I've been getting U.S. appliances sent to E.U. where the voltage is doubled. I'm using autotransformers so they can work, but this isn't ideal. I do this to save money. EU retailers add their percentage on top of a lot of superior US made products, which means they add percentages on top of shipping + import taxes. Purchasing a $600 product from the U.S. can easily end up being over $1.2k here and you end up paying for shipping twice.

Anyways, I've noticed some appliances also have EU versions, which look exactly the same and weigh the same, but they clearly have different insides.

What I'm wondering is, is it feasible to modify these tools so they are naturally 220-40v? For a 2000w autotransformer so I can use a compound miter saw, these autotransformers weigh quite a bit and are massive. But when the manufacturer makes a U.S. version and an E.U. version, obviously what they are doing is not adding a whole massive auto transformer to the device. What would need to be done to convert 120v device to 240v?

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    Many electronic items autoswitch depending on the input voltage they sense. Whether your appliances autoswitch -- or have an internal switch/jumper can only be determined by RTFMing. – Carl Witthoft May 9 '16 at 15:31
  • @CarlWitthoft Is it not possible however that they may have an autoswitch or internal switch/jumper but do not put this in the manual? This way the manufacturer could just have 1 product line and simply change the label for products intended for sale in the U.S. or elsewhere. I have asked DeWALT about my DWS780 and failed to get a direct answer whether this is the case or not. – Bob May 15 '16 at 5:27

Here is how manufacturers make an appliance one voltage or another.

  • electronic switch-mode power supply. These can input a huge range of voltage, for instance many fluorescent ballasts take 90-306V. If you see that, don't be surprised, it really works.

  • The machine runs on low-voltage AC or DC from a pluggable "wall wart" transformer, and they simply give you a different transformer for different voltages.

  • Internally, the machine has matched sets of 2 things: heating elements, motor windings, etc. For 120V, they connect the two things in parallel. For 240V, they connect them in series. Sometimes there's a switch on the outside, otherwise you might have to tear into it.

  • The machine's key components are wound differently with different wire, e.g. 120 turns of 2mm2 wire for 120V, 240 turns of 1mm2 wire for 240V. These, you cannot convert in any practical way, except to buy different parts or more likely, a whole machine.

Keep in mind: In the UK, many power tools are 110V. Construction sites are set up with special 110-volt center-tap transformers (55 volts per leg). A hot-to-ground fault is far less dangerous than their normal 240V.

I would bring over a good supply of 12 AWG extension cords so you can leave the autotransformers in one corner of your shop and bring the power to the tool.

If you just wanted to wire your house with a 120V sub-panel and NEMA 5-15 outlets, used 240/480 input, 120-240V output, 5KVA transformers are often pretty cheap on Craigslist. That's not a consumer product but is for permanent installation and could power a small (40A 120V) sub-panel.

Also for bigger tools, you may be better off using Euro tools. Their receptacles can deliver twice as much power as our little NEMA 5-15, which limits common American tools.

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  • That is very interesting and informative. Thank you for those suggestions. I would imagine it would be easier for manufacturers to build just 1 line of products that can switch the voltage range automatically instead of building 2 whole production lines for different voltages. – Bob May 10 '16 at 6:33

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