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I live in the US, where household current is 110/120V. After a recent trip to Europe I'm wondering whether I could buy a 220V appliance there and use it at home. This page says that the best solution is to use a voltage adapter, but I was under the impression that those were for short-term use only (e.g., when you're traveling in a place with different wiring than in your home country). Is it really that simple? Can I buy, say, a lamp in Europe and just stick an adapter on it to use it in my living room in the US? Or would I have to actually rewire a lamp (or whatever) that I bought abroad?

EDIT: this question/answer makes it sound like rewiring isn't too hard, if I had to do it, but if I can avoid messing around with it, so much the better.

EDIT 2: To clarify, in response to comments, the question initially arose in regard to a table lamp. It applies equally to a coffee maker I saw. We're not talking about, say, a dishwasher.

  • I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that the voltage adapters can get quite warm, and waste a lot of energy. For those reasons, it might not be something you want to do long term even if you can. – raydowe Jan 2 '18 at 14:36
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    The particulars of the appliance are important. A lamp might be fine to use with a simple plug adapter (vs an actual voltage adapter), especially if they use the same socket as US lamps. – Jon Jan 2 '18 at 14:54
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    @crmdgn I was wondering about the bulb socket, i recognize the plug sockets are different. – Jon Jan 2 '18 at 15:04
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    There is a HUGE difference between adapting an appliance vs a lamp. Your question starts asking about an "appliance" but rambles into discussing "lamps". Lamps are generally relatively easy to convert. Appliances are a whole different ball game. – Tyson Jan 2 '18 at 15:41
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    And with some appliances the frequency - 50 hz vs. 60 hz - can be an important factor as well. If your motor speed depends on frequency then running 20% faster may not be a good thing. – manassehkatz Jan 2 '18 at 15:55
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If your appliance requires a voltage greater or lesser than you have in your household electrical system, then you must supply the required voltage. Electronic devices should have a label or embossing with their input voltage, and many like phone or laptop chargers might accept a range of 100 to 250 volts, meaning they can be safely used in both the US and the UK, for example.

I personally moved from the UK to Mexico and have rewired an extension lead so it has a North American plug and British socket outlets, so I didn't have to wire new plugs onto my Blu-Ray player and Apple TV. I don't have to worry about voltage since the supply in Mexico is within the range accepted by those devices.

If you buy a bedside lamp, you'll need to change the bulb, but the rest of the object is just some cable, a switch, and a structure. As long as you're not putting an extremely high power bulb in it that would exceed the rating of its internal cables, you've nothing to worry about, and I would simply go to Home Depot and buy a plug to wire onto it. If you're not up to that, buy a simple but robust travel adapter. This will serve for long term use.

Now you mentioned a coffee maker, my Bialetti was brought over from Italy and I rewired it with a UK plug, but according to the appliance label it requires 220V+ so for use in Mexico I need a transformer to step the voltage up from 110V to 220V (approx., this is Mexico). You have to take into account the wattage (power rating) of the device so you get a suitable transformer.

Frequency (50Hz in the UK, 60Hz in North America) can be a consideration for some devices, as manassehkatz pointed out in a comment, and this would require additional equipment the cost of which would be prohibitive for household appliances.

My recommendation is that a 110V to 220V transformer of sufficient power rating, costing perhaps $100 or less, would be suitable for long-term use with a European appliance that requires 220V, while any device accepting 110V should be preferably be rewired to use a US plug, or, failing that, be connected to an individual non-transformer travel adapter that makes a good fit with both the device plug and the US outlet, or like I do via a foreign power strip wired to a US plug. It is even possible to purchase pre-made strips in this configuration.

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    One additional point is that small, in-plug transformers that are basically intended for using a small device while travelling, are kind of old-hat since the small devices for which they're suitable these days usually accept a range of voltages anyway. That's not the kind of transformer you'll need for a coffee maker - mine is 1250W and the transformer is a metal box with a cable to connect to an outlet, and a foreign outlet on the front. I've seen (smelled) those little plug-in transformers burn out from powering a US TV in the UK. – Sam_Butler Jan 11 '18 at 2:44
  • I can give this answer an up vote because it is resistive load centered. Motor loads are a bit different but think the answer is sound. – Ed Beal Jan 11 '18 at 3:03

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