Voltage Tips for Not Destroying Your Gadgets and Appliances

by  Darren Murph | Dec 23, 2013
iPhone / Farknot_Architect/iStock

Got an overseas trip coming up? Here are a few items you'll want to pack before heading out: a valid passport, an app that details common phrases in the native language, and a way to keep your phone connected once you land. What you’ll also need is a plan for managing voltage changes in other parts of the world that don’t share the same plugs and voltages as your homeland. Here's a rundown of the best ways to avoid tripped breakers, ruined gadgets, and moments of embarrassment when tapping into an international power grid:

Check your bathroom gadgets: More so than any other sector of electronics, bathroom gizmos tend to cause the most trouble overseas. While most laptop AC adapters, for example, include built-in voltage regulators that adapt to varying power scenarios, items like curling irons, hair dryers, and beard trimmers are notorious for going dark when plugged directly into an international outlet. In the U.S., for instance, most of these appliances are sold for operation on 110V systems. In many regions of the world, 220V is the norm. Even if you have the proper plug adapter, plugging these 110V devices into a 220V system without a down-converter will almost certainly destroy them (or trip the breakers in your hotel room). My suggestion is to shop for “global ready” appliances. Philips’ QT4050 is one of the few beard trimmers that’ll work on both 110V and 220V systems, and Conair’s portable CD63RR curling iron will as well.

Grab a voltage converter: While it’s relatively easy to find a cheap voltage adapter, that simply changes the actual prong shape. What you’ll need for many, less sophisticated gadgets is a “step down converter.” These are built to plug into 220V systems and enable 110V gadgets to operate without overheating or blowing up. While most laptops and smartphones have internal circuitry that can accept either voltage, simpler tools such as portable scanners, travel printers, and mobile routers may not. And as they say, better safe than sorry; there’s no harm plugging a laptop into a step down converter even if you think it doesn't require one. After all, if your gadget gets fried, it'll be more difficult to replace it while abroad than once you're back home.

Carry a portable power strip: Rather than filling up your carry-on suitcase with multiple step down converters, try buying just one of those and tossing in a multi-prong power strip. Monster makes an exceptional three-port power strip that also provides energy for two USB ports, which are ideal for rejuvenating your phone or tablet. This way, everything that you plug into the power strip is protected by the step down converter, and you’re able to turn a single hotel room outlet into a multi-port outlet for all of your recharging needs.

[Photo: The Next Web]

Have any other tips for keeping the sparks away while traveling overseas? Let us know in the comment section!

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