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Running 120V/60 devices on 220V/50

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Nick Zentena, Nov 7, 2004.

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  1. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Guest

    I posted this to sci.electronics but I get the impression that
    wasn't the best idea so I'm reposting it here.


    This is how I understand things.

    North American power is 120V 60 cycles. European is 220V 50
    cycles. The voltage can be dealt with easily with a step down transformer
    but the cycles can cause problems.

    Check the back of the device. I'll see something like

    1) 120V/60 this may work it may not. It's a risk.

    2) 120V/50-60 this should work just fine with a step down transformer

    3) something like 110-240v 50-60 This should work just fine. I may need to
    flip a switch or you may need a new cord.

    One thing 60 cycles is used for is timing clocks. Older clocks will not keep
    time with 50 cycles.

    North American 220V is also different then European 220V. Phase
    different? So North American 220V devices can't use European 220V power.

    Is that basically right?

  2. No. Look at this article:

    "Note that currently all new American buildings get in fact 230 volts
    split in two 115 between neutral and hot wire. Major appliances, such as
    ovens, are now connected to 230 volts. Americans who have European
    equipment, can connect it to these outlets."

    US equipment which use 230 Volt can often be used in Europe too.
    But the frequency is a problem which has to be considered.
    And the plug has to be replaced by a local electrician.

    There is no phase problem.

    By the way, the plural forms of units are only used in USA. The rest of
    the world sees units such as Volt, Watt, as dimensions, not as things
    which be singular or plural.

    2 Watt, 3.2 Volt, 5 meter, 12 kilogram (kg), 400 liter, etc..

    A few units are very often used in daily life and have plural-s, in spite
    of this rule. 25 seconds, 3 days, etc..
  3. Terry

    Terry Guest

    1) AIUI the nominal voltages are 115 in North America and 230 volts in UK
    and Europe.
    2) Many items will work as well on 50 hertz/cycle as on 60. However some
    since the frequency is 83% of 60 cycles some transformer circuits may run
    3) Yes; some computers, for example have a little switch to change the input
    voltage. Some small devices, for example some shavers AIUI will adjust
    automatically to either 115 volts or 230 volts.
    4) You are right 60 cycle clocks, even through a step down transformer, will
    run slower on 50 cycles also many/most record players.
    5) North american 230 volts IS different. The term 'phase' is often misused
    in this context. Especially for domestic residence electrical services it is
    almost always inaccurate.
    5a) The best way to demonstrate this is to draw a square box to represent
    the electric company distribution transformer that steps down the high
    tension to service your house. Draw three lines representing the wires into
    a house; mark the top wire Red, Middle White, Bottom Black.
    The middle (white) wire is zero volts or neutral, it is grounded once only,
    at the main circuit breaker/fuse panel where it enters the residence. The
    Red wire can be thought of as live at 'positive' 115 volts. The Black wire
    as live at 'negative' 115 volts. Inside the house your individual 115 volts
    circuits are connected between neutral (zero volts) and either of the 115
    volt 'legs' or sides. Consequently they provide you with 115 volts for
    duplex receptacles, lights etc. Hopefully the 115 volt devices are fairly
    evenly distributed or balanced between the two 'side' or 'legs'. Single
    fuses or single pole circuit breakers are used.
    There are also some heavier appliances in many homes, such as an electric
    oven, electric hot water heater, clothes dryer and electric baseboard or
    other heating that are connected across the two outside 115 volt 'legs' to
    provide 115 + 115 =230 volts. These are normally not different 'phases' but
    are two wires 230 volts apart on the same single phase. the 230 volt
    circuits use double fuses or double pole circuit breakers.
    All outlets and appliances whether they are 115 or 230 must also be grounded
    back to the main panel for safety.
    5b) In the United Kingdom by contrast there are basically only two wires
    that come into the house. One is the neutral or zero volts wire (leg)
    grounded/earthed once at the main fuse panel/consumer unit. The other wire
    is live at 230 volts. Everything therefore works at 230 volts.
    5c) There are advantages to both systems.
    5d) While European and many other countries also use 230 volts at 50 hertz,
    or are standardizing towards that, their systems are not necessarily the
    same. Some may have both 230 volt wires live; with neither a true neutral.
    And in some instances these two wires may TRULY be two phase wires of a
    multi phase system 230 volt system.
    Hope this helps.
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