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Plug adaptors and Extension Cords

I have been taking an American extension cord with me. I plug it into the plug adaptor, then plug my charges and other devices into the receptors at the end of the cord. Most of cords have at least three places to plug things in. Then you don't need an adaptor for everything you want to plug in. It worked great for me.

Posted by
5912 posts

John, there are some American devices people would bring that are not dual voltage and might have a problem.

Posted by
1213 posts

I have always wondered about doing this. My concern, are American cords, designed for 120 volts, safe when used on European 240 Volt outlets?

Posted by
2489 posts

I’ve done this with no trouble.

What is even easier for many people’s needs is to bring a multi-usb port. These are usually rated for both voltages and have 2-5 USB inputs. Then you can charge any device that uses a usb cord (phones, iPads, kindles, etc). For many people these are the only electronics they bring. My husband and I have two phones, an iPad, a kindle, and a Fitbit - all can charge in one small usb brick with one adapter. The camera isn’t usb so needs it’s own charger and adapter.

Posted by
5652 posts

...are American cords, designed for 120 volts, safe when used on European 240 Volt outlets?

Power (watts) = Voltage (volts) X Current (amps)

A North American 120 watt device draws 1 amp at 120 volts. Plugged into a 240 volt service, the 120 watt device would only draw 0.5 amps. If your North American extension cord works at 120 volts, it can carry more power at 240 volts.

Posted by
1213 posts

."are American cords, designed for 120 volts, safe when used on European 240 Volt outlets?

Power (watts) = Voltage (volts) X Current (amps)

A North American 120 watt device draws 1 amp at 120 volts. Plugged into a 240 volt service, the 120 watt device would only draw 0.5 amps. If your North American extension cord works at 120 volts, it can carry more power at 240 volts."

As an engineer I am very aware of the power/amps and know the amps would be less. What my concern is the insulation for the extension cord wiring. 240 volts would require better insulation than 120 volts.

Posted by
4700 posts

I take "cube adapters" instead of extension cords when I got to Europe. These do the same thing - create three North American-style plugs from one. It accomplishes the same thing as an extension cord but weighs less and takes up less space in my carry-on bag. I take two cube adapters, actually, plus of course a few Europe to North American plug adapters. This gives me six North American power sockets if the room has two wall sockets.

Technically, North American extension cords and cube adapters probably aren't rated for 220 volts (mine aren't). You should be able to find actual specs written in small print somewhere on the adapter or extension cord itself. In theory there is some risk if not using a 220v rated adapter/cord, but for low current devices like phone chargers and laptops I really am not worried about it. I would be more worried about using a hair dryer or curling iron or something that might draw a lot of current - then I'd be worried about heat if anything.

Posted by
860 posts

Good topic John. I second the recommendation of using a cube adapter. Barely larger than the plug adapter in most cases and can handle three devices (I rarely need to plug in more than two things at once ie - computer and a phone).

DJ

Posted by
9643 posts

This is my new toy:

Travel Power Strip

Dual Voltage, two power plugs, four usb ports, five foot cord for those hard to reach wall sockets. All I need is an adaptor and I'm set. Individual chargers stay at home. It's like a multi usb charger and extension cord all rolled into one.

Posted by
5642 posts

But ... If the only available wall outlet is hidden behind a desk or bed, that extra-long cord looks mighty attractive.

EDIT: because we also travel with (gasp) a plug-in charger for Sonicare toothbrushes, we can't use anything that only charges using USB ports. And on 4-week-plus trips, the Sonicares DO need charging.

Posted by
9643 posts

But ... If the only available wall outlet is hidden behind a desk or bed, that extra-long cord looks mighty attractive.

That's why I switched to the new device. In one hotel, not only was the plug behind the desk, I had to unplug the desk lamp to use it. This is very common in older hotels especially many of the ones recommended by RS and used on his tours.

I've used the Syncwire mentioned in the article for awhile flawlessly. (In fact, I'm using it now.)

Posted by
31271 posts

" My concern, are American cords, designed for 120 volts, safe when used on European 240 Volt outlets?"

As you note in an earlier reply, the most important factor when using an extension cord on a higher voltage is the insulation. In my experience, extension cords typically have enough insulation to still be safe at 240 VAC. However that's not to say that I don't have concerns. These days many (the majority) of products of that type are now manufactured in Asia, and the current philosophy seems to be "cutting corners" to provide the bare minimum to meet specifications. Electrical products that were manufactured here tended to have a more robust construction and more of a safety factor.

My normal practice when traveling is to leave devices connected to outlets in Europe only as long as necessary. I never leave anything plugged in while I'm sleeping or out of the room.

Posted by
17940 posts

If the only available wall outlet is hidden behind a desk or bed, that
extra-long cord looks mighty attractive.

Perhaps I'm just lucky, or perhaps it's because I go mostly to Germany, but in about 250 nights in over 50 places, an accessible receptacle has never been a problem. In Germany, there are usually receptacles on the night stands on either side of a double bed. There were in the last place I stayed, an apartment in the Spessart, but I wanted to use my laptop at the table in the kitchen. There were two receptacles at either side of the sink/stovetop counter, but that wasn't convenient to the table, and there was a receptacle on the wall in the corner behind the table, but that also was not convenient. I just used the laptop on battery at the table and recharged it overnight at a receptacle on a shelf in the living room.

What my concern is the insulation for the extension cord wiring. 240 volts would
require better insulation than 120 volts.

If the extension cord carries the UL listing, it has probably been "hipot" tested to over 1200 volts. The cords are probably individually tested to guard against manufacturing defects. So 230V should not be a problem.

The real concern should be that the two-pin europlug adapter you are probably using is not rated for over 2½ amps. Therefore the adapter should not be used for hair dryers. Furthermore, any UL listed device with a polarizing plug (one blade wider) might have safety considerations that depend on polarized power. Except for Switzerland, European power is not polarized. Therefore, you should not use any device with a polarizing plug in Europe. At the very least, don't leave any device with a polarizing plug plugged in when not in use.