How to Use U.K. Electrical Appliances in the U.S.A.
Electrical appliances made for U.K. use may not work in the U.S. The voltage and hertz frequency are different in each country. Confirming the correct voltage and hertz can help determine which electrical appliances can be used in the U.S. and will not be damaged in the process.
Making the move from the U.K. or coming to the United States for a visit? Before you pack your bags, you will need to examine your appliances for voltage and hertz frequency to find out if you can use them in America. Some appliances work on both sides of the pond. Here is how to distinguish appliances for travel to the U.S.
Household electrical devices in the U.S. run on a voltage scale of 110/115/120. The electrical devices in the U.K. run on a voltage scale of 220/240/250. To further complicate matters, a voltage of 110 is often used interchangeably with a voltage of 120 in the U.S. This can be confusing to convert. Even with a plug-adapter for your device, it may not be the proper current needed. The basic thing to remember is that common voltage and frequency of U.K. appliances is 230 v 50 Hz. The U.S. is 110 v 60 Hz. Using an appliance that does not fall into the range for U.S. voltage can damage your appliance.
Determining Hertz and Voltage
You will find the voltage or hertz (Hz) measurement on a label on the appliance. The U.S. uses a 60 Hz current, while the U.K. and Europe use 50 Hz currents. Your item may have an internal power switch that indicates the voltage. You can also find the voltage and hertz of your appliance in the owner's manual.
- If your appliance has a hertz frequency listed on it as 50/60 Hz, it will work in the U.S. But if it does not use 50/60 Hz, your appliance will not work.
- For appliances with an internal power switch with a range of 110 v to 240 v, you will need a plug adapter. Plug your appliance into the adapter then into the wall socket and the appliance will power on normally. This does not change the current or frequency.
- For appliances with 240 v only, you will need to get a step-down converter or transformer for your appliance to work in the U.S.
Travel adaptors allow you to plug your U.K. appliances into U.S. electrical sockets. This does not convert the voltage or frequency of the electrical device. If your appliance does not meet the voltage or frequency standards to adapt to the U.S. current, you could damage your device beyond repair.
Purchasing a voltage converter or transformer will allow your appliance to work in the U.S. if the voltage converter meets the appliance needs. Check your owner’s manual or the manufacturer's website to confirm voltage, and voltage transformer requirements.
- If an item does not say 50/60 Hz, it will not work in the US. Items such as televisions may work, but they may be incompatible with peripherals such as DVD players or gaming systems. When in doubt, refer to the manufacturer. If an item does not work properly, double check the voltage and hertz frequency.
- Do not plug items that require a step-down converter into a plug adapter.
Nat Howard is a writer, editor, journalist and jack-of-all-trades, covering topics from home improvement and design. Her background includes web content and editorial roles with a Fortune 500 home improvement chain. She holds an MA in Professional Writing from the University of Roehampton.