you'd be living.

Things have changed considerably since those days. Today's student heading overseas for a semester of study is probably planning to take along a personal computer or a laptop, expensive cell phones, DVD players, video game consoles and high end audio equipment. For a student already operating on a tight budget, replacing any of those pieces of electronics is an impossible expense. Luckily, even as the typical student's investment in electronics has increased, the prices for voltage converters and voltage transformers has decreased, making it far more practical to buy a voltage converter than it is to replace all of your electronics.

A step up and down voltage converter transformer makes even more sense, especially if you're likely to be making hops back and forth over the course of your overseas stay. Even the most advanced step up and down voltage converters are easily portable, so you can carry it with you. Having it will allow you to use all of your personal consumer electronics, no matter where you bought them and where you happen to be, and the better step up and down voltage converter transformers will automatically detect the current needed by the plugged in device and supply the right voltage to it.

The other thing you can do to make it easier for your electrical and electronics equipment to transition between home and your school abroad is to look specifically for dual voltage electronic devices. More and more, you'll find 110 to 220 volts consumer electronics that eliminate the need for voltage converters entirely. Be sure to read the labels on the electrical and electronics devices you buy to figure out exactly what you need to operate them safely.

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