|Converters and transformers are
electric conversion products that enable safe operation of electric devices
in foreign countries. Electric devices that are designed for use
with 110V systems require foreign 220V current to be "stepped-down." Devices that are designed for use with 220V systems require foreign 110V
current to be "stepped-up."
choice between a converter or a transformer depends on several things.
First, is your device an electric
appliance with a high power heating element or mechanical motor such as
a hair dryer or iron? If you are using an electric appliance, you
need a converter. Or is your device electronic, using electronic
chips or circuits, such as a computer, printer or VCR? If you are
using an electronic device, you need a transformer. When in doubt
about the type of device, use a transformer. Both electric appliances
and electronic devices work with a transformer, but only electric appliances
work with a converter.
Second, is your use continuous
and long-term or is it sporadic and short term? Transformers are
designed for long term, continuous use. Converters are designed
to operate for only an hour or two at a time.
What's the difference between
a converter and a transformer? It lies in how the device converts voltage current. AC power is supplied in alternating bursts that
are in a shape called a "sine wave." To reduce 220V to
110V, for example, a converter chops off the sine waves in half whereas
a transformer alters the length of the sine waves. This is a critical
difference because electronic devices require a full sine wave for operation
thus can operate only with a transformer. Electric appliances function
with either a full or a half sine wave so can be operated with either
a converter or a transformer.
The converter's short-term use
and "chopping" off of sine waves are relatively simple and compact
functions. The transformer's continuous use and alteration of sine
waves are relatively sophisticated functions and require more space. As a result, transformers are generally larger, heavier and much
more expensive than converters. Thus if you are going to travel
with an electronic device you should purchase one that is dual voltage
if it is available.
Most converters and transformers
that are available to the consumer do not alter or convert the "cycles," shown as "Hz" on most devices. Although cycle differences may not cause a problem with many devices, they do with some. See our Cycles
/ Hz Tech Note for further explanation.