Plug Adapters

In looking at Amazon reviews for plug adapters some apparently do not fit polarized plugs. Does anyone have any experience with Rick's plugs not fitting a polarized plug? Thanks!

Posted by James
Frisco
1770 posts

I go to europe a few times a year and own a small apartment in europe as well. From experience there is only one adapter I use or leave for my rental guests to use: http://www.amazon.com/Grounded-American-European-German-Adapter/dp/B0038L54ZO/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1355455594&sr=8-4&keywords=schuko Or search on Amazon "Heavy Duty Grounded USA American To European German Schuko Outlet Plug Adapter" It doesnt mean there arent other great solutions I just feel most comfortable with this one. It is grounded. It will not fall out of the wall when weighted by a cord, it will work in every modern or nearly modern european outlet outside of England and possibly Ireland (just dont know about ireland). I have used them from Paris to Bucharest to Moscow to Rome. No problems. Yes, they have the proper size slots on the US end for the polarized plug. Make sure you buy quality as I had an associate get a nasty shock on one of the square ungrounded types when the plastic housing literally fell off.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

The concept of polarized power does not exist in continental Europe; I'm not sure about the UK. The standard plug that goes into the Schuko receptacle can be put in two different ways, so even if the receptacle were polarized, and I understand it is not, half the time the resultant connection would be backwards and "anti-polarized". The French version of the Schuko receptacle has a protruding ground pin, limiting the plug to one orientation, but I understand that the French receptacles are not polarized. In fact, someone even pointed out a French duplex receptacle in which the left hand pin socket of one receptacle was connected to the right hand pin socket of the other receptacle, so the two receptacles would have opposite polarization. In essence, if the US appliance relies on polarization for safety protection, that protection would be non-existent in continental Europe. Your best bet is to buy and use in Europe appliances that were made for European systems. In Europe, many appliances are protected by "double insulation", as indicated by a square-in-a-square symbol. Appliance from the US that are double insulated should be safe in Europe.

Posted by James
Frisco
1770 posts

Lee, if we are talking appliances I agree. Its not uncommon for devices that have no reliance on polarization to still have the one slightly oversized spade. As evidence I have a computer power supply with interchangeable US polarized and suchko. plugs. Also These adapters don't do a thing about the 220v power in Europe vs 110v in the US and they do nothing about the US standard 60Hz vs 50 in Europe. The frequency differences impact motor speeds and some radio devices and I believe will have some impact on heating devices as well. In short the adapters are great for charging devices and running power supplies for computers, etc as they are generally rated (but confirm yours) 110/220v and 50/60Hz. For everything else you are probably better off purchasing local or purchasing devices especially designed for travel in Europe. One last caution, the Europeans generally provide somewhat less electrical service per room, home, apartment than what would be common in the US. Turn on the microwave and the curling iron at the same time and you could find yourself sitting in the dark.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17718 posts

Pam, I haven't seen the Amazon reviews, but they sound somewhat "questionable". As Lee mentioned, outlets in Europe are not polarized, so plugs can be connected either way. I've never seen a "polarized plug" in Europe. Unlike North American Plugs, they don't have one blade (or pin) larger than the other. However, a few points to be clarified: (1) If you're using a grounded Plug Adaptor, these will usually only fit one way. Each country uses slightly different Plugs for grounded applications. (2) There are two different types of European plugs, some with 4.0 mm diameter pins and some with 4.8 mm diameter pins. If the outlet is designed only for the smaller pins, a larger Plug likely won't fit. The Plug Adaptors currently shown in Rick's Travel Store at $1 each (sale price) should fit European outlets. You should also be able to find these at local Radio Shack or travel stores in your area. You will of course have to check EACH of the electrical devices you'll be travelling with, to ensure they're designed for operation from 100-240 VAC, as Plug Adaptors will not convert voltage. Which countries will you be visiting? Happy travels!

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

And the direct answer is -YES - the Rick Steves adapters have polarized receptacles (in that they accept a plug where one blade is wider). Both the European and the UK.
That the outlets there are not polarized will not matter. If you go through older houses here, you will find still find many old outlets that are not polarized.

Posted by James
Frisco
1770 posts

I did a little research and there are some countries in Europe with polarized systems in new construction. The plug I recommended will fit modern systems in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Republic of Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uruguay. If you are staying someplace with very old wiring there may be instances where the plug will not work. I think this is going to be pretty rare as consumer electronics generally come with a plug similar to the one listed above and for a home owner for instance to be able to purchase and use any new electrical device they need to updaate their outlets. In all fairness the RS plug is smaller, lighter and may fit a few oddball outlets that the larger adapter i use will not fit into. The major drawback is not grounding.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
468 posts

Thank you all so much for your replies and for the education. I had no idea about the issue of polarized vs non-polarized (other than the wider blade end). I did understand the difference between adapters and converters. To answer Ken's questions, we are signed up on Rick's Heart of Italy tour for next May. The appliances in question are my sister-in-law's Hot Air Brush which is marked as dual voltage but has the larger blade on one side (but no ground pin)along with our camera chargers. Although complete details are not worked out yet, there may be the possibility that one of the travelers may opt to take a battery-powered shaver which would mean the batteries might need to be charged during the trip. (He's young and strong and if he opts to carry the extra weight he will probably not even notice it!) The decision on taking the iPad has not been made yet, nor has the decision about cell phones for wifi use only. We do have a Radio Shack locally, so will go look at what they have. Rick's shipping is pretty high if you don't order enough to get it free. Again, thank you all for the comments.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

In addition to Radio Shack, check with Ace Hardware. They sell adapters (get the So. Europe one)for less than $5. If you are using an appliance with a grounding plug, you can use a standard Schuko adapter from Amazon. However, in Italy, in other than new construction, the receptacle will not accept it. And, if the plug is only polarized, not grounding, a Schuko plug will not help. I've been in Europe with non-grounded power supplies many times without a problem. I thing that, realistically, as long as the plastic case is not cracked, and you don't use it in the bathtub, you will probably be alright.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

What "polarized" actually means: Polarization is the system whereby the thinner blade is always connected to the black (hot) wire, and the wider blade is connected to the white wire (the return to ground, not to be confused with the separate grounding wire for the system which in case of shorts makes certain current can still return to ground).
This is a safety issue, not an operational issue - which is why you can still operate devices off non-polarized receptacles where you don't know which is the "hot" side (as long as you have an adapter for the polarized plug)

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

While the term "polarized" is not used in the UK, all sockets are wired the same way and there is only one way that anything can plug in. All pins are rectangular. The normal orientation is an upward pointing triangle with the "earth" pin at the top. Earth is often called "ground" in North America and corresponds to the round ground pin there. The earth pin on the plug is slightly longer than the other two because it moves a shutter blocking access to the other two when it is plugged in, so you can't plug in anything without all 3 pins. In double insulated appliances the earth pin is often plastic but has to be there to open the shutter. The pin on the right is the "neutral" and the pin on the left is the "live". Many North American to UK adapters have s larger slot on the left side to allow the wider polarized spade, and also have a round hole for the ground pin.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17718 posts

Pam, I just checked the Radio Shack website and some of the prices for their Plug Adaptors seem a bit "steep" compared to MAGELLANS. For example, the Enercell two-pin Euro Adaptor is priced at $12.99 at Radio Shack, while the same type of product is $2.85 at Magellans. Regarding the Hot Air Brush, be sure that you don't forget to set the voltage switch to the correct position for Europe. As I stated earlier, you WILL have to check each device that you're travelling with, including the electric Razor, to ensure that they're designed for multi-voltage operation. If you decide to take the iPad, AFAIK this is designed to operate in Europe, so you'll only need a cheap two-pin (ungrounded) Plug Adaptor (ie: the type "D" shown on the Magellans website). I'm sure you'll have a great time on the tour! Cheers!

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
468 posts

Again,thanks to all! Ken, I did run in to Radio Shack yesterday afternoon and was very surprised at how much they wanted for the adapters. They had 2 kinds, one with the big hub and one with the smaller hub, both for the $9-$10 range. We have 5 going on the tour, so my brother was going to buy 5 but didn't really want to spend $50 on them. From the discussion above we were going to get the smaller ones. We had not looked at other travel sites (Magellan, TravelSmith etc) so we will check them out as well as the local ACE hardware. We will check on the shaver specifics (it's a new-ish Norelco) and will make a note in the last minute things to do to put a note on the air brush as a reminder.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17718 posts

Pam, I bought a new Panasonic Razor recently, and the Charger for that is designed for multi-voltage operation. Have a look at the ratings on the Norelco, which will be printed somewhere on the Charger. Look for the words "Input Voltage". Back to the Plug Adaptors, I've been using the Magellans products for years, and they work well. I always take 2 or 3 of each type, in case one is lost or misplaced on the trip. At $2.85 each, it's not a huge expense. They also offer a small Power Bar (3 outlets I believe), but of course it doesn't perform any voltage conversion. AFAIK, it's rated for use on 220 VAC. Cheers!

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
468 posts

Thank you Ken. We did go for the Magellan adapters. David, yes, I was aware it was not a voltage converter. I was just looking for the plug adapter. Everything we are taking is dual voltage.

Posted by David
Toledo
53 posts

I just looked at the link in the first post for the Shuko adapter. It is important to realize that this adapter will NOT convert the voltage from 220 to 110. I wish it did, because as the poster inferred, the adapters are generally heavy and you have to support them to keep them from falling out of the socket during the night. I take a cheap voltage adapter I bought some years ago, not sure the brand, a cheap one, but it has a number of different plugs depending on the country. There are 2 for Europe as mentioned above. We use ours to charge up our IPad, Kindle and I phone. I use the IPhone on airplane mode, which permits me to use it as a camera during the day and at night upload my pictures and check the email on the hotel WIFI. So we also take a 3 outlet adapter which gives you the chance to run 3 chargers at night.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17718 posts

@David, "I just looked at the link in the first post for the Shuko adapter." As you noted, the items mentioned in the first post will NOT convert voltage. It's important to differentiate between Plug Adaptors and Voltage Converters. It's also important to note that there are two principles used in voltage conversion, and it's a good idea to use the correct type with various appliances. For example, electronic products such as the ones you mentioned should only be used with a Transformer-type converter, as problems can occur if used with solid-state converters (including possible destruction of one or both products). Solid-state Voltage Converters are best used with high-wattage appliances such as Hair Dryers that basically only contain a simple resistive heating element, a switch and a motor. Most electronic products these days are designed for multi-voltage operation, so a "cheap voltage adapter" will not be necessary. They work fine in Europe with just an inexpensive Plug Adaptor. Have a look at the spec's on the Chargers for your iPad, Kindle and iPhone, looking for the words "Input Voltage". Most these days are rated for an Input Voltage of 100-240 VAC, 50/60 Hz. @Pam, That's great! They've always worked well for me. Cheers!