Join 3,415 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


oh brother
July 27, 2011 4:07 AM   Subscribe

Need a step-down converter for plugging a printer sold in the US (110V power) into a 3rd-world socket (240V power). I get the voltage part but watts and amps and such are a bit beyond my electronoobicity.

I bought a Brother MFC-8690DW printer/copier/scanner/fax in the US and recently brought it to my country of residence / employ for use here (Kenya). Problem is, its a standard US power-cord and the box specifically points out that it is designed for use in markets with 110-120V power. I know I need a step-down converter (transformer?) for taking the 240V from the wall down to a 120V for the printer, but I don't know what kind of wattage level I need. Local shops sell them in ascending sizes starting at 500W and moving up to 1000 and 1500.

Other possibly relevant info: back of machine states "110V - 120V ~ 50 / 60 Hz"; power cord for the machine has a small sticker reading "max 10A - 125V"

Is getting the highest wattage the "safest" bet? Or do I need a more accurate measure? Is there anything else I need to know here to not fry my new printer? TIA.
posted by allkindsoftime to Technology (18 answers total)
 
The power cord is irrelevant.

We need a wattage or amperage figure from the back of the printer. I'm sure there's a little more information on there. Can you find any ampere figures?
posted by krilli at 4:10 AM on July 27, 2011


The "max 10A - 125V" means you'll need 10 * 125 = 1250W; the 1500W one should do it.
posted by scruss at 4:23 AM on July 27, 2011


Here's the sticker from the back of the machine. I noticed the "9.0A" at the end of the line about power (bottom left). There wasn't any further electronic guidance anywhere else on the machine, or in the 220-page user guide, or in the manufacturer's online specs.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:29 AM on July 27, 2011


(The "max 10A" on the power cord indicates that the power cord can carry 10A. 1500W is probably overkill for the appliance itself.)
posted by krilli at 4:32 AM on July 27, 2011


Oh! Preview. Sorry. That 9A number does work in scruss' calculation. 1500W it is.

Surprisingly high power usage though. But I don't know anything.
posted by krilli at 4:33 AM on July 27, 2011


The link in your post says under specifications:
Power Consumption - Sleep/Ready/Copying 19W/85W/680W
However, I'm guessing that is the average power and not the peak power -- there's probably a big spike when the toner heater turns on, and that's why the thing has that 9A fuse.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:35 AM on July 27, 2011


From your link, click on the specifications tab, scroll all the way down (or search for Power Consumption) and you get this:

Power Consumption - Sleep/Ready/Copying 19W/85W/680W
posted by hariya at 4:35 AM on July 27, 2011


Wow, totally missed that under specs. So it sounds like my safest bet is to go with 1500W. Shouldn't be a problem if that's 2x the average power consumption?
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:39 AM on July 27, 2011


Wow, totally missed that under specs. So it sounds like my safest bet is to go with 1500W. Shouldn't be a problem if that's 2x the average power consumption?

No problem. The voltages have to match, the power rating (in watts) of the transformer should meet or exceed the required power.
posted by atrazine at 4:49 AM on July 27, 2011


Yes, that should work. The converter uses a little power, but ultimately, only really uses as much power as is being requested of it. In this case, the wattage is a rating of the maximum that it can convert.

Background: the toner is little bits of plastic. the printer magically deposits the bits onto the paper in the right place, and then the fuser melts the plastic into the paper. In older/larger printers, the fuser is a really simple thing: an aluminum tube, coated with teflon, with a halogen lightbulb inside to heat it up. (Like this, but longer.) In newer/smaller printers, it is a ceramic heater strip behind a flexible teflon tube.
posted by gjc at 5:04 AM on July 27, 2011


Laser printers use a TON of power, so yeah. Bigger is better.

It's probably too late to tell you this, but it's not a great idea to take devices like CRT TVs and Laser Printers overseas. You're going to spend more on shipping and conversion equipment than the device itself is worth.

The wattage on the converter is a capacity number. The converter only supplies as many watts as is being demanded of it. You could plug a 10 watt night light into it, and it'd be perfectly safe.

Oh, and you might already know this, but Kenya's electrical supply is very similar to the one in the UK (240V/50Hz). Same sockets, basically the same voltage, and the same weird plugs. Each plug has a fuse in it, and that fuse is sized accordingly to the appliance that it is connected to. Your converter is in all likelihood going to have a 13A fuse in it. (Also, when you put them down on the floor, they inevitably land prongs-up, and hurt like hell when you step on them, so try to avoid that.)

The fact that your printer accepts 110V/50Hz is somewhat curious, given that that combination is virtually extinct today. Most countries use 100-130V/60Hz or 200-240V/50Hz (with a small few using 220/60Hz). Parts of Japan use 100/50Hz, which also doesn't meet your printers specs, and a few teeny-tiny island nations use 120/50, but that's about it. I'm not sure what's going to happen if your printer gets 50Hz if it's expecting 60Hz. (Of course, if the label is indeed correct, you have nothing to worry about).
posted by schmod at 6:59 AM on July 27, 2011


*er. Actually, the plug will probably have an 8A fuse. Math fail.
posted by schmod at 6:59 AM on July 27, 2011


It's probably too late to tell you this, but it's not a great idea to take devices like CRT TVs and Laser Printers overseas. You're going to spend more on shipping and conversion equipment than the device itself is worth.

This is certainly true in, say, England or Japan. I don't know if it is the case in Kenya, in my experience electronics are extremely expensive in developing countries.
posted by atrazine at 7:36 AM on July 27, 2011


It's probably too late to tell you this, but it's not a great idea to take devices like CRT TVs and Laser Printers overseas. You're going to spend more on shipping and conversion equipment than the device itself is worth.

Normally, yes. I was benefiting from 1) Emirates generous international baggage policy - printer weighed exactly pounds and so it shipped free, and 2) extremely lower price of the unit in the US vs. buying in Kenya - like $200 cheaper than if I bought locally.

Conversion device is pricey, but should still be much less than if I bought it here (even if this particular brand was available here, which it isn't).
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:40 AM on July 27, 2011


*exactly 50 pounds
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:41 AM on July 27, 2011


Another thing to consider when taking printers overseas... Consumables (toners, drum units, etc) are quite often region-keyed, either mechanically (tabs or other pieces placed so that the unit cannot be installed into the "wrong" printer), or electronically, with an onboard chip or RFID chip, which is becoming much more common. You might be able to find a toner for a similar model, it might even fit, but the unit refuses to acknowledge it because it is chipped for the wrong region. (Think of it as sort of like DVD region locking)

If you plan on using this printer for a while in Kenya, might want to make sure you can get supplies for it, and that they actually work. Otherwise, you'll probably be stuck with importing supplies from the US.

Try and make sure you have some sort of return policy on whatever converter you buy. A lot of the cheaper step-down converters work fine for rudimentary appliances, but not so much for precision equipment. I see a lot of this on ships that come in to port, and they are running printers, faxes, etc off step-down transformers. The problem is that you'll have a slight voltage leak, usually from neutral to ground. The copier/printer/fax's sensors are looking for a drop from 5V to 0V as the sensor changes state; the stray voltage on ground is often enough to confuse the machine and cause false paper jams, etc. If your printer that worked fine in the US suddenly is very problematic, that's likely your problem.
posted by xedrik at 9:33 AM on July 27, 2011


If you plan on using this printer for a while in Kenya, might want to make sure you can get supplies for it, and that they actually work. Otherwise, you'll probably be stuck with importing supplies from the US.

Insider secret: Most printers have a secret reset code to change the region on the printer. The trick will be getting to the right tech support person. Typically it is only high level techs or supervisors that will be able to get the region changed. When I worked for [insert printer company here] I did the region code resets occasionally when people hauled their printer between countries. They are a bit of a pain and the hardest thing was customers finding their way to me.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:38 AM on July 27, 2011


Bought the toner backups and brought them as well, so hopefully that'll solve that issue in the near term. Fortunately I have colleagues coming from the US often enough that I can get backups brought in.

For posterity's sake and clarity of anyone curious here, the market in Kenya is basically limited geographically to the two largest cities (Nairobi and Mombasa) and is almost exclusively owned by Indians (dots, not feathers) who also own a majority of the nicest real estate (with Somalis owning either a larger or the next largest majority - hard to say). Almost everything in the higher-end markets here is imported (from printers to cheese to nice furniture), typically from Dubai or somewhere else in the Middle East, so the starting price point is what you would have paid there, plus import / customs costs, plus the local dealer's mark-up. Prices are literally mind boggling - a printer that runs $400 in the US could easily go for $800 here, a block of real cheddar cheese goes around $20-25, and a decent sofa set...you don't want to know.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:05 PM on July 27, 2011


« Older I'm trying to remember the nam...   |  I need new glasses *and* new s... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.