How can I use this UK appliance in the US?
December 9, 2007 4:51 PM   Subscribe

British appliance, US power: can they find happiness together?

I have a British-made popcorn popper which expects 230V-50Hz AC power and has a three-pin ("Type G", I think) plug. What kind of converter/transformer/etc. do I need to use this with US household power, and where in the US can I buy it?
posted by bac to Technology (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is it a very special popcorn popper? It's not that expensive to buy another in the USA

Getting 240V power in USA requires special wiring (e.g. like for an electric stove or clothes dryer).

Is it actually British-made or just bought in Britain? If it's something that's sold internationally, it is probably built to accept a wide range of voltages and they just change the plug for each country they sell it in. In that case, you'd just need to get an adaptor for the plug (sold where you'd buy gear for international travel) and not worry about the voltage. If it's not special, you could just try the adaptor and see how it turns out (disclaimer: this might be a bad idea). But you're not going to easily get 230V into it.
posted by winston at 5:01 PM on December 9, 2007

You need a transformer, not a plug converter. But, just don't. You're far better off using kitchen appliances that are designed for the native voltage of the country. Froogle has some popcorn poppers for around $15, while transformers cost at least $7. Just get a new one rather than risk burning your house down.
posted by grouse at 5:05 PM on December 9, 2007

I don't recommend this, but it answers your question: my dad wired in a second 220 line split off the stove circuit, which he ran up in shielded cable to behind the counter-top, and a UK plug in an electric box. He did this so he could run a UK electric kettle, which, it must be said, boils twice as fast as a North American one. Because the plug is different there is no chance of sticking the wrong appliance in and it seems to me to be quite safe, if unorthodox. In any case, he did it 15 years ago and still going strong. However, he is a bit of a mickey-mouser on most home renos so I am not going to vouch for this in principle or in fact. I doubt the difference popping corn is that dramatic or necessary (unless you make 10 popcorns a day like he makes 10 cuppas)
posted by Rumple at 5:20 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It is in fact a very special popcorn popper. So despite the economics of it I'd purchase a transformer for it if I could identify the proper one and be reasonably confident of its safety.
posted by bac at 5:34 PM on December 9, 2007

While a transformer will get you to the right voltage, the popcorn popper has a fan designed to run on 50Hz power. If you run it at 60Hz it will run 60/50=120% of its normal speed, and will have a significantly shortened life. You don't run into this problem with non-mechanical appliances like electric kettles or toasters which just turn the electric power into heat.
posted by cardboard at 5:41 PM on December 9, 2007

I'm assuming your popcorn popper has a fan, anyway.
posted by cardboard at 5:42 PM on December 9, 2007

Write to the manufacturers. Ask them if it will work. Also read the bottom of the appliance and see any ratings for input voltage - check the box if you still have it.
posted by Brockles at 5:51 PM on December 9, 2007

Check what Wattage it wants (should say at the back) then you know how strong your step-up converter needs to be. Anything up to 500W is generally easy, stepping over 1000W and you need to large ugly ones.

Although in Japan they have 1500W ones that are still "normal size".
posted by lundman at 6:16 PM on December 9, 2007

If you do get a voltage converter, check the maximum amperage that the converter can handle. (amps = watts / volts) Most converters made for small electronic appliances and max out at 40 or 50 watts. Your vomiting duck draws 850 watts, and would fry a small converter pretty quick.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 6:18 PM on December 9, 2007

Best answer: Ah google says 970W, so you'd need one of these:

Fits right in the kitchen! :)
posted by lundman at 6:20 PM on December 9, 2007

Best answer: A cheap transformer isn't going to cut it for you, at least not for long. It looks like that particular popper is rated at 850 watts - anything with that kind of draw rating's going to be at least $50 it looks like. You could use something smaller, but you probably won't get good results. You're either going to burn through transformers, or the popper's going to fizzle out for lack of juice, or maybe just take a lot longer to pop corn and not work as well in general. These folks have a 1000W unit for $63, that's a pretty decent price, it seems.
posted by pupdog at 6:22 PM on December 9, 2007

Oh! Well if it is a popcorn-vomiting duck, then definitely hunt out a safe alternative. Though maybe you could mod a standard popper with a duck decoy, or something.

also, hoping your post is eponysterical, just in case
posted by Rumple at 6:23 PM on December 9, 2007

Rumple's dad has it, the simple straight forward fix. Get it done by an electrician.
posted by hortense at 6:41 PM on December 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for the advice.
posted by bac at 7:34 PM on December 9, 2007

Rumple's dad has it, the simple straight forward fix. Get it done by an electrician.

In principle, this can even be done to code. You'll have a funny looking NEMA receptacle, and you should change the plug..
ARGH, both of my old NEMA receptacle chart links have been nuked.. I hate when that happens.
posted by Chuckles at 9:09 PM on December 9, 2007

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