What is a voltage transformer? What is a voltage converter?
Different parts of the world use different levels of line voltage to power electrical devices. Voltage stands for the force, or pressure of electricity. A voltage converter (also known as a power converter or a voltage transformer) is an electric power conversion device used to change the electrical current of the power source.
Our step up voltage converters and step down voltage converters transform the force of electricity that a device needs to operate according to where in the world it is being used. A very common use for voltage converters is to lower - or “step down” - voltage from 220V to 110V (as when American devices are used in Europe or the UK), or raise - or “step up” - voltage from 110V to 220V (as when European or UK devices are used in North America).
In Europe, most devices are made to use 220V, while in North America, most devices use 110V. Some devices, such as most laptops and mobile phones, are “dual voltage”, meaning that they don’t need to adjust to a country’s voltage level. These devices usually only need a travel adapter (also known as a plug adapter) to operate in foreign countries.
For more information, see STEP 1 of our 3-Step Buying Guide.
How do I choose the right voltage converter / voltage transformer?
Important: For a full explanation of how to choose the best voltage converter, see our 3 Step Buying Guide.
On the back of every device that uses electricity, you will find a series of numbers and letters which describe the voltage (V), wattage (W), and hertz (Hz) of your device. This is the key that will help you understand which voltage converter (or voltage transformer) is right for the device you need to supply power to.
When deciding on a voltage converter, the most important information to pay attention to is wattage, written as W. Always choose a voltage converter that has at least twice as much wattage as your device. For most TV monitors, computer monitors, and any device that requires a surge of electricity when turned on, choose a voltage converter with at least three times the wattage.
If you are ever unsure of the kind of voltage converter (or voltage transformer) you need, do not guess. Call your device manufacturer, or contact our customer support team.
What is a travel adapter?
Travel adapters (also spelled as adaptor, and also known as plug adapters) change the plug form on your electrical cord so that it fits into wall sockets in foreign countries.
Travel adapters are small and inexpensive, and can be used with equipment that is specified to accept both 110V and 220V (often written as 110V∼220V), such as most cameras, mobile phones and laptops. These devices are frequently known as “dual voltage”. If your equipment is specified to accept only 110V or 220V, then you may need a voltage converter (or voltage transformer).
Tip: If you are planning on travelling to multiple countries (for example, the UK and France, which have different plug types), you may need more than one different plug. In this case, we always recommend our Universal Travel adapter.
Do I need a voltage converter or a plug adapter?
If you are traveling to a foreign country and want to use your own electrical and/or electronic devices while there, you may need to power these devices with a voltage converter (voltage transformer), or travel/plug adapter.
Travel Adapters (or plug adapters) can be used when your device accepts both 110V and 220V input, (typically devices such as laptops that convert AC to DC volts with their own power supply cable).
Many devices are built to accept only a single input voltage - either 110V or 220V. If you have have equipment that specifies a voltage input different than what is supplied in your local country (or the country you are relocating to) then you will need to buy a voltage converter. These are heavier and more expensive than travel adapters, and require sizing to the proper wattage rating of the equipment you will be using with the voltage converter.
For a detailed guide on how to choose a voltage converter, see our 3 Step Buying Guide.
How do I calculate watts?
The formula for calculating watts is the following: W(watts) = A(amps) x V(voltage). For example, a device that uses 12.52 amps and 20 volts would use 250.4 watts (12.52 x 20 = 250.4).
Use our calculator below to find the proper wattage for your product.
Can I use more than one device on the same voltage converter simultaneously?
Yes, you can, as long as the total wattage of your devices does not exceed the wattage of your voltage converter (or voltage transformer). Remember, your voltage converter should have at least twice the wattage of your devices combined.
Does a voltage converter convert the AC frequency or Hertz (Hz) ?
Customary voltage converters (or voltage transformers) do not convert AC Hertz (Hz) or frequency.
For most devices this will not pose a problem, because they will be compatible with both 50 Hz and 60 Hz. Even some devices that specify either 50Hz or 60 Hz may still run safely and efficiently on both, but for some equipment this can cause changes in running performance or damage to the equipment.
Important: Some devices though may not work properly or might even get damaged when run with a voltage transformer. These include, but are not limited to the following: Analog clocks, electric typewriters, large home appliances, microwaves, motorized equipment, power tools, TVs, record players, lamps, and hair clippers.
If you have any doubt about the compatibility of your device with a voltage converter, please contact the device manufacturer. Your manufacturer will know if your device is frequency-sensitive.
How do I choose a voltage converter for a TV or computer monitor?
Because these devices use a surge of energy when they are turned on, you will need a voltage converter with at least three times the wattage indicated on the back of your TV and computer monitor. For example, an LCD TV monitor that uses 200W will need at least a 750W voltage converter.
How do I choose a voltage converter for photography strobe light kits?
Strobe kits used in photography also require a surge of electricity when used, and will need a voltage converter with at least three times the wattage as is indicated on the strobe light. So, a 540W light will need a 2000W voltage converter.
Can I use a voltage converter for my HI-FI sound devices?
Yes. We regularly supply voltage converters to musicians who have moved from the America to Europe with their audio equipment, as well as to customers using our transformers to power imported Japanese studio equipment. Each time, our voltage converters do their job perfectly, and we have not received complaints about audio quality. We recommend our Bronson++ AVT series for use with audio equipment; these models run silently and efficiently, using very little standby power.
Tip: Always talk to your audio equipment specialist about the compatibility of your device and a voltage converter.
My device has an electrical engine (eg. Blender, electric razor, etc.). Will the performance of my device be affected if I use it with a voltage converter?
If your device uses an AC motor, then it is important to confirm with its user manual, or to contact the manufacturer directly about its compatibility with a voltage converter (or voltage transformer).
While most devices won’t experience any change in performance, certain sensitive devices will experience problems with engine timing when used overseas with a voltage converter. This is because the device’s engine is a fraction slower, and thus warmer when it is operated with a voltage converter. In most cases, though, you will experience full functionality with no difference in performance.
If there is any question of compatibility, please check with your device manufacturer to ensure compatibility with an AC volt converter.
Do voltage converters make noise?
Most voltage converters will make a “powering up” sound when they are first turned on. This will usually fade out and the converter will become silent while in use. If your transformer makes a humming or buzzing sound, it may indicate that it is overloaded or that the unit needs to be replaced.
For specific applications where noise is a problem we strongly recommend using the Bronson++ AVT or Bronson++ HE-D series, which use Toroidal Core Technology and are near silent during operation.