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I'm interested in using European kitchen appliances to heat things faster. My house is a 2014 construction in America, split-phase power.

My understanding is that their 230V toasters, kettles, and toaster ovens cook faster because they have more watts available due to the higher voltage on a given size of wire.

Understanding that I'd have to avoid appliances with electronics and motors, What are the pros and cons to adding a circuit to my kitchen with European outlets?

I imagine that I might have to use a breaker smaller than optimal for the European outlets since American and European breakers don't come in the same capacities. What else could I be missing, and is there a better way to accomplish this?

It would be nice to have a microwave that was twice as fast too, but that definitely gets into electronic and motor land. Not to mention the magnetron might derive its frequency from mains.

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    The US has its own standard for 240V plugs; you could use NEMA 6-15 or 6-20 sockets. I am not sure on legalities of using european sockets, or importing european appliances. – SomeoneSomewhereSupportsMonica Oct 27 '17 at 10:35
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    The more normal method, once you know the appliance is in fact compatible with US power, is to change the cord (or plug) on the appliance. – Tyson Oct 27 '17 at 14:06
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    I would compare wattages before purchasin to make sure. many of the devices I use of U.K. origin are rated with Similar wattagess, less amperage than us devices. – Ed Beal Oct 27 '17 at 15:31
  • Keep in mind that while you may fit NEMA 6 receptacles to your heart's content, certain rooms specify a minimum number of receptacles and circuits which must be 120V and those must be NEMA 5. For instance if you converted a bedroom circuit to 240V, say to mine Bitcoin, you now violate the Code requirement for 120V outlets within 6' of any point along a wall. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 17 '18 at 8:46
  • Good point. Are the 'two separate circuits' that code requires in a kitchen required to be 120v? – Billy C. Feb 17 '18 at 13:15
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The main problem with European outlets and appliances is that they won't be listed to local standards, even if they are perfectly safe. We have our own set of 240V outlets and plugs, you'd just chop the cord and install the correct US standard plug - but that appliance itself would likely not carry US specific listings. That could cause you insurance problems.

The secondary problem is that there's no inherent "things go faster becasue the voltage is higher" - a 1000W kettle will boil water just as fast if it's designed to be supplied from 120V as if it's designed to be supplied from 240V - the only way it gets faster is to choose a higher wattage, on either voltage.

Ditto the microwave oven. More power is more power, regardless of the supply voltage it's designed for.

You might find more joy investigating the expensive toys at a USA Restaurant supply for "commercial" appliances than importing things from Europe. Just beware of the ones that want 3-phase power.

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  • Your point on power is correct, but it's worth stating explicitly that you'll find higher wattage devices among those that use 240V supply due to amperage constraints. Looking now, one maker's countertop induction burner/warmer is 1800W in their 120V model and 3500W in their 240V model. – Tim B Oct 27 '17 at 15:02
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    Do 1000W kettles exist? All the ones in my part of the world are around 2250W. – RedGrittyBrick Oct 27 '17 at 15:08
  • How I didn't think of commercial kitchen appliances, I don't know. It's going to be tricky finding ones that are aesthetic and just as small as residential, but easier than buying European. – Billy C. Oct 27 '17 at 15:44
  • I also can't believe I didn't think of changing the plugs and using a NEMA 6-20 receptacle. That's a much better idea than installing another country's outlets in my house. Somehow, I've never seen a NEMA 6 series outlet in use in person before, so I guess it felt just as foreign as something European. – Billy C. Oct 27 '17 at 15:49
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For microwaves and other motorized appliances, your best option in the US will be heavy duty commercial products that are typically used in food service/restaurants. You can then purchase a 2100 watt microwave instead of the 1200 watt light duty residential ones. Panasonic NE-21521 is just one example of this.

For water kettles, coffee makers, and toasters, buying European models will be your best option in the US as you probably don't want the commercial equivalent which would be overkill. I agree with the comment above to install NEMA 6-15 or 6-20 plugs instead of European equivalents to avoid insurance problems and to instead change the power cords of the appliances to hide what you did to limit liability. If you do this, make sure you include GFI protection in the circuit. The reason is that UK electronics are designed expecting the neutral to not have any voltage present and to be grounded at the service entrance, but powering it with split-phase you're taking that away from it. Both hot and neutral will now have 120 volts relative to ground. This can happen in the US too, but that's why we have polarized power plugs where the neutral side is slightly larger than the hot side.

On a side note, if the 50 Hz appliance has a clock display on it, then the time might run about 20% fast if it uses the mains frequency as the timing signal. But I've heard that a 50 Hz magnetron simply won't work on 60 Hz if you were thinking about trying it. If you purchased a VFD (variable frequency drive), then depending on the model you purchased you can get any voltage and frequency combination you want. VFDs are typically used in industrial motors as speed controls, but you can use them for whatever you want!

While Ecnerwal's answer above is technically correct about the voltage not mattering when it comes to heating faster, there is another variable that does matter: wire gauge. 12 gauge wire can carry 20 amps. V=I*R, so 120 volts is 2400 watts at 20 amps, but 230 volts is 4600 watts at 20 amps. You'll see 3000 watt 230 volt water kettles for sale in the UK, but only 1500 watt models for sale in the US. This is why UK water kettles boil water faster than US water kettles.

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    "The reason is that UK electronics are designed expecting the neutral to not have any voltage present" this is really only a concern if you are dealing with very old or custom-built equipment. Modern equipment is designed to standards that are harmonized across Europe so the designers have to assume that "Neutral" might not actually be Neutral. – Peter Green Jan 8 '19 at 14:11
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As long as it's a resistive load (toaster, Kettle or oven you can use any 240 volt european appliance but, if there is any digital display. or motor they will burn up. We have some amana microwaves where I work that are 3000 watt ovens. I bought a 3000 watt kettle from the UK and I put in a 240 volt plug and it works fine. At first I tried a 120 volt plug on the kettle and it heated a little faster then my 1300 watt kettle but then I put in the 240 volt twist lock receptacle and plug and it really heated fast. I put the twist lock in so no one would be tempted to try and twist the prongs on a 120 volt cord cap to make it fit the 240 volt regular receptacle.

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Wouldn't one violate U.S./North American electrical code by wiring their house with European, Australian, or wherever, electrical outlets, lighting, switches, etc??? This is the reason you never find such hardware at your local Home Depot? I don't think they would even sell such stuff as they might be liable if customers install it 0and somehow blow-up their house. That said, you sure as hell will need to wire everything back to code before selling your house.

Just buy appliances that work for where you live. I doubt there are appliances that work superior in Europe and no where else, based solely on the voltage.

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