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I live in the US and recently bought a home. There are several electrical outlets in my garage. I have recently had two tools that have burned up and gone to an early grave. It turns out that the previous owner put in a 220 volt outlet but used a 20 amp 110 receptacle. I figured this out after my shop vac motor burned-up and died. Also, my belt sander emitted sparks, flames, and died. A quick check with a multimeter determined that some goof ball put 220 into a standard outlet designed for 110v.

Of course, I will be wiring this outlet correctly. For now, it is covered with tape.

So, here is my question. Some tools, like my air compressor and table saw were not damaged by this outlet. I used the outlet for these tools and they don't seem like they were harmed. Why did some tools die and others survive ? ? Is it a difference between brushed and brushless motors ? ?

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Have you traced the line back to the circuit breaker and confirmed that it's using a two pole breaker? –  The Evil Greebo Aug 2 '13 at 13:17
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There's usually a label near the plug that indicates the voltage tolerances of the device. Many are designed to work with anything from 100v to 240v to make international sales easier, but not everything as you've seen. –  BMitch Aug 2 '13 at 13:17
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You might consider getting an electrician in for an inspection. Tell him what this genius did, and that you don't trust anything anymore. –  Chris Cudmore Aug 2 '13 at 13:22
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Oh man. I think you'd being generous with the term "goof ball". –  Henry Jackson Aug 2 '13 at 14:04
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It's as bad or worse than the "Retired Fire Chief" that lived across the street. He had no compunction against punching holes in the sheet rock and running extension cords through the walls to make improvised remote outlets for all the kitchen cabinets. And another nasty with the breaker panel, similar to yours. Verboten. –  Fiasco Labs Aug 2 '13 at 15:29
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2 Answers

Many devices are rated for either 110 or 220. There should be a tag on the device which says this. In some appliances its done intentionally so that one model can be sold and safely used in countries which use either voltage. In other cases its simply dumb luck that the component parts can tolerate either voltage.

I'm not sure if this fully answers your question. "The device is rated for it" doesn't really cover what aspects of the device make this possible.

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It's not going to be about brushed vs. brushless motors but the quality and grade of the parts used in the tools. Heavy duty equipment like a compressor or table saw are likely to use heavier wiring and components which can take the higher voltage, where the lighter weight tools are overheating with the voltage they weren't designed for.

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Until the overheating later lets out the magic smoke. –  Fiasco Labs Aug 2 '13 at 15:30
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