What are Electrical Adapters?

Mary McMahon

Electrical adapters are devices which are designed to allow appliances to be plugged into power outlets which do not match their plug configuration. To use an electrical adapter, the user selects an adapter which fits into the wall outlet, plugs the adapter in, and then plugs the appliance into the adapter. Electrical adapters are extremely useful for travelers, as different types of outlet and plug configurations are used in various regions of the world.

Standard U.S. power outlet.
Standard U.S. power outlet.

The critical thing to be aware of with electrical adapters is that they convert plugs, but they do not change the voltage in the outlet. Some nations have 220 volt outlets, while others have 110 volt outlets. Plugging devices designed for 110 volts into a 220 volt outlet, or vice versa, can have some unpleasant consequences, not least of which can be permanent damage to the device. Electrical adapters also cannot change the frequency of the electricity, which can be an issue in some cases.

220 volt europlug that works in most European countries.
220 volt europlug that works in most European countries.

Get started

Want to automatically save money while you shop online?

Join 3 million Wikibuy users who have found 
$70 million in savings over the last year.

Wikibuy compensates us when you install Wikibuy using the links we provided.

Electrical adapter kits typically feature a range of plugs so that people can use the kit as they travel around the world. In some cases, the kit may come with a transformer or converter, a device which is designed to change voltages in cases where people need to use appliances designed for a different voltage. In those situations, the adapter is plugged in first, followed by the converter, and finally the electrical device. Travelers should also be aware that the voltage can fluctuate in some countries, usually in regions where electrical infrastructure is unreliable, and not all transformers are able to handle fluctuating voltage.

230 volt grounded British plug.
230 volt grounded British plug.

When using a converter, users should pay attention to the wattage rating on the converter. They should take care not to exceed this rating by plugging multiple devices or one very energy-hungry device into the converter, as this can cause electrical issues. They may also want to pay attention to the standard frequency used in the nations they visit, and the frequency ratings on the devices they use. Many electronics like laptops and phones can handle a range of frequencies because they are designed for travel, whereas something like a hair dryer may not be able to handle the difference in frequency.

110 volt grounded American plug.
110 volt grounded American plug.

It is also possible to find electrical adapters which are linked with surge protectors to protect the devices which are plugged into them. This can be an advantage when people are using expensive or delicate appliances, as the surge protector can prevent damage. In cases where appliances are damaged, some companies will refuse to honor warranties if a surge protector was not used, under the argument that the consumer failed to exercise due caution while using the device.

Electrical transformers are commonly used to reduce electricity flow to devices such as laptops.
Electrical transformers are commonly used to reduce electricity flow to devices such as laptops.
Europe-bound travelers who are bringing a laptop should pack a voltage converter and adapter plug.
Europe-bound travelers who are bringing a laptop should pack a voltage converter and adapter plug.

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: