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I want to visit friends in U.S.A. and may stay there for maybe a month. I would like to bring my electronics with me and need to know how I could use them in America. They use 230 V, 50 Hz (I am from Germany).

I think America uses 120 V, 60 Hz (a friend told me).

I have seen travel adaptors however I fear putting 120V, 60Hz into my electronics (most don't do 120 V/60 Hz) and then breaking them.

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  • You need to carefully look at the labels for each thing. Most newer portable electronic things are designed to work over the full range of AC voltages and frequencies. They don't need a transformer, only a plug adaptor. – mkeith Oct 20 at 16:56
  • It really depends on what ‘devices’ are. You showed a picture of a PSX in a comment – that internally runs on some low DC current as far as I am aware but it may or may not have an external PSU. Powering e.g. a SNES is no problem, just use a corresponding US-built PSU because they also scrunch down. The VCR you also mentioned may be more complex to determine/accomodate as most VCRs I’ve seen only have a fixed cord/plug. – Jan Oct 21 at 15:42
  • @Jan the PSX is a case where the PSU is built in, only an AC plug is required to power the machine (no external pack) – leetbacoon Oct 21 at 16:23
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You need to check the label on each device and see what voltage and frequency can be used on them.

Many electronic power supplies will be "universal" and will work from 100 V to 240 V, 50 or 60 Hz.

  • If the device is universal then you only need an adapter for the plug.
  • If the device is 230 V only but will accept 50 or 60 Hz then you need a 120 to 230 V transformer with an adequate VA rating for all the devices you have.
  • If the device is 50 Hz only (unlikely) then it's going to be more trouble than it is worth to convert.
  • Hello, the majority of my devices are 220-240v/50hz only. Only a few (macbook charger) do allow 100-240 50/60 – leetbacoon Oct 20 at 7:57
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    @leetbacoon "the majority of my devices are 220-240v/50hz only" please read the owners manual very carefully about that. There are very few devices restricted to 50 Hz only. Japan has two power grids, in one area there is 50 Hz, in the other area 60 Hz. So electronics build in Japan are designed to work both with 50 and 60 Hz. – Uwe Oct 20 at 8:32
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    Typically the only devices which will be sensitive to 50 and not 60Hz are devices containing synchronous motors. – james Oct 20 at 9:14
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    Or cheap clocks that use the line frequency for time keeping. – JRE Oct 20 at 15:24
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You need a step-up 120:230 transformer with a suitable VA rating to cover all the devices you have that are not rated for universal mains input. Computers, phone chargers etc typically are rated for 100 to 230V so they can be used world wide for example.

The mains frequency should not be an issue as very few devices rely on it for timing though I do have a clock that does.

Most builders merchants will stock suitable transformers but you may find it easier to obtain in the US. My local merchant in the UK only stocks 1:1 and step-down transformers since few people in the UK have access to a 110/120V volt supply though they may have equipment requiring the lower voltage. I'm sure you could order a step-up transformer in Germany but it is unlikely to be a stock item.

  • The OP needs a step-UP transformer to operate his 240 V-only devices on 120 V. – Peter Bennett Oct 20 at 15:29
  • Sorry, typo. Now corrected – Warren Hill Oct 20 at 16:29
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As long as non of your electronics have an ac motor in them (very unlikely) the frequency does not matter. You just need to step up the voltage.

The cheapest way to to do that is to use an autotransformer. This needs to be rated for the power that your electronics take

Your friend may be able to get you one before you arrive They are probably cheaper in the US and they can be heavy. You probably do not want to include it in your luggage.

  • International flights tend to allow 1-2 pretty heavy heavy checked bags. Weight might not be an issue. – piojo Oct 20 at 7:52
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    One example is a vcr (still use one :) ). Some parts are motors (eject tape). – leetbacoon Oct 20 at 7:59
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    Your VCR is probably using PAL video. North America uses NTSC so it might be useless. – Transistor Oct 20 at 8:04
  • @Transistor Oh my friend's TV uses both PAL/NTSC, I checked – leetbacoon Oct 20 at 8:06
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From the comments it seems you are planning on bringing some devices which are quite old (playstation) and in some cases, not the usual portable devices (VCR) and which are labelled for 50 Hz only. Nobody can guarantee you that they will work correctly.

It will be quite difficult to have 50 Hz power in the US. Your best bet would be to bring an inverter from Germany with you. You can buy a 12V power supply that runs on 120VAC at 60 Hz, and run the inverter from the power supply.

It is possible that some electronics labelled for 50 Hz will work at 60 Hz, but nobody can 100% guarantee this, and given the nature of your devices, which are now irreplaceable and could be museum pieces, I suspect you don't want to take any risk.

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    The problem with going 120V/60Hz -> 12VDC -> 230V/50Hz is that you'll be putting a lot of amps through the 12-volt part of the system. – Mark Oct 20 at 20:15
  • True. It will be like 25x the 230V amps. So if the device uses 1A at 230, then it will require roughly 25A at 12V. Not trying to provide exact numbers. But as long as the devices are under 300 Watts or so, and used one at a time, it should be manageable with 8 or 10AWG wire in the 12V section. Call it 2.5mm to 3.5mm diameter wire. VCR and playstation will likely be under 300 Watts. TV not, but I doubt the OP is bringing a TV from Germany. – mkeith Oct 20 at 21:13
  • Basically, I think the OP needs to leave these devices at home. But if it is critical to run them in the US and tolerance for risk is very low, an inverter is still the best solution, I believe. Variable AC power supplies exist. In fact I have one, but it seems not practical for the OP's purpose. Very large and heavy. – mkeith Oct 20 at 21:19
  • Or the OP could buy a purpose-built travel adapter that does both voltage and frequency conversion rather than cobbling one together from parts not meant to do that job. Typically, these devices do the frequency conversion at high voltage, not low voltage, to keep the amperage (and cost) down. – Mark Oct 20 at 21:47
  • Hey, @Mark, I am happy to delete my answer if you can show me one that looks plausible. – mkeith Oct 20 at 22:00

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