Can I use my US electronics in Europe?

62 posts in this topic

Posted

Tag Alle,

I have a question concerning electronics bought in the US and brought to Germany. I am considering making a few purchases before I make the final move and I was cautioned against doing so, not because of the outlet/ plug difference but because there could be issues with electronics that require more power such as TVs or laptops and the quality would not be as good as a result. So far I have been under the impression that electronics should be bought there instead of before the move to avoid this issue but I know that electronics are cheaper here (which is why I want to buy it before).

I thought I would get some input on people that have direct experience and knowledge of this matter on this website... Are there any issues with electronics bought and used from the US. Thoughts, experiences?

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Posted

Sunbstitute the word "electronics" with the word "something" and the re-read your post!..

See if you would post the same question then!

SP..

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Posted

I am happily useing my laptop from Canada, Cameras etc. Any other electronic item forget it, I came here 2 zears ago even my blowdryer with an adapter did not work properly, the only itmes that will work properly are items that have a voltage converter, things like appliances etc may work once or twice then no longer, anything with a motor will not work because of the RPMs )someone can correct me if I am wrong) however lights work just fine with new bulbs and a little plug converter, but they do not sell little chandelier bulbs here. Any way buy TVs and stuff here!

Good Luck

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Posted

Only electronics I use here are my mac and my camera.

Tvs from the us will not work here as they are on a different system, not just electricity issues.

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Posted

Sigh. If the device has a little label saying that it will work with 240V, then it will work in Germany, needing only a plug converter or replacement cord. From what I have seen, laptops, AA battery chargers, and similar modern "electronic" devices tend to have such a label. For example, the label on my laptop power supply says (100V-240V). Desktop computers tend to have a switch to change between 120V and 240V; they work fine if you remember to flip the switch. I have heard that modern LCD TVs tend to be this way also.

Anything without such a label is unlikely to work. In particular, lights, hair dryers and similar things tend to really not like it if you feed them twice the voltage they were designed for. External voltage converters (as opposed to a plug converter) exist and will let you use them, but they are relatively bulky and expensive and tend to be limited in how much power they put out.

Oh yes, if you want to us a TV (as a TV, not a computer monitor), it must support the PAL video format. In the US the NTSC format is used. It may be that modern LCD TVs support both, but you will have to, again, read the labels.

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Posted

For the love of Aisha, why would you bring a TV over? With shipping and taxes you'll pay at least 20% more than if you buy it here...

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Posted

Can someone explain the US tv problem. I suck with technical stuff. It has to do with pal or something. But the US TV's do not work here as the Germans use a different system.

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Posted

PAL vs NTSC has to do with how and at what rate the electron gun (yes, tube-based TVs have something called an electron gun!) draws the image. Ever notice that American TV shows shown in Europe (assuming they're not dubbed) sound like everyone's been sucking helium? That's because with NTSC there are 24 frames per second and in PAL there are 25 (sort of). So when those 24 frames are done in 24/25ths of a second, rather than skipping the last frame and driving most people completely insane, PAL just starts with the next second's frames.

Simple, huh?

edit: sucking helium is a bit drastic...more like sipping helium.

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Posted

I brought my macbook but Apple makes a plug for Europe so that was no problem at all. My Canon camera is from the US and I am going to try using a voltage converter to charge the battery but I've also checked at local camera shops and they sell a universal charger for that same battery. Everything else I bought here because I fried (no pun intended..) my flat iron in February when I was visiting before my move. Things that I bought that were cheaper (to me, at least) were kitchen tools and clothes. 90EUR for a pair of Levi's here? Insane. I got a ton of namebrand kitchen tools at TJ Maxx and Ross that would have cost me a lot more here.

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Posted

I brought my macbook but Apple makes a plug for Europe so that was no problem at all.

Offtopic, but it's unnecessary to spend extra cash on the Apple branded plug. You can just buy a cheap power cable (a couple of Euros) and it works just as well.

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Posted

Yep true, even when I used those apple ones the ends got fried. Once I got a german cord (just plugged right into my cord, not a apple brand one) I never had the issue again.

We do have threads on that. I think I even started one. But I am not sure what kind of computer the OP has.

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Posted

Yep, right on YorkshireLad6. I know this gets beat to death, but the high/low consumption distinction is important. I very much regret leaving behind cordless drill/tools, and a DVD stereo system. Both could have plugged into the transformer we use for the TV.

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Posted

This is great info. So I should leave behind our lamps that say:

120v 60 hz AC

because they will not work?

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Posted

while we're at it...

our Kitchen Aid mixer says 120/60 - but it also says max volts 325? does that mean we can bring it?

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Posted

What you need for high power electronics like TVs is a transformer which steps down the voltage and makes them usable on European power. I'm actually currently selling mine in Munich so you can see a picture of one (was on my playstation and was previously used for a US TV). I would think the mixer would be okay on a transformer rated for 500 watts, but maybe someone else has more experience with a mixer.

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Posted

It's likely that the mixer speed is determined by the power frequency, so a mixer intended for use on 60 cycles (or Herz) will run around 10% slower on European 50 cycles. Personally I would NOT bring it. A transformer (that you would certainly need) is not a very safe thing to operate in a damp kitchen.

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Posted

U.S. electronic clocks will also not work correctly, even with a transformer. (60Hz vs. 50Hz)

edit.. *(Already covered in YL6 guide)*

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Posted

Only really old clocks. Modern ones are crystal controlled and don't depend on mains frequency. Having said that, the new fad for "radio controlled" clocks that take their time reference from the US WWV time signal won't maintain accuracy in Europe unless they are also compatible with the DCF (German) or MSF (UK) time signals. They will still work, but will need to be set manually.

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Posted

Some general rules:

  • Where US devices are correctly rated for European power NEVER use a plug-adapter in long term use - always replace the power plug or cable with the European equivalent

Why? I've been using my mac with an adapter for two years now without problems or damage. Is it a fire safety issue?

(This might be worth a WiKi entry)

Not might.. definitely. Very helpful.

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Posted

Adapters are not normally specified to DIN standards or certified German electrical quality and safety standards, so if there is a problem (think house fire!), even if not directly attributable to he adapter itself then any insurance may not be paid out and you could be held personally liable. Mechanically, the adapters are often unstable as they are essentially stacking plugs and can expose live electrical parts if strained. A replacement plug or (easier) cable costs peanuts and brings peace of mind.

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Posted

Got it. Off to the apple store then.

... it's unnecessary to spend extra cash on the Apple branded plug. You can just buy a cheap power cable (a couple of Euros) and it works just as well.

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Posted

  • single speed AC motors will run slower here due to the slower line frequency, whether or not you care depends on the application. We bought a small, used AC unit and while the fan and compressor run slower, but it still blows cold air. My turntable also uses an AC motor, so I had to buy a part to account for that or else listen to records at 27 7/8 rpm.
  • variable speed AC motors do exist, but they're quite large, expensive and pretty much limited to industrial applications. It's unlikely that you have one.
  • variable speed DC motors don't care about line frequency

So you do need to discern whether your single-speed motorized devices use AC or DC motors. Stuff that uses external power supplies are usually easy as the PS's output should be stated on it somewhere. Your kitchen aide mixer, and any other variable speed kitchen appliance/power tool, will work fine (if it's plugged into an adequately sized transformer) as they use DC motors. We use a kitchen aide with a transformer, as well as a small coffee pot and our waffle iron. Perhaps some folks have combination kitchen/saunas, but I wouldn't worry about using a transformer in your kitchen, though you obviously don't want to be spilling liquids on them.

I also highly doubt that your mixer says max volts 325, more likely its max power 325W, a common size for their mixers. So do NOT plug it in directly to a 230V outlet.

BTW, there are exceptions to the "sell your 110V stuff and buy 230V stuff here" rule that one might not think of:
  • waffle irons. Yes, they do have waffle irons here and they suck; they make a small, thin, rosette type waffle and I've never seen one that cooks evenly.
  • stand mixers. Yes, you can buy a nice Kenwood or Bosch mixer that'd be comparable to a kitchen aide, but they're about 2-3X times the cost of a kitchen aid mixer (typically 400-700euro vs $200-$300 for a kitchen aid).
  • PS3. Yes, the US market PS3 has 110V stamped on them - but they have a universal (110-240) PS inside. Same thing for the new PS2 slim.
  • Wii. You can buy 230V power supplies for them here.

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