How to Use American Appliances in Europe

If these sockets don't look familiar, you'll need an adapter and maybe a voltage converter.
If these sockets don't look familiar, you'll need an adapter and maybe a voltage converter. (Image: TaiChesco/iStock/Getty Images)

When using American appliances in Europe, there are three main points you have to consider: the shape of your plug, your voltage and your wattage. American plugs have two flat prongs and a round "grounding" prong, while European plugs have two round prongs. Standard voltage -- or the force of electricity running through your appliance -- is 110 volts in the U.S. In Europe it's 220 volts -- enough to fry your appliances if they're not compatible. Knowing your watts, or how much power your device can handle, will help keep your appliances running smoothly.

Things You'll Need

  • Voltage converter
  • Plug adapter

Locate the voltage information on your device, which may be directly on the plug, on the device itself or on the AC transformer box. Look for 220 volts or 240 volts, which means you won't need a voltage converter. If your device doesn't include a 220- to 240-volt option, you'll need a converter.

Read the wattage on your appliance, which should be located near the voltage information. Low wattage devices are between 25 and 50 watts, and high-watt devices are between 1,000 and 2,000 watts.

Attach your device to your voltage converter, if you need one. If the voltage conversion is not automatic, set the input to 110 volts. For low-watt devices, set the wattage to "low" or "25 to 50," depending on how your converter is labeled. If it's a high-watt device, use the "high" setting.

Attach the European plug adapter to your converter, or directly to your plug if you don't need a converter. The plug adapter will have a connection for your American plug on one side, and on the other side it will have two rounded prongs, slightly larger than your plug's flat, squared-off prongs.

Fit the plug adapter, attached to your plug or to the converter and your plug, into the European outlet. The plug should fit smoothly, without forcing. Stop if you notice tension or a poor fit.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are conversion kits available that contain a variety of plug adapters and a converter. Consider purchasing a kit, especially if you have devices with different voltage and wattage requirements.
  • Converters and conversion kits may function differently depending on the brand. Read your converter's instructions carefully before use.
  • If you don't have a plug adapter or converter, ask the management at your hotel or apartment. They may have units you can borrow.
  • Never try to force an American plug into a European outlet or "test" a low-voltage device in a high-voltage European outlet. You'll risk harming yourself or ruining your appliance.

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