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Using US household appliances in Australia?
September 4, 2010 11:39 PM   Subscribe

My mom is moving to Australia. Which major appliances can/should she bring with her?

She has a McMansion full of stuff, most of it top of the line. She's not too fussed about small stuff, but is reluctant to part with big appliances - fridges, freezers, washers, dryers, televisions. And lamps. Lots of lamps.

We understand that, at a minimum, she'll need plug adaptors. Are there any general rules about what will work with a transformer and what won't? Is this even worth trying or will they just fry over time? I've heard appliances with motors (Kitchenaid, sewing machine, washer/dryer) wont work with transformers anyway - something about 50hz vs 60hz power cycles. Power issues aside, I have no idea if a US TV will even work down under. We're fine with multiregion DVD players - what's the deal with Blu-ray and the PS3?

There seems to be a lot of 'well, I guess you could...' or 'my aunt's second cousin's brother's girlfriend moved to Vienna - I think that's in Australia' stuff online. I guess I'm looking for authoritative advice about what's worth the effort and what isn't. I'm starting to suspect she's going to have to hold the yard sale to end all yard sales.

Thanks!
posted by obiwanwasabi to Travel & Transportation around Australia (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Assuming she's from the US…

"Big stuff" is pointless; it'll cost a fortune to ship, a fortune in step-down transformers, and will be potentially slightly less efficient (added to cover my arse for the few cases where the 60Hz / 50Hz difference makes a difference). Believe it or not, we have top-of-the-line fridges, freezers, washers, and dryers here too.

TV's I wouldn't even bother with. Besides the abovementioned, Australia uses different broadcast standards (PAL vs NTSC for analogue, DVB-T vs ATSC for digital) and different frequencies. It is possible in certain cases - where there's a separate tuner box from the screen e.g. some older high-end Sony models, - to get the equivalent local box, but you'll want to be sure of that if you do.

Local TV's are almost all multi-standard; most DVD players are region-free out of the box (or with codes supplied by the vendors); Blu-ray is in a similar (if less advanced) state of region-free-ness; and I don't know about the current state of PS3 region-free modding.

Small stuff (e.g. laptops, etc) should be fine with plug adaptors, as long as the power supply is multistandard (i.e. marked as 110-250V; most are). Lamps would probably be OK (& can usually just have the plug replaced) unless they contain electronics (e.g. dimmable, touch switches, etc). You'll need to buy 240V globes to suit.

Short version - don't bother, except for laptops and the like.
posted by Pinback at 12:09 AM on September 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Seconding everything Pinback said, and confirming that things that heat (my beloved crepe-maker) and things with motors (the top of the line immersion blender, present from a most favorite person) are those least successfully transformed.

Besides garage saling, if it is THAT good you may consider craigslist, and what other family members could upgrade.
posted by whatzit at 12:15 AM on September 5, 2010


(And on reading your profile, you're in Canberra. Feel free to remove my slight snark from the first paragraph ;-)
posted by Pinback at 12:16 AM on September 5, 2010


You didn't say anything I haven't said to her already ;)

I think she's in sunk costs territory - yes, you spent a fortune on it all, but is spending more to keep it running here worth the effort, particularly if it won't run properly?

FWIW, it won't cost her anything to get it here - somebody else is footing the bill.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:39 AM on September 5, 2010


(I should probably add that I can totally see where she's coming from - American gear is very, very nice, and much cheaper than here. Having to come home then fork out twice as much for not quite as nice stuff is going to hurt on top of wearing a loss on the US house.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:47 AM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


… but is spending more to keep it running here worth the effort, particularly if it won't run properly?
No, probably not, except where it's either very simple (e.g. non-complex lamps) to adapt/modify, or already designed with multi-voltage / multi-standards in mind (e.g laptops or other similar small electronics like cameras etc.).

Not saying it's not possible - anything's possible if you throw enough money at it and/or are willing to accept non-optimal results - but I'd save that option/expense for things with real sentimental attachment, or that just aren't available here.

If there's any specifics like that, post details & we'll see what the Hive says.
posted by Pinback at 1:03 AM on September 5, 2010


Holy moly, it's a bad idea to ship anything with a cord overseas! I recently moved from the US to New Zealand and brought only 300 pounds of stuff, for four people. Haven't regretted it for a second. Sell the existing stuff and replace it locally.

it won't cost her anything to get it here - somebody else is footing the bill.

This does change the return on investment calculation somewhat, so... ok, I guess... if it would make her feel a LOT better... but it still seems crazy to ship used appliances...

a fortune in step-down transformers

True. A cheapie adapter will not cut it and could risk a fire. She would have to buy transformers rated for the wattage of the appliance, and rated for constant usage. A transformer that looks like it might work for the refrigerator (scroll down to the bottom) costs $179 not including shipping, and weighs 18 pounds.

There is also the not-insignificant issue of the power bill. If Australia is anything like NZ, electric bills will easily run upwards of $300 per month. A house full of cobbled-together, inefficiently-running appliances is only going to increase that.
posted by oceanmorning at 1:15 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


fridges, freezers, washers, dryers, televisions. And lamps. Lots of lamps.

The lamps could be made to work. The rest would be silly to ship, and probably wouldn't work (at best, or be a fire hazard at worst).
posted by pompomtom at 3:13 AM on September 5, 2010


Seconding everything said above. Adaptors are not enough; she will need a step-down transformer for every appliance she brings. You might want to mention to her that these things are NOISY. The sounds they emit range from a constant low hum to a very loud, irritating buzzing noise. My grandparents had a house full of transformers, and while they were too hearing-impaired to notice, the noise got on everyone else's nerves.
posted by embrangled at 3:50 AM on September 5, 2010


I think this is a horrible idea. In addition to what has been said, in my experience, transformers aren't very reliable either. So be prepared to shell out that money repeatedly. Under no circumstances should you consider using the old fridge, where a simple failure (you know, the kind that results in it being disabled rather than your house burning down) will result in your food spoiling too.
posted by grouse at 6:57 AM on September 5, 2010


Which major appliances can/should she bring with her.

For the typical person moving from the U.S. to Australia, the answer to this question is clearly "none of them."

FWIW, it won't cost her anything to get it here - somebody else is footing the bill.

If money is no object (because it is someone else's money), then it could make sense for her to move all of her beloved appliances. But it still sounds like it will be very difficult to get the appliances to work once they arrive in Australia. Will the funder also pay for extensive alterations to the electrical system in her new home? Will that even be possible?

As an alternative, will the entity funding her move be willing to pay for new top-line appliances? That might be more effective in terms of both cost and effort.
posted by alms at 7:37 AM on September 5, 2010


another thing to think about - those appliances have value in the u.s.. if she moves them to australia and she ends up replacing them due to any of the above reasons she won't be able to sell them for half what she would have gotten in the states.
posted by noloveforned at 8:41 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yep, elements and motors and televisions don't travel well, and nor do frequency-sensitive electronics without DC adapters.

noloveforned makes the most important point: even if she does take her appliances, if she gets royally sick of dealing with transformers and noise and fire risk, then the resale value is possibly less than zero, because of potential scrappage costs.

Lamps would probably be OK (& can usually just have the plug replaced) unless they contain electronics (e.g. dimmable, touch switches, etc). You'll need to buy 240V globes to suit.

It's easier to find American-style screw-fitting bulbs in Australia than, say, the UK, but they're not the standard fitting any more. Also, the import of incandescent bulbs that don't meet energy efficiency standards is now banned.

In short: Yard sale or Craigslist.
posted by holgate at 9:24 AM on September 5, 2010


If she has a desktop pc (ie: the beige/grey box of some sort, or a Powermac) you can swap out the PSU (power supply unit) for one suitable for Australia, IF the power supply isn't marked as multistandard (110-250V), which as noted above for laptops, many are, or have a little handy switch. The rest of the PC bits are all the same & as an added bonus you can generally change your optical devices (DVD etc) region code 7 times.

Most lamps can easily (ie: you can do it yourself) and cheaply be re-wired to the local standard. Just unplug it first, they really are very simple devices to alter.
posted by zenon at 2:01 PM on September 5, 2010


I am putting a flag up for televisions - top of the line means LCD / Plasma to me. Check them, mine is 100-240V/50/60Hz. (LCD). The HD standards are the same, just 50hz/60 hz, which most should be able to handle both. You simply need to get a digital adapter box to get over the air tv, an HD or even SD cable box will work just fine, as they will output over composite / component / HDMI.

Washer / Dryer - Forget it. Dryer uses a 240V 2 phase plug in the US, not so here, it's all 240V / 1 phase. Washer - the motor will not be dual voltage. You can possibly run it at 120V / 50hZ (transformer from 240/ 50) with the motor simply running slower...but I don't want to guarantee anything.

Kitchen appliances - anything with a motor will run with a transformer, but the motor will run slower (Hz vs/ 60 Hz) and you need a transformer.

Lamps - You can usually change the bulbs for the appropriate 240V, but the internal wiring of the lamp may not cope with 240V. You can usually re-wire them though.

DVD / home stereo equipment - check the labels some may take 240V/50.

Also, I've got a 500W transformer for my Xbox, PS2 and Wii, and it makes no noise, works just fine. (the consoles accept 50/Hz, 120V). I've got a couple of other transformers around the house for various things, and there is no noticeable hum or other noise. A properly constructed transformer will not hum.

Laptops - most just plug right in, just have to get a plug converter
Desktop - There is a little red switch on the back of the powersupply, unplug the computer, flick it over to 240V, and you're good to go. DO NOT plug in without switching, it will kill it.
posted by defcom1 at 8:39 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Check them, mine is 100-240V/50/60Hz. (LCD)

Now this is interesting. I know the make / model of one of her TVs off the top of my head (a Bravia WL) - according to specs online, it's '100-240v VAC'. Does that mean it'll work here without a transformer, just a convertor plug?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:15 AM on September 6, 2010


"The HD standards are the same, just 50hz/60 hz, which most should be able to handle both."

You'd want to be absolutely sure, though, which falls a bit outside of the scope of the question (and why I suggested posting further specifics if necessary). I know for a fact that a couple of Sony's recent top-end US models don't handle Aus TV standards well via HDMI or component - in one case, not locking to 576i/p at all; in another, just making a total hash of scaling 576i/p content to the panel's native resolution. Both had problems due to the 120/240 screen refresh processing 'beating' against the 25/50fps signals locally.

Interestingly, both played 576i/25fps MPEG-2 content OK via DLNA. I didn't look to see if the DLNA server was doing any on-the-fly conversion (and it quite likely was), but I didn't notice it in the picture.

On preview: obiwanwasabi, I don't recall the exact model numbers of the sets I played with, but can probably find out later this week. Both were LCDs though - as are the WL-series sets?
posted by Pinback at 1:37 AM on September 6, 2010


One's a Sony Bravia KDL-46WL140. The other's a slightly older 1080i plasma - I've requested details.

At this stage I think she'll go with a transformer with a power board for the small kitchen appliances (coffee machines, rice cookers etc) - can just hide the unit under the bench then run the power board on top; get the lamps rewired here; leave anything large like the fridge, washer, dryer; forget other A/V equipment unless it's explicitly labelled 100-240/50-60, in which case she may as well chance it.

If we can get the TVs running here, though, that'd be a real win. I think it's just clicked she's going to have dramas with the left-hand drive Mercedes SUV and the Volvo - TVs might soften the blow ;)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:54 AM on September 6, 2010


'100-240v VAC'
Yup, sounds like you can just convert the plug and off you go.
I was looking at the manual (From here: http://esupport.sony.com/US/perl/model-documents.pl?mdl=KDL46WL140) and I don't see 240V listed (page. 46)
know for a fact that a couple of Sony's recent top-end US models don't handle Aus TV standards well via HDMI or component - in one case, not locking to 576i/p at all; in another, just making a total hash of scaling 576i/p content to the panel's native resolution. Both had problems due to the 120/240 screen refresh processing 'beating' against the 25/50fps signals locally. -Pinback

I don't disagree with you Pinback, I do not wish to comment on a PAL signal, I was only referring to an HD (720p / 1080i / 1080p) signal. I know my Sharp (bought in Australia) will handle 480i and 480p though component, but I have not fed it a broadcast NTSC signal (which I am lacking at the moment). This tv may not be as forgiving though...
Looking at the manual, also page 46, I don't see any reference to 50Hz (or 60Hz for that matter) HD signals, so I can't tell you if the TV will accept them.
posted by defcom1 at 6:18 AM on September 6, 2010


Oh, and check the wattage on your coffee machine or rice cooker. They've got heating elements in them, and power requirements may be higher than you think. That type of applicance is usually not worth trying to get a transformer for. See also hairdryers.
posted by defcom1 at 6:20 AM on September 6, 2010


Well, it's not so much the power supply voltage / frequency* or the PAL-ness of local content (which is rather irrelevant with HDMI or component), but the fact that along with those goes a requirement for 576 lines (for SD) and 25(i)/50(p) fps (for all SD & HD resolutions).

It's interesting to compare US vs Aus TV model specs: Now, it may be a case of just not mentioning irrelevant specs in the US market, but as I said I've seen a couple of cases where assuming that came back to bite people on the bum. I'll also admit that I've seen cases where the assumption paid off, so there's no guarantee.

So it may require a transformer, it won't tune FTA by itself, it will require a STB (FTA or Foxtel), it may require that the STB upscales 576 line content to 720 or 1080 (most FTA HD STBs do; not sure about the Foxtel IQ/IQ2), and - because all local content (SD & HD) will still be 25i/50p fps - it may or may not handle it anyway. Unless Sony USA - or someone who's imported that specific model locally** - can tell you otherwise, it looks to be a bit of a crapshoot.

So, sell it or bring it? If you sell it in the US, it's worth a reasonable amount of money. If you bring it and it works with a transformer &/or STB, all well and good. If you bring it and it doesn't work, it's essentially worthless - it's not a model with features unavailable here, its only useful as a 30i/60p HD monitor, and every local HDTV handles that anyway.

It's also worth mentioning for foreigners that, in Australia currently, all the main content on digital channels is widescreen SD (720/704 x 576, 25fps, interlaced). HD channels are a mix of native/upscaled HD simulcasts of the main channels (SBS, 7, 9) or secondary channels (10's ONE HD sports channel, ABC's News24). But 7 & 9 are about to repurpose their HD channels as secondary channels (7HD becomes 7Mate; 9HD becomes Go!, with a new SD channel replacing the current Go!). 10 has said something similar, but I forget the details (they may be keeping ONE HD, but replacing the HD-simulcasting ONE SD with something new). So, for the forseeable future, you need to be able to view 576/25i SD content somehow - HD channels are an adjunct, not a replacement.

* Though I was surprised to see the manual for the KDL-46WL140 only specifies 120V, 60Hz while the manuals for some other US models explicitly say 110-250V, 50/60Hz.

** You could try asking a local home theatre installer - not a top-end hifi/video place, but the mobs that actually do the whole home theatre design/setup/install. Some of them import US gear for videophiles who want to be one step ahead of the local market, so they might be able to tell you.

posted by Pinback at 8:09 PM on September 6, 2010


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