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Power Conversion Guide
Overview
Concepts
Voltage & Frequency
Current Capacity
Wattage Ratings
UL Listing
Transformer Class
Transformer vs. Solid-state
Polarity
Adaptaplugs
Filtered
Regulated
Types of Conversion
Safety Warnings
Abbreviations & Glossary
Conversion FAQ's
AC to AC Converters
AC to DC Adapters
DC to AC Inverters
DC to DC Adapters

 RadioShack Guide to Understanding Power Conversion

AC to AC Power Conversion (Foreign Voltage Converters)

Purpose of Converter / Explanation of Operation

AC-to-AC voltage converters, or travel converters, are designed to convert the voltage used in a foreign country to the voltage required for a particular AC device. These converters are either transformer-based or solid-state, and this affects what type of devices the converter can power. In addition to converting the power, you will often need to also use a plug adapter. Plug adapters are generally either built into the converter, or provided as separate parts. They are also sold separately, for use with multi-voltage devices that are designed to convert the power internally.

Selecting a Converter

These are one of the more confusing of the power conversion devices. Because of the range of voltages, plug types and converter designs, many customers find that they need help determining exactly which converter they need. To aid in that process, we have put together a short worksheet to help you determine what type of converter is needed: We recommend that you print out thi sheet when taking a number of different devices to a different country.

First, you should determine the electrical requirements (voltage, frequency, and wattage) for the device(s) you will be taking with you. This information is generally on a label or embossed into the back or bottom of the device. Make a note of the voltage(s), frequency or frequencies, and the wattage indicated for each device.

  • The voltage may be given as either V, VAC or VDC. The standard voltage for US devices is 120 V. Devices that are designed to operate using different input voltages will be labeled, such as 110/120 V, or 120/240 V.
  • The frequency will be given in Hz. The standard frequency for US devices is 60 Hz. Devices that are designed to operate using different frequencies will be labeled, such as 50/60 Hz.
  • The wattage will be given in either watts (W) or volt-amps (VA). If the wattage is not listed on the device, you will need to contact the device's manufacturer for this information. If you have the maximum current consumption (in amps), you can calculate the wattage by multiplying the voltage (V) times the current consumption (A).

Next, you will need to know the electrical requirements for the country you are going to be visiting.

Next, you will need to compare your equipment requirements to the country's information to determine whether you need a Step-up or Step-down Voltage converter.

  • If your equipment accepts the voltage and frequency provided by the country you will be visiting, then only a Plug Adapter will be required.
  • If the voltage of the target country is higher than the voltage required by your device(s), you will need a Step-Up Voltage Converter.
  • If the voltage of the target country is lower than the voltage required by your device(s), you will need a Step-Down Voltage Converter.

Once you know what type of converter or adapter you need, consult our list of travel power conversion products to find one that meets your requirements.

Cautions

  • The AC outlet in many foreign bathrooms is for low-wattage devices only. To avoid damage to your converter and/or attached device, check with your host or hotel before powering a high-wattage device (such as a hair dryer) from this plug.
  • Do not use a voltage converter with electronic devices such as televisions, VCR's and computers unless the device indicates that it can handle both 50 Hz and 60 Hz.
  • Do not use heating appliances, such as hair dryers, irons and coffee-makers, on a transformer-based voltage converter.
  • Do not use non-heating electronic devices, such as calculators, electric razors and portable audio players, on solid-state voltage converter.
  • Do not use 110-120 VAC Surge protectors or Uninterruptible Power supplies on a 220-240 VAC system. Even with a step-down power converter, damage could occur as the two power systems are wired differently.

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