Phone & Electrical Connections: World Electrical
and Phone Adaptation
Content provided by
Magellanís, Americaís Leading Source of Travel Supplies
Just as every
country has its own culture, language, and currency, each country has its own
solution to electrical and phone line access. Fortunately for the business or
pleasure traveler, Magellan's has everything needed to get "up and running"
Electrical Adaptor Plugs
The two most important
considerations when you are planning to use electrical appliances overseas are
socket shape and voltage.
shapes differ from country to country, and some countries use more than one
socket shape. Even if you have a dual-voltage appliance, you may not be able to
the plug into the wall socket. Most seasoned travelers tuck a soft pouch of
adaptor plugs in a corner of their luggage to be prepared for any socket they
might encounter. Be sure the adaptors you take accept polarized-blade appliance
plugs (Magellan's plugs do) and fit down into the recessed sockets you'll find
around the world. (Magellan's plugs do this, too!)
two types of adaptor plugs, non-grounded and grounded. Magellanís Destination
Pages will advise you as to what sockets are found in each country, and which
adaptor plugs are recommended.
adaptor plugs are chosen when the appliance is non-grounded or when
non-grounded sockets may be the only sockets available. (Please refer to
Magellanís Destination Pages). The adaptor "A" plug, (item # EA235A) is also
very useful in adapting a polarized plug (one prong is wider than the other)
to a non-polarized socket, or a grounded plug to a non-grounded socket where
North American style sockets are found. Our non-grounded adaptor plugs
accept both the North American ("A" pattern) and European ("D" pattern)
plugs, valuable when needing to plug in a round-pin step down transformer.
adaptor plugs should be used when the appliance has a grounding plug.
(Grounding is a safety feature that protects the user when the appliance is
damaged.) In the event of a short, grounding creates a path of least
resistance to the wall, rather than the user, protecting the user from
shock. The appliance MUST be grounded ALL THE WAY TO THE WALL for this path
of least resistance to exist. Our grounded adaptor plugs accept ANY plug
pattern except the South African plug. They are, therefore, very useful in
adapting one FOREIGN country to another.
Transformers and Converters
There are two
basic standard wall currents in the world, 100-125 volts, and 220-250 volts.
Please refer to the Destination Pages to determine the standard wall current
utilized by your destination country.
are "dual-voltage"; they are designed to operate on voltage between 100-250
volts without damage to the components. These appliances
do not require
transformers. Many North
American-made appliances, however, are designed to operate only within the
100-125 volt range. These appliances will
suffer damage if plugged into
220-250 volts. Magellan's carries a complete line of step-down
converters that will plug into the 220-250 volts, and step the voltage down to a
safe level for appliances designed to operate at 110-125 volts.
made for use outside North America are designed to operate within the 220-250
volt range, and, in most cases will not function properly on a 110-125 volt
power source. Magellan's also carries a complete line of step-up transformers
that plug into 110-125 volts, and step the voltage up the 220-250 volt range
that these appliances require.
Our 0-50 watt
transformer is perfect for short-term use with non-grounded, electronic and
motorized appliances rated at 40 watts or under (the lower the wattage, the
longer the usage period). Typically, this transformer is used with razors,
radios, CD players, and other small, non-heating appliances. Should the
transformer start to overheat as a result of extended use, there is an internal
circuit breaker that will interrupt the electricity until the transformer cools
down. Just unplug the transformer for 20 minutes or so and the breaker will
For long-term use,
higher wattage, or grounded appliances, we carry a wide range of heavy-duty
transformers. These transformers are designed to work continuously (although we
do recommend that they be unplugged when not in use) and are fused and grounded
for safety. A grounding pin, which is included with the transformer, will be
needed to ground the transformer when an adaptor plug is required. These
transformers reduce the voltage using a series of wire wraps around a metal core
(the higher the wattage rating, the more the wraps). This method, while
increasing the weight, preserves the sine wave that electronic and motorized
appliances require to operate.
such as hairdryers, curling irons, etc. do not need the same sine wave quality
that electronic and motorized appliances require to operate (which is fortunate,
as they often pull fairly high wattage). It is possible, therefore, to operate
these appliances safely overseas with the use of a 0-1600 watt heating
converter. Heating converters reduce the voltage with the use of capacitors that
literally "squish" the 220 voltage down to 110 voltage. In so doing, the
capacitors also flatten the sine wave. This is fine for heating appliances that
rely solely on resistance to operate. Like the 0-50 watt transformer, the
heating converter is designed for short-term use. It is also equipped with an
internal breaker to guard against overheating.
converters do not use wire wraps to reduce the voltage, they are much lighter (4
oz as opposed to the 20 lb 1500 watt heavy-duty transformer). Heating converters
are not capable of grounding, and please remember, heating converters are
designed for use with heating appliances ONLY.
They must never be used with motorized or electronic appliances as damage may
For those who
travel with small motorized AND
heating appliances, the Combination Converter is the perfect answer. It
incorporates both the 0-50 watt transformer and the 1600-watt heating converter,
as well as the internal breaker for safety. The user need only flip a switch to
select the appropriate converter type.
current) flows in a set number of cycles per
second, or "hertz". 60
hertz is most common in countries that operate on 110 volts, and 50 hertz in
those countries that operate on 220 volts. Although voltage converters do not
alter the frequency, most modern appliances are capable of operating on both 50
and 60 hertz. Exceptions include gear-driven appliances that are calibrated to
the frequency, such as electric clocks and older turntables, and appliances that
utilize a timer, such as microwave ovens and bread makers. These appliances are
designed exclusively for 60 hertz if sold in North America.
How do we know which transformer
to recommend for non-heating appliances?
rated by wattage, and can be loaded up to 90% of their wattage rating. For
example, a 100 watt step-down transformer can handle appliances pulling anywhere
from 1 to 90 watts. If the appliance requires a full 100 watts, it is necessary
to purchase a larger transformer.
requirements will be listed on the appliance, often on the bottom, or the back
where the power cord is attached. In the case of laptops, it is often found on a
box in the middle of the recharging cord.
are usually listed in one of the following formats:
120V 120VAC Volts
50/60HZ 50/60HZ 60HZ Frequency
60W .5A 60VA Watts/Amps
The top figure in
each example indicates the voltage that the appliance is designed to utilize.
The second figure
indicates the cycles per second (or hertz) on which the appliance is designed to
The bottom figure
in each example indicates the power consumption of the appliance. In the first
example, it is expressed in watts. This figure tells you that you will need a
transformer that can handle at least 60 watts.
In the second
example, the power consumption is listed in amps. To calculate watts from amps,
use the following formula.
AMPS X VOLTS = WATTS
.5 A X 120V = 60W
In the final
example, the power consumption is expressed in VA, or volt amps. Volt amps are
the same as watts--the manufacturer is merely pointing out that they have done
the multiplication for us as shown in the above equation.
If you choose to
operate several appliances on one transformer, simply add up the total wattage
of the appliances, and select the transformer accordingly. Plug the appliances
into a power strip (preferably surge protected) or a multi-outlet extension
cord, and plug the power strip or cord into the 110-volt socket on the
What is a Power Event?
A short-term increase in voltage, usually lasting at least 1/120 of a second.
Surges are caused when high-wattage appliances are turned off, and the extra
voltage is dissipated through the power line or when power is restored after a
brownout or blackout. Computers and other sensitive electronics are designed to
operate within a certain range of voltage. Anything outside of this range will
stress the components and cause premature failure.
An instantaneous, dramatic increase in voltage. A spike can reach electronic
equipment through power lines, network, serial or phone lines and can damage or
destroy components. Spikes are often caused by a nearby lightning strike, and
can also occur when power is restored after an outage.
Power events can
happen without warning. Most of us use a surge protector at home, but what can
we do to protect our valuable electronics while overseas? The Euro Surge is the
best 220-volt protection we have found! It plugs into common grounded European "Schuko"/French-Belgian
sockets and provides complete three-line power AND modem line protection. The
Euro Surge also features an internal pulse filter that eliminates unwanted
metering signals that can interrupt your modem transmission in many European
countries (please see the "Tax Metering Signals" section below).
Surge protectors require a
grounded electrical connection to operate correctly. Surge protectors use the
ground as a reference point in determining how far from "normal" the current may
have surged. Therefore, even if the appliance is NOT grounded, a grounded
adaptor plug is needed between the wall outlet and the surge protector.
Aboard the Plane
Some aircraft now
offer plug-in power at your seat, usually in Business or First Class. (The
electricity is DC, or Direct Current, the type found in your automobile, as
opposed to household AC, or Alternating Current.) Take advantage of this
unlimited, battery-free power source--especially on a 10-hour flight, when your
battery would run down or you'd have to lug extra batteries. To hook your
computer up to the little four-pin socket on an aircraft, you need an EmPower
Socket Connector. You also need a standard socket adaptor (the type that goes
into an automobile cigarette lighter) to fit between the computer and the
There are 35
different phone socket patterns in common use in the world today. Fortunately
for those who travel with laptops, Magellan.s carries modular telephone adaptors
to allow access to all of them! The Country Database will advise you as to what
phone jacks are found in each country, and which telephone adaptors are
recommended. There are also areas in the world where the phone systems are
hard-wired (there is no phone jack at all, just a wire that disappears into the
wall). In these areas we recommend the Patch Cord Kit.
The Patch Cord Kit
has everything you need to make connections when no jack is available. The
alligator clips hook on to the wires and offer an RJ-11 jack. Simply connect the
RJ-11 coupler, test with the Digital Phone Line Tester (included), and plug your
phone line in.
Digital vs. Analog Phone Systems
There are two
different types of telephone systems in the world today.
Analog phone systems are found in
most homes and small businesses.
Digital phone systems are found
in many businesses, hotels, and anywhere that one central PBX controls
multiple extensions. Digital
phone systems operate on a higher voltage than
analog systems, and this higher
voltage can cause serious damage to sensitive modem components.
Our Digital Phone
Line Tester tests for dangerous over current and other phone conditions (e.g.,
reversed polarity, no signal). Simply plug it into the phone jack (or telephone
adaptor). The green light indicates a safe analog line, the red light indicates
over current, and the yellow light indicates reversed polarity. Our Digital
Phone Line Tester also provides phone line surge protection.
Tax Metering Signals
telephone exchanges generate high frequency/high pulse signals at regular
intervals to meter phone usage (please refer to the Destination Pages for
countries affected). These signals sound very similar to our call-waiting
"beep", and can seriously interfere with modem transmissions. Our Euro Surge is
equipped with a tax meter filter that filters out the beeps.