Adapting to Electricity in the UK

| October 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

If you are traveling to the UK from abroad, one of the many things to think about is how you are going to power your electronic devices. Talk of Volts, Hz, Converters, Adapters, and the like can become very overwhelming very quickly. This article is meant to clarify your electrical woes so you don’t have to be without your beloved electronics.

North America vs. Europe (and much of the rest of the world)
In North America, power utilities supply 120V at 60Hz while Europe generally supplies 240V at 50Hz. Thus, if you try to plug in a device that only accepts 120V into a 240V socket, you’re going to do some damage. That being said, if you are from overseas, all hope is not lost.

You will be faced with two possible scenarios: 1) Your device was manufactured with the ability to handle both North American and European standards. 2) Your device can only handle one standard and needs a converter to downgrade or upgrade the electricity.

Specifications Label

Specifications Label

Scenario 1:
Most devices (such as laptops and battery chargers) can actually handle both standards. It makes sense for manufacturers to do this so they can sell their product in multiple countries. So how can you tell if your device will work abroad? Most devices have the information you need listed on a sticky label. For chargers, this label can usually be found on the “brick” part of the device. You want to make sure that your device’s label reads: 120-240V and 50/60 Hz. If it does, then it can handle both standards and you are in luck. The next step is making sure you can plug it into the wall.


Universal EU Adapter

Universal UK Adapter

Even if your device can handle the power coming out of the sockets overseas, this doesn’t mean your plug will fit into those sockets. This is where adapters come in. Don’t get adapters confused with converters though. Adapters simply change the shape of your plug connection, they do not actually change the electricity coming out of the wall like converters do. In the UK, wall sockets look fairly similar to the North American 3-prong socket. In most other countries in Europe you will find a 2-pronged socket (see photos). For a complete list of standards and sockets by country, visit here.

Universal Male & Female

So what adapter do you need? The easiest and least expensive option is to buy an adapter that has a male end that fits into the socket of your destination country and a female end that will accept your device’s prongs. Most adapters have universal female ends and a specific male end. Some fancy adapters are universal at both ends and will work in many countries. A great site for finding an adapter for the country you are visiting can be found here. Ebay is also a great source of inexpensive adapters.

Scenario 2:
Voltage ConverterIf you’re not so lucky to have a curling iron or shaver only that accepts both electrical standards, you will need a step down voltage converter. This will downgrade the voltage from 240V to 120V. Downsides to these include their bulk, price, and heat generation. Make sure the converter you purchase is also able to handle the wattage required by your device. Find out the wattage of your device by either looking at the label or multiplying the Amps (A) by Volts (V).

Other Notes:

Macbook AdaptersFor Macbook users:Apple offers a Travel Adapter Kit. You can also find a generic version of this kit on Ebay for a fraction of the price. These plug directly into your Macbook charger. Great!

Universal Power Strips: Have a ton of devices and don’t want a ton of adapters? Buy a universal power strip for the country you are traveling to. Alternatively, buy a regular power strip from your home country that can handle up to 240V and use an adapter to plug it in abroad. Note: This method assumes that your devices can handle both standards (Scenario 1).

We suggest you also do your own research or talk to a professional before making decisions about electricity. If you have any questions about the items in this article, feel free to leave a comment below!

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