European vs U.S. Electricity (Energy)greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
Trying to keep it as simple as possible for me to be able to understand, what is the difference between the electricity produced in Europe versus that produced in the U.S.? Can equipment be readily converted from one to the other?
-- Ken S. in WC TN (email@example.com), July 01, 2001
One of the major differences is the frequency--we have 60Hz, they have 50Hz (Which explains the two different TV formats--honestly, it does!)--I also think many European countries use different outlets, as well as 220-240V vs our 110-120V (Many pieces of equipment have a switch on the back to account for this, for instance, your computer may have one back up on the Power Supply). Other than that, I don't know.
-- Brendan K Callahan (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 01, 2001.
An exgirlfriend from Germany told me that all house currant is 220 with 50 cycles, I don't know beyond that but I do know that there are different types of wall outlets configureations in different places in Europe.
-- mitch hearn (email@example.com), July 01, 2001.
There a number of issues operating US electrical equipment in other countries:
Voltage. Frequency. Plug and socket Protective earthing
Voltage. I understand North America wall sockets are typically 110 to 120 volts whereas many countries use voltages between 160 and 260volts. I believe US and Canada homes are also often fitted with 230volt wall sockets for high power appliances, is that true?
I believe Europe generally operates 230volts. Voltages are only nominal and the difference between say 220 and 240 is not really significant.
A simple resistance type appliance such as a lamp, electric kettle, heater etc. Designed for 230 volts wall socket in the US will be perfectly happy in Europe, just a matter of changing the cord plug.
Such simple appliances designed for 110 volts will blow immediately if connected to 230volts!
A transformer can be used to change voltage (either up or down).
Frequency US and Canada, plus many other countries, use a mains frequency of 60Hertz. Many countries use 50Hz. I am not aware of any significant use of other frequencies for mains supply, except North Korea where we encountered 42.5Hz! Incidently aircraft and maybe ships use 400Hz, some European railways use 15Hz.
Low frequency will cause induction motors to run slow, this is critical for clocks, turntables etc. Low frequency will cause overheating of most appliances except the very simple resistance only appliances.
If you use a US made transformer to convert the voltage it will likely suffer from the low frequency and overheat too.
Compound motors, which typically include drills, vacuum cleaners etc (in fact just about any motor with brushes) will operate provided the voltage is about right but will tend to overheat which may or may not shorten the life of a particular appliance.
Changing the frequency is quite difficult and in practical terms is impossible.
Plug and socket. Different countries use different configuration and some appear to have no real standard! Typical European (excluding UK) have two round pins that fit into a socket with a projecting earth pin. UK often use a rather clunky plug with heavy rectangular brass pins and includes a fuse. Australia, NZ, parts of Africa, parts of China use three flat pins in a 'crows foot' pattern. Many Asian countries use two parallel pins like your 230 without the earth connection.
Things like computers that have a detachable power cord are easy as you just need the appropriate cord for the country in question not forgetting voltage and frequency of course!
Protective earthing Different countries use different systems for providing the protective earth. This is generally not an issue for indoor use domestic appliances but is something to watch out for for power tools and anything for outdoor or workshop use.
TVs and radios I would not bother moving a TV or VCR from one country to another, not only would I need to get the power supply sorted I would then be faced with questions of format NTSC, Pal or SECAM? Then I would need to be aware of the frequency bands in use which do differ.
Radios not such an issue although FM systems use different pre-emphasis and channel spacing.
Computers Your laptop is made to travel and won't be a problem, otherwise Asian PCs typically have a wide range of power supply although less so on systems built specifically for the US/Canada market. The monitor will almost certainly have a problem with mains frequency.
Travellers Things like electric shavers, power packs for laptops and other things typically carried by travellers are often catered for by international hotels which will have low power outlets, often in the bathroom, where you can safely plug in your US shaver or what not.
The airport departure lounge shops are the best place to buy adapter plugs for your shaver and such like, likewise the arrival shop at your destination.
If you have any particular query Ken please don't hesitate to email me direct.
-- John Hill (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 01, 2001.
Just to add a little to what John said - yes, UK (and NZ and Australia) are 240 Volt 50Hz. However, that's nominal. There is normally an allowance for variation - say +/- 10%, and some places (notably Western Australia, to my knowledge) start higher than 240V, because they're having to push it longer distances. In a previous life I worked for a computer and printer manufacturer, and we were continually getting burnt-out power supplies because we couldn't convince the US manufacturers that we needed true 240V power supplies (+/- 10%=24V, with a bit of safety margin) to cope with Western Australia's 216 - 269.5V. They would insist on sending us 230V power supplies (actually 207 - 253V). If those little power supplies that could just about cope with 250V got hit with WA's 270V, they just smoked and popped. There are universal power supplies - normally provided you remember to change the switch on the back of the machine, but they won't necessarily cope with the situation I described. Moreover, if you do blow a power supply, you won't necessarily get sympathy (or warranty, or service) from the local subsidiary of your equipment supplier. In the situation I described, we ended up fitting local power supplies - the USA ones just couldn't cope, and ultimately were forbidden by local statutory authorities. For other equipment, we ended up having to get goods made to UK standards, but with USA character sets. As often as not we had to discard the UK power cords, because we just couldn't get it through the factory's heads that we DIDN'T WANT their power cords - we were required to fit locally-approved ones.
-- Don Armstrong (email@example.com), July 01, 2001.
I have been told that may countries have three standard plug types: The one in the hotel bedroom, the one in the hotel bathroom and the one on your shaver :-)
-- john hill (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 02, 2001.
I've seen lunch wagons which required 220V, but use a line with two 110v plugs at the end so they could work at estate auctions. Would this work with European motors?
Reason I'm asking is while in Croatia I saw a small portable milking machine. The entire unit was about 18"x24"x30". Am wondering, depending on import price, if they might have a market in the U.S. if they could be made to operate off standard U.S. current.
-- Ken S. in WC TN (email@example.com), July 02, 2001.
Ken, I expect the 'roach coach' :-) you saw utilises plugs into two different 110v phase circuits which in effect may be just the same as the way the house is wired. I don't know much about US domestic wiring practices but I expect most houses have 220v at the switch board which is separated in some manner into 110v feeds, the chuck wagon just needs to plug into each feed to get 220v total.
I imagine if you have a fuse box in the barn you will have 220volts there, maybe someone can help me out here?
Unless the milker is something fancy with electronic timers or controls, and this is not likely, the only concern would be the electric motor. The motor will run faster on 60Hz even if you get the voltage right. That is unless it is a compound motor (i.e. with brushes) in which case it will be quite happy on your 220V.
Living in a low frequency domain I have had no experience of running low frequency stuff on a higher frequency so apart from the speed up I dont know what other effects there might be but I suspect the motor would not take as much current as it was designed for and will therefore have a lower power output, maybe significant, maybe not.
Fortunately the motor is most likely the only voltage and frequency critical part and I suggest you investigate importing without the motor? Putting on a motor to suit your local conditions must be more attractive than any add-ons like transformer.
Maybe it does not have a 'motor' at all but instead uses a refrigeration 'sealed unit' which should be easy for you to replace.
Is there anywhere on the 'net where I could see this machine?
I hope this helps you Ken.
-- john hill (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 02, 2001.
U.S. power is suppleid to homes as two 110 volt alternating current feeds that are out of phase with each other. When a double pole breaker in your electrical panel is used to connect them, the result is that they add up to 220 volts because when one line is 110 volts " positive" the other is 110 volts "negative" resulting in a difference of 220 volts. European power however is single phase 220 volts. U.S. power is 220 volts two phase, or in many industrial applications it is three phase. Sometimes it is also supplied as two phases of a 240 volt 3 phase power supply which results in 208 volts. Other than that the european power is 50 cycle as opposed to 60 over here.
-- Dave Peters (email@example.com), January 27, 2002.