Taking UK kitchen appliances to US
December 13, 2021 10:12 AM   Subscribe

In the course of many years of living in the UK, I have acquired several nice kitchen appliances (food processor, stand mixer, juicer, etc). I will soon be re-locating permanently to the US: will I be able to use any of these there with a plug adapter, or should I plan to have to replace them all? If I can use an adapter, should I expect any difference in performance?
posted by muhonnin to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Best answer: The US usually uses 110V in their outlets while the UK (like the EU) uses 230V. So a plug adapter is not enough, you need a transformer that converts from 110 to 230V. (unless US kitchens also have 220V outlets, which probably would work). If you try to use UK appliances with half the voltage, they will spin much more slowly, if at all. Buying US appliances. As far as I know transformers for this kind of load are big and expensive, so it's probably better to just buy new (or used) appliances in the US.
posted by amf at 10:31 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think it's not assured that you could use them, but there's a chance that individual models might accommodate the different voltages in the US.

Home voltage in the US is lower than in the UK, so, especially for a device that has a motor, it's going to be tricky.

Some devices are designed to work under either US or UK voltage/current - the individual model matters, and you'll need to check the documentation for that model.

There are also apparently transformers you can buy to convert US voltage to UK voltage; you could buy one of those and plug your devices into that.

If the devices have large power adapters that have a large "brick" at the plug end, and the other end isn't hard wired to the device but plugs in there too, then you can look at the labeling on the brick -- it might specify output DC voltage. Then it might be possible to buy a different power adapter with the same device-end plug, that takes US voltage and converts it to the same DC voltage. However, I don't think many motorized or high-power kitchen devices have this kind of power connection setup.

This article looks helpful. Welcome :)
posted by amtho at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2021

Forgot to mention: The frequency of the alternating currency is also different: 50Hz in the UK vs 60Hz in the US. This might also be a problem for electric motors on top of the voltage.
posted by amf at 10:33 AM on December 13, 2021

Best answer: In the US, dryers are generally running on a 220-volt outlet, so wherever the dryer is in the house, you can use your appliances there. Honestly, when we moved, we sold all of our electrics that weren't personal computers and bought new ones on arrival. It just isn't worth it.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 10:45 AM on December 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also to note, in American houses, the tumble dryer is usually in the garage or in a dedicated laundry room, laundry appliances are not in the kitchen as they are for much of the UK.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 10:47 AM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As already mentioned, US domestic voltage is 110V 60Hz, UK is 240V 50Hz. If the mains feed to the house is two-phase it's generally possible to get some sockets in the kitchen rewired to supply 220V; the difference with UK's 240V tends to be inconsequential, and you can use medium-to-high powered stuff like electric kettles, breadmakers and such without having to get a suitably-sized (heavy and expensive) transformer. The 60Hz mains frequency is usually not a problem either for motor-driven items like blenders and mixers unless you're planning to bring a Teasmade as its clock relies on 50Hz to keep time.
posted by Stoneshop at 11:41 AM on December 13, 2021

Best answer: Importing heavy duty UK appliances to the US would be far more trouble than it's worth. A UK appliance like a stand mixer or a kettle can safely use up to 3 kW in the UK, because UK house wiring is appropriately sized for that kind of load. A typical US domestic circuit can safely deliver only 15 amps (1.5 kW), an appliance demanding more than that should trip the circuit breaker.

If you wanted to put 220 V dryer outlets in your US kitchen I doubt that any electrical inspector would approve the change. Dryer plugs and outlets are not designed to be plugged and unplugged every day. A kitchen is a wet location, so US regulations require ground fault protection for every outlet. A 220 V GFCI is an industrial component, I've never seen one in a DIY store like Home Depot.
posted by monotreme at 1:01 PM on December 13, 2021

A typical US domestic circuit can safely deliver only 15 amps (1.5 kW), an appliance demanding more than that should trip the circuit breaker.

Pedantic corrections (that really have nothing to do with the question asked):
* First, 15amps @ 120VAC = 1800W (not 1500W)
* Second, some US kitchens are wired with 20A circuits, allowing up to 2400W (2.4KW), though this requires the NEMA 5-20 outlet and plug, which are not common.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 1:31 PM on December 13, 2021

British person in the US here. The laws of physics allow you to do what you want, but for reasons discussed above (cost, local regulations, practicality, safety), you should not do this.

Generally speaking, recent digital electronics (computers, tvs, etc.) will work on pretty much any country's domestic electricity network, assuming you can get an adapter. Feel free to bring these with you. But this is usually not true of anything that heats or moves (i.e. pretty much anything in a kitchen, hair dryers, etc). Don't bring those!

Kettles and toasters are terrible here (half as fast, unergonomic for British use cases, gratuitously enormous, etc.) so this is a shame, but the other stuff is generally fine or better, so it's no great loss to leave behind your coffee maker and food mixer.
posted by caek at 2:11 PM on December 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Contrary to what monotreme says, a NEMA 6-15 receptacle and 15A double-pole GFCI breakers are common equipment, even if they are rarely installed in kitchens. Those would power your devices. If you are buying a house it would not be especially expensive to have some installed in your kitchen, but caek makes a strong case
posted by flimflam at 2:41 PM on December 13, 2021

It is so not worth it. I would view every thing you don’t have to ship or carry with you as a little blessing in disguise. Future you will be so grateful, trust me!
posted by iamkimiam at 4:10 PM on December 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

You might get some money back by selling these on the used market in the UK; they will be a financial sinkhole if you bring them to the US. Travel lightly!
posted by epanalepsis at 3:14 PM on December 14, 2021

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