Why You Need An Electrical Transformer

electrical meterLet’s talk some more about electricity. I know it is not the most exciting chat we could have, but trust me when I say it is important. Moving overseas means you need to check a few things on all your stuff that uses electricity. Some of these things will work fine, other things are probably better left behind. So, lets start with a short lesson on electricity.

Electricity in the U.S. Versus Electricity in the Rest of the Word

Once upon a time there was this guy named Thomas Edison. Most of us know he invented the first light bulb (that really worked) and other cool stuff. When he began researching electricity, he did his research with electricity that worked on direct current (DC.)  Most of his inventions were patented and he campaigned successfully to develop a direct current electrical network in the U.S.

A fellow named Nikola Tesla was busy researching electricity in Hungary at the same time Edison. He used a different type of electricity called alternating current (AC.) His research indicated that AC current was more efficient than Edison’s DC current. The rest of the world obviously liked his research, because most countries run electricity on the higher voltage alternating current.

Why Does Voltage Matter?

The voltage coming out of the wall in Italy is 220V and in the United States the voltage is 110V.

Simply put, if you plug your 110V stuff into a 220V socket, it will blow up. If you value your electrical appliances, you will probably not want to do that.

So, you know that your electrical stuff won’t work, now what? You need to decide how much of your stuff you want to run on a transformer and what you want to store instead.

What is a Transformer,  Anyway?

A transformer (also called inverters & converters) is an appliance that takes in higher voltage electricity and turns it into a lower voltage that your American appliances can handle. There is a bunch of technical stuff involved, but the main thing you need to pay attention to on a transformer is how many watts it can convert.

Transformers come in different sizes. There are the small converters that come in travel kits that you buy in Wal-Mart by the luggage section. These usually handle pretty low-wattage appliances, like a 50 watt battery charger or maybe a game system like a Nintendo DS. For appliances that use more wattage, you need a larger transformer.

Is an Adaptor the Same Thing As a Transformer?

NOPE! If you use an adaptor without a transformer on an iron, it will blow up. Same thing goes for a Nintendo DS or a battery charger. Those are the things that have accidentally been damaged in our house! Learn from another family’s mistakes and pay attention to the voltage and the watts on your appliances. Transformers are necessary if you are going to use your 110 volt appliances. When you have single voltage (110V)  appliances, you must use a transformer outside the U.S.  At the risk of repeating myself, if you don’t want to use transformers then you must buy 220V appliances here in Italy.

A Few Words About Dual (or Universal) Voltage Appliances

Dual voltage items rock! You can use them at different voltages without having to deal with a transformer.  A cheap adaptor or a universal plug power strip will work with these items.  Most modern electronic items are dual voltage. This means your expensive computers, tablets and game systems may not need a converter. Take a look at the plug on your appliance to determine if your electronic item is dual voltage.

Hopefully this will clear up some of the questions you had about your electronic stuff and whether you should take it with you on your move to Italy.



  1. Simon Brooks says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this article, small transformers are essential for international travel; you would not believe the number of phone chargers we’ve lost because of that. Of course electrical power transformers aren’t just for small scale appliance, larger ones can be used for converting the energy gained from a nuclear plant or wind-turbine into a usable voltage. However, since most people don’t need to worry about power on that kind of level, making sure to have a small hand-held transformer when you’re traveling the world is the most important thing to remember.

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