6

Sorry if this is a question better suited to Electronics.SE.

I'll be travelling from my home country of Australia to the Philippines tomorrow, and been looking for a suitable travel adapter. Unfortunately given the time constraint the only I've been able to find for type A/B sockets is a US adapter. This would be fine, except the adapter is explicitly labelled as being for 110-125V. Australia uses 240V, while the Philippines is on 220V as best I can tell - a small enough difference that it shouldn't be an issue for charging small devices like phones. My question is, is using a 110V adapter likely to cause any problems when the source and destination voltages are the same, but different (higher) than the adapter's rating?


Update

For those curious, I did use one of those adapters and it all worked fine in the end - didn't blow up any devices (or itself), and didn't get too hot while plugged in. I do recommend caution all the same when dealing with adapters of unknown quality - but it looks like as long as the adapter isn't one with a voltage transformer and the source/destination voltages are roughly the same, the situation described in this question should be OK.

  • What does your adapter look like? The usual straight-through plug type converters don't generally have a voltage rating. (And if you're charging phones, all you will need is a straight-through adapter. Or, if you can't find one, just buy any cheap USB adapter when you get to the Philippines.) – Greg Hewgill Apr 27 '17 at 4:05
  • Male type B plug, female type I. It's this: officeworks.com.au/shop/officeworks/p/… - you can see the listed voltage on the adapter in the image. – Xono Apr 27 '17 at 4:08
  • Yeah, that's just a straight through adapter. It's simply got internal wires connecting the sockets on the front to pins on the back. Totally fine for charging a phone. (Virtually all phone adapters are rated 110-240V or similar, so they'll accept any mains voltage.) – Greg Hewgill Apr 27 '17 at 4:17
  • So it'll still be feeding through the full 220V, even though the adapter is listed as 110-125V? – Xono Apr 27 '17 at 4:38
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    Yes. Adapters that change the voltage do exist, but they're larger, heavier, and more expensive. – Greg Hewgill Apr 27 '17 at 5:11
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The label on the adapter is known as "cover your backside". The adapter is being sold as a USA / Canada adapter and so lists current limits based on the target market voltage. So basically the manufacturer is saying if you use it in the USA with 120 VAC don't plug in anything that draws more than 10 Amps, as higher current could damage the device (even to the point of causing it to catch fire).

There is nothing to prevent you from using it for 220 VAC, as inside is simply conductors. Just keep your current needs reasonable. Chargers for things like phones pull less than 1 amp, so not a worry. At the other end of the spectrum my desktop computer tower pulls 6 Amps at 230V, but that converts to be 10 amps at 120 VAC.

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    This is a dangerous advice. Even stupid simple adapters might have voltage ratings for a reason, the fact that they are simply conductors is irrelevant. A cheap adapter might save money on insulation, sometimes they have a small led or something that lights up when they are connected... Adapters are dirty cheap and there is no excuse for using the wrong one. – Vladimir Cravero Apr 27 '17 at 8:41
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    I guess that the very little you know is correct, but is... Very little. Would you expect a 220V adaptor to work with 10kV input? Of course not. See this answer, Muzer summarized very well all my thoughts. TL;DR: high voltage can break insulations rated for lower voltage and set things on fire. – Vladimir Cravero Apr 27 '17 at 11:46
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    @MartinArgerami: Both voltage and current needs limits, independently. If the current is too large, each of the conductors will get hot. If the voltage is too large, the insulation between the conductors may break down and begin conducting. – Henning Makholm Apr 27 '17 at 11:59
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    That's exactly what I was hoping to hear, then again, are you extremely sure of what you wrote, keeping in mind that people safety is involved? You write that the limits are there to "cover your backside", then you speak of current ratings, which have nothing to do with voltage ratings, and conclude that it can be used. You understand that you are liable for what you write, so would you repeat this in a court room? – Vladimir Cravero Apr 27 '17 at 14:13
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    @vladimircravero - Yes I stand by my answer otherwise I would not have written it. If you don't like my answer, then write your own damn response that covers your 10kV fantasies and will hold up in front of the Supreme Court. Enough of this childish needling. – user13044 Apr 27 '17 at 14:49
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While a lot of people will say this is probably fine — and it probably is fine — I would definitely not do it myself, because given the difference between "probably" and "definitely" here could in the worst case be as dramatic as setting fire to the building or getting a bad electric shock.

Travel adaptors are often dodgy enough as it is, especially the cheap Chinese ones. They're also cheap enough that you can get a correct one without much expense or hassle. As others have stated, there are a multitude of reasons why the adaptor might be rated thus — maybe it uses really cheap terrible insulation that is just about OK for ~120V but not for ~230V. Maybe it's just not been tested at 230V but it'll probably work. Maybe there are other components like a circuit to power an LED that will blow out and make the adaptor useless at 230V. Maybe it'll be fine. Maybe it'll start arcing and burn through the plastic. Unless you are the manufacturer, you just don't know why they put that rating on it.

My opinion is that at mains voltages, there's no reason not to put in a little extra time and money to better ensure your own safety and the safety of others. While it will probably work without issue, I wouldn't count on it myself. I've seen some truly badly-designed travel adaptors cause all sorts of potentially dangerous trouble in my short time at university among people with foreign electronic devices — and those were adaptors being used for their intended purpose, they just happened to be really terrible and non-standards-compliant. There's no reason to add additional risk on top of this.

  • +1 for the caution. I was a bit too time-strapped to go shopping around for options back then, but if I was concerned about the source's quality, I probably would've opted for getting it at the airport at either end instead. – Xono Jun 16 '17 at 6:42
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First of all, let me welcome you to The Philippines (in advance).

One thing is for sure, you can't use 120v adapters here. 200-240v is fine, I've used it before as I shop from international sellers.

Sockets here usually have the 2 straight line hole (i'm not sure what thats called).

I've mistakenly plugged appliances like radios bought from the US here before and as soon as I turn it on it just goes in smoke.

But you can always buy the adapters once you get here. Places like AceHardware should have them.

As for phone and laptop chargers I always noticed that they are rated 100-240v so you might want to check your adapters rating first. Those should be fine.

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    Those are 120v appliances that went up in smoke, though. Dumb adapters will probably be fine. Voltage-converting adapters (transformers) probably won't be. – user253751 Apr 27 '17 at 7:37
  • I don't know anything about electronics, but I use a voltage regulator that has 110v plugs (output) to power appliances I bought from US. – majidarif Apr 27 '17 at 7:41
  • I meant the ones designed for US with a 110/120V input won't work on 230/240V. – user253751 Apr 27 '17 at 22:15
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I have burned out a 110V marked Oral B toothbrush charger by plugging it into 230V instead.

enter image description here

I have also burned out a dual voltage travel kettle by forgetting to flip the switch. Yeah, I am good at destroying my stuff. What's common in both? It's not an adapter with high voltage coming out , low voltage going out. I would say this is your rule of thumb: if there is a plug hanging out on the low voltage DC end to charge your phone, laptop, tablet, travel DVD player or similar electronics you are good. If it contains a coil then you are not.

  • Interesting. My ten year old Oral B toothbrush charger works on both 110 V and 230 V outlets. Never read the markings! – Calchas Apr 27 '17 at 11:21

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