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What Are the Different Types of Power Voltage Converters?

A US power outlet.
110 volt grounded American plug.
European plugs have round prongs and run on twice the voltage as those in the U.S.
Electrical transformers are commonly used to reduce electricity flow to devices such as laptops.
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  • Written By: Ray Hawk
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2014
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There are many different types of power voltage converters on the market. They vary primarily based on the voltages being converted and the types of appliances that will utilize them. They also vary by portability, price, and universal application, as many are designed for tourists traveling to multiple foreign countries.

Power voltage converters are designed to safely take incoming voltage and change it to a type of outgoing voltage suitable for the appliance being plugged in. An example of this would be a United Kingdom (UK) to US voltage converter that would convert standard 220-240 UK voltage to 110-120 volts in the US. Many converters also have a high and low wattage output setting. This can range from a low of around 25 watts to a high of around 1,875 watts.

Wattage is an important concern since power voltage converters that can only output low wattage are not recommended for use with anything such as TVs, computers, power tools, curling irons, or other electronics that draw large amounts of power. The low wattage devices for which power voltage converters are designed include such portable items as electric shavers, radios, curling irons set to a low watt setting, and more. Trying to use a low wattage converter for a high wattage device could result in an electrical fire.

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Converters are not the same as power adapters. Both are sold in travel supply stores and have suitable metal prong designs for the target country. Though a UK to US adapter would plug into an outlet in the US, it would still output 110-120 volts to your appliance, not the 220-240 volts a converter would provide for UK appliances.

There are five regions worldwide having different types of adapter plugs for electrical outlets. Depending on the location, travel power converters are designed to fit wall outlets in one of five regions: the UK, Ireland, Africa, Hong Kong and Singapore; Southern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia; Australia, China, Fiji and New Zealand; Northern Europe; and finally, North and South America, Japan, and the Caribbean. Converter kits that have plugs for all of these regions of the world are available for sale.

At times, power voltage converters perform as step down transformers. That is, they take incoming alternating current (AC) and output direct current (DC) to small appliances, such as electric razors. This conversion process can generate considerable heat, so it is recommend that voltage converters not be used for extended periods of time or left plugged into outlets. They should also not be plugged into power strips, or used with any appliance that has an Appliance Leakage Current Interrupter (ALCI)-ground fault circuit interrupter or reset button, as hair dryers manufactured after 1992 do. These devices contain circuitry that can be burned out by the converter.

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