I can’t do it captain…I don’t have the….

….power adapters.  We didn’t bring much with us here to England except clothing and a couple boxes of electronics.  It’s my industrial-strength hair-dryer, and I can’t live without it!  Anyway, here is the list of electronics that need to be plugged into the wall that we I brought with us: DVD player, projector, 3 external hard drives, 2 laptop computers, camera battery charger, airport express, wireless router, electric razor, hair clippers, and probably more items that I can’t think of right now.  Add to it the NAS I just hooked up and you have no less than 12 items that need to be plugged in.  How did I handle the problem of plugging in our US plugs into UK ports?  Adapters.

I bought a handful of various adapters to make the plugs on our US-origin electronics work here in Oxford.  Some of the adapters work only here in England, and some have modular plugs that are supposed to work in Europe, once we finally get around to traveling.  I figured a few adapters is all we need, since ultimately we don’t need to use all 12 of those electronics simultaneously.  Well, I was wrong.

But I wasn’t wrong about using all 12 electronics at the same time, I was wrong about the compatibility with the adapters.  Some of our gadgets worked fine, and some made noises that sounded a lot like gadget death.  And strangely enough, I also couldn’t plug either of the 6-plug power strips I brought with me in without blowing the fuses in our flat.  I chalked it up to old wiring, but there may be a more scientific explanation.

Not only do the power connectors differ in shape between the USA and UK, but the power that runs through them differs too.  Most US power is supplied at 110V /60Hz, whereas the power here in the UK is a higher voltage at 230V / 50Hz.  Luckily, most computer and computer-ish (read: expensive) electronics have a power supply that is built to handle 100-240V.  Check out the sticker on your laptop AC adapter and you should see it listed.  After some additional research, I found yet another solution to our power problems:

Above is our new stepdown transformer.  Just as the sticker says on the top of the device, it takes the UK power at 240V and pumps it back out at 120V, along with some noise and some heat.  With this bad boy I can plug in my power strips AND my gadgets that couldn’t handle the high voltage.  So just as a lesson, pay attention to what you want to plug in when you travel abroad.  Well, except for when you all come visit us – we’ve got it covered.

3 thoughts on “I can’t do it captain…I don’t have the….”

  1. …To set the record straight, I didn’t bring a hairdryer. Industrial strength or otherwise. I think somebody has taken a bit of creative liberty with this one??? 😉

  2. Clever idea, just be careful about plugging something in that will draw a lot of current (laser printer, heater…and maybe the hair dryer). The stepdown converter needs to do something with the difference in voltage: hence the heat. Start running lots of electrons through that (i.e., current) and you’ve got yourself a fire on your hands. Or Chelsea’s hair.

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