Safety of Using Plug End Converters for always on electronic equipment?
December 26, 2019 8:36 PM   Subscribe

My things will arrive from Hong Kong to my home in Jakarta in three weeks. I have several appliances which run nearly continually. Jakarta has the same voltage, but uses plug types C/F as opposed to Hong Kong which uses G/D. I do not want to rebuy these articles. Is a converter plug sufficient?

By converter plug I just mean a topper at the end which changes it from one plug to another.

As to the appliances, I'm talking about an air purifier and two dehumidifiers.

I'm concerned about safety. Thanks!
posted by frumiousb to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At the same voltage, a high quality converter securely attached will work fine.
posted by freethefeet at 8:50 PM on December 26, 2019

Are you going back to HK at some point? You might replace the plugs with the appropriate type with some light handiwork.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:26 PM on December 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes, you’ll be fine. Ideally make sure that your converter has the grounding contacts for plug F.

I have used appliances that have used plug A-to-F converters for literally 30 years and it’s been fine.
posted by suedehead at 10:51 PM on December 26, 2019

If you have no reason to go back to the original plugs, taking fiercekitten's advice is probably a good idea, just because every additional plug is an extra point of failure. Your air purifier and dehumidifier probably don't draw enough current to be a problem, but plug adapters can be points of higher resistance that heat up and degrade under load. When I moved into my current home, the previous owner had left a window air conditioner plugged into a (US) 3-prong to 2-prong adapter, which isn't great for several reasons but in particular when I unplugged it, the adapter had scorch marks on it and the plastic had melted around one of the contacts. It was a real fire hazard. This probably occurred over months or years of use, and a window A/C unit is a fairly high current device, and the adapter in question was not super high quality to begin with. But the biggest problem with using an adapter like this on a US outlet is actually the mechanical fit: US plugs don't grip very strongly and the extra mechanical joint means there's an extra place for the contact to loosen, which increases the electrical wear-and-tear dramatically. I have no experience with C/F plugs but my understanding is they're better, so this may be less of an issue.

Under your conditions your experience could definitely be more similar to suedehead's. But if you want to be safe you can just swap the plugs. This involves just cutting off the original plug and attaching the wires to a replacement. If this is something you don't feel comfortable doing, just stick with using an adapter. You can check the amount of current that your devices are rated to draw, and verify that your adapter is rated for that amount of current. If not, you may need to purchase a higher-rated adapter. With a properly rated adapter and a solid mechanical fit at all contacts, I wouldn't worry about using an adapter indefinitely; maybe check after a few months of use just to be sure that there's no signs of damage.

(Note, if you decide to assess whether adapter is properly rated for your needs, you may find that your device gives a power rating in watts but not a current draw in amps. Using the law P = V*I, where P is the power in watts, V is the voltage, and I is the current in amps, you can estimate the average current draw of your device. So if your device is rated as 700 W, then the current it draws is 700 / 220 = 3.2 amps. An adapter rated for 10 amps or more, which most probably are, should be very safe. You probably want an adapter rated for at least 120% of your expected load for long-term use.)
posted by biogeo at 11:55 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you intend to run multiple appliances in the same room, a portable power strip with sockets that fit your appliance plugs, with its own plug replaced with one that suits the local wall sockets, makes a far more secure converter than the rigid self-contained converter blocks do.

When a block-style converter fails, it often comes down to increased contact stress due to the extra leverage that the body of the converter adds between the appliance cord and the wall outlet. This is the same effect that makes rigid block-style double-adaptors so much less satisfactory than power strips. A power strip will be every bit as mechanically sound after replacing its plug as it was to begin with.
posted by flabdablet at 3:04 AM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

A short extension cord, cut in the middle and re-joined using an inline plug and socket from the country it didn't come from, makes a complementary pair of mechanically sound standards converters and also remains useful as an extension cord that can be re-plugged to work at full length in either country.

Just make sure that each of the cut sections ends up with a plug on one end and a socket on the other; cords with a plug at both ends are known in the trade as "suicide leads" and have very very few legitimate use cases.
posted by flabdablet at 3:18 AM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you intend to run multiple appliances in the same room, a portable power strip with sockets that fit your appliance plugs, with its own plug replaced with one that suits the local wall sockets, makes a far more secure converter than the rigid self-contained converter blocks do.

Even with one device per room, this, or a modified extension cord, is a much better option than a plug adapter. HK plugs are comparatively heavy, and them hanging off a plug adapter for a long time, slowly levering the lot out of the wall socket, is something I would not look forward to. A power strip or an extension cord would have that weight lying on the floor, with just a normal, correctly fitting plug going into the wall socket.

I've seen a similar approach in Curacao (US-style type A or B for 110V, Euro-style type F might be used for 220V circuits such as aircon), where Chinese-run shops and their private houses almost always have type I wall sockets installed as well.

If any of devices has a detachable power cord with a C13 plug on the end, just get a replacement C13-to-F type cord.
posted by Stoneshop at 5:00 AM on December 27, 2019

Nthing the advice to replace the plugs if you have no intention to move back any time soon. I own devices that moved with me from Germany to the UK, where my uncle replaced the plugs and showed me how to do that. Then they moved with me to Switzerland, where I replaced the plugs again. A very simple operation.

I also have various EU plugged items in an EU power strip that is plugged into a converter for my Swiss socket (for the time being). Mainly because I had the sense to order the power strip when I ordered a bunch of computer related electronics on German Amazon but have not got round to buying a new Swiss plug to replace the one on the power strip with. But it works for now.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:53 AM on December 27, 2019

A very simple operation.

It is indeed, as long as you have the right tools (screwdriver, wire cutters, wire stripper, cable jacket stripper) or the practised skill to make your wire cutters sub for wire strippers without breaking any copper strands, and your utility knife sub for a cable jacket stripper without slicing into the insulation on the wires inside the cable.

If you've never done it before, buy the right tools and religiously follow the instructions on the little leaflet that comes with the plugs and/or sockets. Pay particular attention to
  1. cutting and stripping the cable and the wire ends to the exact lengths shown on the 1:1 diagram in the leaflet, without slicing into the wire insulation while removing the cable jacket, and without breaking any copper strands while stripping the wire ends;
  2. twisting the stripped ends tightly with your fingers so as to make sure that no hairy little copper strands escape the twist as you
  3. get the right coloured wires attached to the right connector pins and
  4. understand and apply whatever strain relief is provided on the connector you're wiring (usually a screw-down cable clamping bar, or slots to loop the wires through and collet clamping nut).
Note carefully that the wire colour layout for the back of a plug will be the mirror image of that for the back of a socket.

If you take the time to understand what each step is for and work slowly and methodically, even a first timer should be able to turn out a perfectly safe and serviceable mains connector. But if you do have access to somebody who has made them up before, having another pair of eyes cast over your work can be very reassuring.
posted by flabdablet at 9:13 AM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I see no safety issues at all. Just use the plug adapters. Think of them as short one inch extension cords. No problem at all, other than possible physical space limitations. But not a safety issue.

Note that G plugs usually have a fuse inside the plug, but that's okay. It will still be there when you convert it to a C or F. Also note that type C plugs are usually rated for 2.5 amps or less, so something like a table lamp. The F plug is generally used for appliances so that is probably the adapter you want for your appliances.
posted by JackFlash at 2:55 PM on December 27, 2019

get the right coloured wires attached to the right connector pins and

The wall sockets in Indonesia are identical to the Schuko system used in part of Europe, and are not polarised. The only wire whose position matters is the yellow/green earth wire that goes on the side contacts; the other two (if HK follows BS1363 they should be brown and blue) get connected to the prongs.
posted by Stoneshop at 3:07 PM on December 27, 2019

The F plug is generally used for appliances so that is probably the adapter you want for your appliances.

F sockets are grounded, and as you're dealing with water those dehumidifiers should not be using an ungrounded socket or plug adapter.
posted by Stoneshop at 3:12 PM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

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