Transformers can be much more than meets the eye

- Everyone likes to use their electronics — cellphones, games, blackberries and other devices but using the wrong type of power source overseas can ruin the device and lead to a fire.

The world uses different currencies, voltages and even frequency so travelers do need to know some basics.

Most countries use either 110 (110-120) Volts or 220(220-240) Volts.

• 110V is used in North, Central and some parts of South America, the Caribbean, and parts of the Pacific.

• 220V is used everywhere else. Some actually use both 110 and 220V.

Electric frequency is the cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz.

) Canada uses 60 Hz. While Europe uses 50 Hz. Most devices are unaffected by the cycle changes but some, like analog clocks and some motorized appliances, will run slower or faster.

The plug on the appliance that you use in Canada won't fit into the outlets in most foreign countries. Therefore, you will need a plug adapter. Plug adapters do not convert electricity.

A "converter" or a "transformer" changes 220-volt to 110-volt electricity in order to use a 110-volt appliance.

Converters should be used only with "electric" appliances. Electric appliances are simple heating devices or have mechanical motors. Examples are hair dryers, steam irons, electric toothbrushes, incandescent lamps, and small fans. Converters should not be used for more than three hours at a time.

Transformers are used with "electronic" appliances. Electronic appliances have a chip or circuit. Examples are radios, CD players, shavers, battery rechargers, computer printers, fax machines, televisions, answering machines, and fluorescent lamps. Transformers can also be used with electric appliances and may be operated continually for many days.

Electronic items need a transformer. You will also want to use a transformer if you are stepping up from 110 to 220.

Where a converter would simply limit the amount of electrical output without really reducing it, a transformer actually reduces the voltage of the electricity going through it. Always use a transformer with electronics!

If your appliance is dual voltage, you don't have to worry about converters and transformers. You just need a plug adapter for the country you will be visiting.

If you plan to use expensive electronic equipment abroad (especially a laptop computer), it is advisable to use a surge protector. The surge protector that you use in Canada is for 110-volt and should NOT be used in 220-volt countries.

If you have any doubt visit electronics store before you leave. It can be harder to find the right transformer abroad.



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