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Video:Distinguishing Between Plug Adapters and Voltage Converters

with Gina Miller

You can destroy some of your most valuable possessions if you don't know the difference between an adapter and a converter while traveling in Europe. This About.com video shows you how to distinguish between the two and when to use them.See Transcript

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Transcript:Distinguishing Between Plug Adapters and Voltage Converters

Hi, I'm Gina Miller, and today for About.com we are going to distinguish between plug adapters and voltage converters.

Why Do You Need an Adapter or Converter When You Travel Abroad?

But, why would you need a plug adapter or voltage converter? The reason is that electrical sockets and plugs abroad are far different than those in the US, plus the voltage outside the US is usually different than the 110 volts found in a US outlet. A plug adapter and voltage converter will overcome these differences when traveling overseas and allow your electrical devices to work properly. But how do you distinguish between them?

Physical Differences Between Adapters and Converters

First, when purchasing in a store look at the box. Converters are clearly marked as converters and Adapters are marked as adapters. Now if the device isn't in a box, look closely at the unit. Most converters will have an imprint that states it converts electricity and likewise adapters will have an imprint that indicates it's an adapter.

Another way to distinguish between plug adapters and voltage converters is by weight. Converters are heavier than adapters. Some Converters can weigh 2 pounds while adapters weigh only a few ounces. 

When to Use a Converter

Those are the physical differences, but distinguishing when to use an adapter versus a converter is a bit more difficult. When traveling abroad, you'll use a converter for appliances that DO NOT automatically convert voltage such as most hair dryers, razors and curling irons. Here's a rule of thumb: if your electrical device has a motor or if it heats up or cools down, you probably need a converter and if you don't use a converter you'll most likely burn up your device.

Here's a tip: There are so many electrical products on the market today the only way to know if your device needs a converter is to check the owners manual.

When to Use an Adapter

Now an adapter is a device that simply modifies the prongs to fit into the foreign sockets--it doesn't alter or convert the voltage. You'll use an adapter for most small electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, battery chargers, digital cameras and computer tablets because they automatically convert the voltage. But again, always check your owners manual just to be sure your device will automatically convert the voltage in the country you plan to travel.

And that's how to distinguish between Plug Adapters and Voltage Converters. Thanks for watching and for more information visit us on the web at About.com

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