Using European 230V 50hz Appliances in the US

1. Jul 11, 2012

johandj73

Hi

I am moving to the US for a couple of years from South Africa. After reading a bit I saw that many of the new houses/buldings in the US have 240v available but it seems to be limited to the dryer.

It would be great if I could ship my electrical appliances with the rest of my furniture. My fridge is the biggest concern as well as my large collection of 220v power tools not too worried about the microwave and small appliances like mixers and kettles etc.
South Africa is rated 230V 50Hz.

I don't want to replace everything with 110v and then again in a couple of years when I move back to SA

Thanks
Johan

2. Jul 11, 2012

Staff: Mentor

you're better off buying the appliances you need rather than trying to adapt them to the electrical system of your new residence. Even if you could use them via some adapter it would be less energy efficient. Your plugs may also be of a different size as well.

3. Jul 11, 2012

phyzguy

I moved back and forth from France to the US, so have some experience with this. You just need a transformer to run your 220V appliances in the US. They are for sale in the US at Best Buy (and I'm sure other places - or you can buy them online). They will cost in the range of $20-$50 depending on the power level. I don't think it is true that the efficiency of the device will be lower if you use a transformer - transformers are efficient devices. As a bonus, if you buy things in the US that run on 110V and want to take them home, the transformers are set up to work either way, so you will be able to run your 110V devices at home on 220V. Some things may have a problem with the 60 Hz vs 50 Hz (this means motors will run at a slightly different speed for example), but most things will run OK. Some things (like chargers for your computer) will run on either 110V or 220V, so you just need a plug adapter and then it works.

Having said all that, jedishrfu is right that you should think about whether it is worth it to transport these things. For a refrigerator, for example, it will be much cheaper to just buy a new one in the US and then sell it when you leave than to ship a refrigerator across the ocean. I will bet it will cost thousands of dollars to ship a refrigerator from South AFrica to the US. Microwaves, too are really cheap - I would just buy a new one.

4. Jul 11, 2012

johandj73

Thanks guys

I did have a look at the transformers and I thought that it was very well suited for al my home entertainment system TV dvd surround sound xbox etc. I am moving all my furniture so a I have a whole container available anyway so I thought that if I could fit some of the electrical stuff in there it would be a saving if I could make them work over there.

The fridge I could problably replace. I am a bit upset about all my power tools! I'll do some homework in regards to using some of them with a transformer since most of the tools are only used as you need them. problem with power tools is their motors sometimes require more power to start up etc.

At the end of the day I will problably just store them here and sell whatever I buy over there.

5. Jul 11, 2012

Staff: Mentor

how expensive would it be to put your stuff in storage?

also do you have any relatives, mom/dad that can hold your power tools... for you?

6. Jul 11, 2012

Staff: Mentor

we had placed our refrigerator in storage for about 6 months during a cross country move and while it kind of worked when we restarted it, there was a squeaky sound coming from it each time the compressor started. It was a dried out belt that was slipping. Once fixed, the refrigerator started working again. We still have it and its been running for more than 20 years (knock on wood).

7. Jul 11, 2012

psparky

Our residential electric panels in USA are 240 volts.....they just have a center tap that makes 120 volts as well....but the real line to line voltage is 240 volts.

240 volts are typically wired to the electric dryer, air conditoning condensing unit....and maybe a couple other specialty items like a big air compressor in the garage. But if you just add a double pole breaker, line to line.....whalla....240 volts.

You will have 240 volts available all day from our panels. You will just need to rewire certain ciruits to your fridge and maybe some garage outlets as well. If it were me, talking about your fridge specifically, I would remove the black wire and single pole breaker and the white wire from the nuetral/ground bar. (neutral and ground are tied together in panel). Then I would install a double pole 20 amp breaker and reinstall the black and white wire in the new double pole breaker....and obviously ground to the ground/neutral bar. Then, take out the old 120 volt receptacle, and install a 240/230 volt receptacle that fits the plug on your fridge. So you are essentially using the same "homerun" wire, just switching the connections at each end. Be sure to clearly label the wires as 240 volts on each end for safety. Have a certified electrician do this work for you.

Remember this too....if a system is 240...the loads are built for 230 volts....that is they are assuming voltage drop. So I would think 240 volts should be ok for 230 volts loads. I would think anyways.....not 100% sure on that. But 10 volts either way ussually doesn't effect simple devices that much. Your motors are clearly going to run 1.2 times faster.....50 to 60 hertz....

Or you could just run a little transformer out of your 120 volt outlet like suggested above, but that wouldn't be as fun.

Interestingly enough, running 120 volt devices on 240 volts does NOT work out. I once saw a 120 receptacle accidentally wire to 240 volts. Lights will explode, microwaves will pop your pop corn in about 10 seconds...lol, vacuum cleaners will start on fire, and the best one is a sawzall....if you hook one up to 240 it will spin so fast the blade will break off and will shoot into the wall like a gun.

Please keep in mind the above comments are what I would do. Following in my footsteps may not always be the safest and wisest thing to do.....although generally the most fun:)

Last edited: Jul 11, 2012
8. Jul 11, 2012

psparky

What? I love re-wiring.

If someone gave me a 230 volt fridge on 50 hz....i would donate my perfectly good 120 volt fridge to charity and rewire my panel and outlet just for fun to see if the 230 volt 50 hz fridge would work!

But seriously, hauling a fridge half way around the world has got to be more expensive than selling it and buying a new one here. However, your love for your tools may be beyond everyone else's rational understanding. In that case, I would bring the tools and just re-wire the garage outlet when you have time.

9. Jul 11, 2012

jim hardy

yes - put a single 230 volt outlet in garage and make an extension cord to euro style outlets around workbench. Properly fused of course.

I found some interesting duplex receptacles at a thrift store, one half is 230 other is 115.
Leviton 5844.

Last edited: Jul 11, 2012
10. Jul 12, 2012

psparky

Good looking outlet.

However, you will need two different "homeruns" to make this work.

You could technically make this work off of one homerun....line to line and a ground....but using ground as a neutral would be BAD. Direct violation of code.....and may even start something on fire or even kill someone.

If there is an electric panel in the garage....then wiring two homeruns is a piece of cake. A lot of garages just have one homerun ran to the garage.

If you are going to run a brand new homerun to this outelt.....it could be done with one homerun, it would have to be a 3 way wire...the same wire you use for three way switches. Line to line, nuetral and ground would do the trick nicely.

11. Jul 12, 2012

Staff: Mentor

While some of you folks like to rewire stuff, we should mention that its best to get a licensed electrician to do the work.

A code violation such as this could in fact start a fire which could have devastating effects to neighboring homes or even whole communities if it sparked a wildfire (especially considering the drought conditions afflicting the midwest US).

Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
12. Jul 12, 2012

jim hardy

indeed as Sparky points out, that outlet ought to have 3 wires plus ground.
just like dryer outlets since 1999 NEC code revisions.

Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
13. Jul 12, 2012

Integral

Staff Emeritus
Something that has not been mentioned is the frequency change. There may be some appliances which will not like, over the long run, the 50hz to 60hz transition.

14. Jul 12, 2012

psparky

I totally agree. I am not a liscensed electrician, but I did learn under a liscensed electrician. Wiring basements is a great way to learn. Basements that go from unfinished to finished specifically. Until you pull all the romex, hang and wire all the lights and switches, 3 way switches, outlets and land your homeruns in your panel....you will never quite have the feel for it. Experience is everything. Wire sizing and proper breaker sizing and wiring techniques must be taken from your area's code book.

One of the most popular mistakes rookies make is not putting "rat tails" on your outlet wiring. Inspectors will spot this in a second!

If you are interested in learning to wire homes....simply look for an add in the paper or internet for a licensed electrician looking for an apprentice. There's nothing more satisfying than wiring up an entire basement or house.....and having it all actually work when you are done! If you are new....your first task will be drilling all the holes thru the studs and pulling all the romex. That's hard labor....but once that's all done....the real fun begins.

If you do the electric work, having your licensed electircian inspect the work and take responsibiity for it is the way to go. Pulling a permit and having inspections along the way with final inspection would be 100% the way to go.

Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
15. Jul 12, 2012

psparky

Yes....this will always be a concern. It was touched on briefly a few times above.
Looking at the specs or contacting the manufacturer would be a good idea here.

It probably doesn' matter much for power tools.....but items like fridges that run a lot during the day, it certainly could be an issue and it certanly could damage electric motors and make your fridge operate at different temperatures than you expected.