How to Convert From 120V to 230V
By Elio Lewis
There is no worldwide standard for the voltage that comes out of your wall outlet, so world travelers have been forced to rely upon a series of converters to handle the problem. Even when the plug fits, if your device is designed to be used with a different voltage than it receives, it may fail --- either benignly shorting or spectacularly melting. European devices operate on 230 volts, while their American counterparts operate on 120 volts. Although sometimes the word inverter is used in this context, an inverter technically converts direct current (DC), such as from a battery, to alternating current (AC), used by most electrically powered home devices. An inverter is not needed for converting between voltages from a wall outlet.
Choose an appropriate converter by looking at the label on the back of your device. In addition to the voltage, the label tells you the wattage (W) or amperage (A) required. These measure the power or the current, respectively, and it is important that your converter be able to handle an equal or greater wattage or amperage. For multiple devices, select converters that can handle each of their specifications or use a surge protector.
Plug your 120V/230V converter into a 120V outlet. Plug your 230V device into the 120V/230V converter. If you have multiple devices, plug them into a 120V/230V surge protector, ensuring that their total wattage or amperage does not exceed that of the surge protector.
Power on your device. A surge protector may have a separate switch; if so, power that on before turning on your devices one at a time.
- Most devices are unaffected by foreign differences in cycle (frequency), such as the difference between the United Kingdom's 50 hertz and the United States' 60 hertz cycles. This is because most devices convert AC to DC, eliminating the cycle altogether. However, clocks may keep incorrect time, so check the label to make sure you're using the right frequency.
- As always when doing anything with electricity, you are at a very slight risk for electrocution. Don't stick your finger in the outlet or use your converter with wet hands or near standing water.
Based in Tucson, Ariz., Elio Lewis has served as a writing tutor since 2005. He received a B.A. in linguistics from the University of Arizona.