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World Electrical Systems

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Summary: Traveling the world can be a wonderful experience until you realize that your electric shaver or blow dryer will not work in the electrical receptacles in your beautiful hotel room in Madrid.

Guide to Electrical Systems of the World

Yes - even I had a few melt-down experiences while working in the Philippines and Brazil.

In the Philippines I saw what appeared to be a 120 volt outlet. Only after plugging in and disabling my battery charger did I find out that it was 220 volt. Luckily I was able to locate a burnt fuse inside the charger unit and make an emergency repair.

My Brazilian experience proved less musical as I smoked my favorite travel radio even while using an adapter! That was another lesson in electricity around the world

ADAPTER WARNING Most adapters only "adapt" your plug style configuration to another plug style - such as adapting from a "straight blade, parallel prong"' to a "round prong" style configuration. Unless specifically stated, most adapters will not change the "power" of the electricity around the world. Your device label will specify the required power, anything outside of that will most likely cause failure.

Universal Adaptors


Universal adaptor plugs designed for different types of main outlets can only be used if the Voltage and Hertz are the same for the electrical equipment and the main outlet, or if the nameplate states that it can be used for a different Voltage and Hertz. Some Universal Adaptors allow you to switch the Voltage on the equipment and it can be used for both 50 and 60 Hertz.


If you are going to use electrical appliances in another country, you need to know what type of electrical voltage is used in the country you're traveling to and the type(s) of plugs and outlets used there.

Laptop Computers

Most laptop adaptors are made for electricity around the world and there is no problem as long as it is stated on the name-plate: 110-220 volt 50/60 Hertz. However If it states 110 volt 60 Hz then it cannot be used on 50 Hertz power.


This is a guide to some important issues when deciding to use your electrical appliances in another country.

It includes a table describing electrical systems worldwide, illustrations of electrical plugs you may run across, advice on using your computer and other general advice that you may find helpful.

World Electrical Systems - Computer Information

Electricity Around the World

50 Hz vs. 60 Hz Electrical Power Frequency

You may ask:

"What will happen if I plug my 60 Hz hairdryer, fan, shaver,or whatever, into a 50 Hz outlet?" 
My best answer is "it depends."  If the appliance is not motorized, there may be no noticeable affect.  Otherwise, the following observations might shed some light on what could happen.

Consider this:

Some areas have electrical services of 120 and 220 Volts at 50 Hertz.

Electricity around the world needs to be properly identified to prevent possible harm to your personal electrical devices. An electrical device from America is manufactured for an electrical service of 110 to 120 volts and 60 Hertz. When using Non-Power Correcting Adapters some of these domestic devices could over heat and burn out after a while. This could happen right away or could take a day, possibly weeks, months or even years. It really depends on the quality of the device.

The cause of device failures:

Basically, the domestic device will experience over heating and stress to the internal wiring components due to foreign power deviations and irregularities.

Device Specifications and Labeling:

All UL Listed electrical devices come with information found on a label or molded into the case which states the power specifications by which the device was manufactured and tested. Connection to power sources which are outside these specifications will inevitably cause harm to the device as well as void the warrantee. Some small fractional wattage devices such as motors and transformers may specify 50 and 60 hertz.

You will find that large motors and transformers are only made for a specific amount of Hertz, so either 50 or 60

60 Hertz Motor stress when operated with 50 Hertz Power:

Motor RPM's are decreased 17%
Amperage increases 17%
Increased motor temperature


Overheating and possible permanent damage.

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