Power While in Germany
January 20, 2007 11:27 AM   Subscribe

If all my US devices have voltage ranges of 100-240 volts, can I simply plug them into a power strip and plug that into a plug adapter while traveling in Germany?

I'll be staying in Germany for several months, and I need to bring my computer, ipod, etc. with me. If all of my devices have 100-240 volt ranges, can I simply plug them into a power strip and use an adapter to plug that into a German outlet? What's the best (cheap and safe) solution? I have at least 6 devices I'll be taking with me.
posted by tnoetz01 to Travel & Transportation around Germany (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
yes. all you need is an "adapter", not a "converter".
posted by phaedon at 11:36 AM on January 20, 2007

The one possible caveat is that you may have a device (e.g. my wife's multistandard hairdryer has a little rotating switch and my desktop's power supply has a slidey switch) that requires you to switch it from 110 to 220/240. That's unusual though and the majority of devices (laptop transformers, phone chargers etc.) don't require this so if it's there's no obvious switch just go ahead.
posted by NailsTheCat at 11:52 AM on January 20, 2007

Most North American strips will only be rated to 120V. Considering the cost of the adapters, and the fact that you have to go out and get at least one anyway, I'd say use a European power strip..
posted by Chuckles at 11:53 AM on January 20, 2007

You have to check every single device, of course. You will have things that can't take multi-voltage.
(NailsTheCat's comment scared me :P)
posted by Chuckles at 11:56 AM on January 20, 2007

Yes, what you need is one grounded Europe (CEE 7/7) plug to US adapter, then a power strip. Do get a grounded adapter. Do not blame me if your power strip catches fire once it is fed 240V instead of 120V.

I had a similar problem and used a jury-rigged European power strip with a British power plug at its tail. Oh how the electricians screamed! But oh how useful it was!
posted by stereo at 12:22 PM on January 20, 2007

The 3 things to consider are the voltage, frequency, and physical connections (including grounding pin). The voltage doesn't seem to be a problem for you.

Germany should use a frequency of 50Hz. Most of your electronics should say 50-60Hz, but you should check every one. If it says only 60Hz it means it is not rated for 50Hz. This may mean it was not tested to be compatable with 50Hz or that it was tested and failed. I have seen one AC to DC adapter rated for 100-240V 60Hz burn within a few seconds after being plugged into a 220V 50Hz outlet. Others not rated for 50Hz have worked fine for months. Be carefull.

As for the physical adapter, here is a good Wikipedia entry on Electrical Systems. About halfway down there are diagrams of the different plugs. The easiest adapter to find will be the Europlug type C to USA type A. (Both 2 pronged) This will work fine for your application, but it does not account for the grounding pin since your power strip will likely have a USA type B (3 Pronged) plug on it. The ground pin on your plug will be exposed and if you look at the Germany Type F outlet those red rectangles at the top and bottom are the ground contacts. These may be able to touch if the plug is bent over. I usually tape overt he exposed ground pin with good electrical tape before plugging in to the outlet if I have to resort to doing this, although I'm not sure if it is neccesary.

On preview, if you can get the plug stereo links to it would probably be the safest thing
posted by Yorrick at 12:46 PM on January 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Most North American strips will only be rated to 120V.

This is definitely something you should worry about. American electrical fittings tend to be pretty flimsy, so putting double the rated voltage through one sounds like a great way to start a fire. Don't do it.
posted by cillit bang at 12:48 PM on January 20, 2007

I took one of these on a summer study abroad, and it was a lifesaver. It solves both the power strip and the adapter problem for all of your electronics that can convert for themselves.

Now I sound like a commercial, but seriously, so worth it.
posted by awesomebrad at 2:27 PM on January 20, 2007

Don't plug a North American (110V) power strip into a German electrical outlet. It will only end with a loud pop and the Restmüll bin.
posted by oaf at 6:50 PM on January 20, 2007

...not that I've done this or anything...
posted by oaf at 6:51 PM on January 20, 2007

I've got my computer doing that right now (along with a couple of external hard drives and camera chargers, etc.)

Just one plug adapter, and an American power strip, plugged into an Australian plug. Everything is 100-240, 50-60.
posted by mhz at 7:12 PM on January 20, 2007

oaf knows of what he speaks. I also know from experience.
posted by xiojason at 10:32 PM on January 20, 2007

Most power strips have metal oxide varistors (MOVs) to protect against overvoltage spikes. In U.S. power strips these are designed to short the hot line to neutral when the voltage exceeds about 130V AC. So if you plug your U.S. power strip into a 240 volt European outlet, it will probably smoke the MOVs, which will eventually burn and go open circuit. After you've blown out the MOVs, your power strip may work okay but no longer have any over-voltage protection.
posted by JackFlash at 11:43 PM on January 20, 2007

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