Power Adaptors: Switching Voltage

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Power Adaptors: Switching Voltage

Electrical devices enable the conveniences in life by providing a wide range of services in different settings. In certain scenarios, however, a device needs a power adaptor which can aid it in adapting to different currents or voltages. A traveller, for example, may need a device to cope with a voltage switch from one country to another. Individuals who travel often by car may need a power adaptor to power their devices efficiently from a DC power source in an automobile.

Consumers who need to purchase one of these devices can benefit from having a clear idea of how these devices work and the situations in which they may be needed. Basic information regarding different types of currents and the varying voltages around the world can help a consumer understand where and how to apply these adaptors. Power adaptors can be found at mainstream specialty stores. However, it is helpful for shoppers to know how to utilise the online auction site eBay to purchase these handy items at competitive prices.

Understanding and Dealing with Alternating Current and Direct Current

Electrical current functions in one of two ways: as alternating current, known as AC power, or as direct current, known as DC power. Different devices work with either type of electrical current. An awareness of AC and DC power is important in gaining an understanding of how power adaptors work.

AC Power

Alternating current is the form of electricity used to power the mains electrical system around the world. In other words, the wall sockets in businesses and homes are driven by alternating current. In AC electricity, the electrical charge periodically changes directions. Different waveforms, including triangular waves and square waves, of AC can be used in different applications.

DC Power

DC power utilises unidirectional current and is often used for low powered applications. DC power was actually intended for use as the original system on mains electric, but AC power proved more efficient. DC power today is more often found in batteries and car lighter charger components.

Switching from DC to AC with Voltage Inverters

DC to AC voltage inverters switch a DC source to an AC power source. For example, a DC-powered car charger can be converted to a power source for an AC device such as a laptop. These types of voltage switches are useful for powering AC devices on the go, such as during long car trips. An input port designed to connect with a car charger pulls the charge from the cigarette lighter, then converts the electrical current to AC and provides an outlet for an AC plug. Power adaptors are also designed for use on airlines.

Switching from AC to DC with Voltage Converters

Voltage converters that switch an electrical current from AC to DC are also available on the market. These converters allow a charger which has a DC plug, such as one designed for use in a car lighter, to work at an AC wall outlet. If a mobile phone, for example, has a car charger with a lighter interface, one of these converters can be used to power it in the home off an AC wall outlet.

Adjusting Voltage Levels for Different Countries

The frequency of AC power changes from country to country. Many countries operate their AC at either 50 or 60 Hz, and some countries use both supplies in different scenarios. Most modern appliances and electronics are designed to cope with a certain amount of fluctuation in frequency, so going from 50 to 60 Hz does not necessarily damage modern electronics. Fluctuations in voltage, however, are a different story.

The AC power supply from country to country can vary greatly in terms of voltage. The utilisation voltage a particular country delivers to equipment defines the range of voltage at which devices can safely operate. In the United Kingdom, where the utilisation voltage is 230 volts, electrical devices must be designed to operate safely within a comfort range around 230 volts. Standard power voltages and the percentage of tolerance allowed changes from one country’s mains power system to the next, even in countries that share geographical identity.

Voltage Ranges Around the World

When travelling, it is important for individuals to realise that their electrical equipment may require a power adaptor to switch the voltage range of a device. The following chart notates some of the main voltage ranges around the world and the countries which use them.

Voltage Range



100 volts

50 and 60 Hz


120 volts

60 Hz

North America, including the Caribbean, U.S. territories, Central America, Taiwan, Canada, Colombia, Venezuela

127 volts

50 or 60 Hz

Libya, Mexico, Suriname, Brazil, Madagascar, Saudi Arabia

220 volts

50 Hz

Much of South America and Africa, Bangladesh, China, Georgia, Greenland, Hong Kong, India, the Middle East, Russia

230 volts

50 Hz

Most of Europe, including the UK, much of Oceania, including Australia and New Zealand, Israel, Pakistan, Western Africa and Southern Africa

This table only notates a few of the many countries that utilise these voltage ranges and does not indicate every voltage type used in the world. Before taking a trip, consumers must proactively confirm the voltage range of a country and then purchase an appropriate voltage switch to accommodate for the change.

Step Up and Step Down Voltage Switches

Voltage switches or converters are used to allow a device which has been engineered for use within a certain voltage range to work within a different voltage range. Travellers especially need these adaptors to allow their electronic equipment to operate safely in a new country.

Step Up Converters

Step up converters allow a device to operate at a higher nominal voltage than it is designed for. As an example, a device designed for use in the States at a voltage range of around 110 volts might explode or at least start sparking when used in the UK, where the voltage range is around 230 volts. A step up converter allows this device to operate safely at 230 volts.

Step Down Converters

Step down converters work in the opposite direction, lowering the voltage range in which a device operates. A step down voltage switch can be used for a UK device, for example, that is being used in the States at 110 volts. Both step down and step up converters are often sold in travel kits with appropriate plug adaptors included.

Plug Adaptors

When using either a step up or step down converter to deal with a change in nominal voltage, a consumer may likely also need a plug adaptor. Wall sockets and their associated plug types vary just as greatly as voltage ranges from country to country. For example, a device designed for the UK may have a Europlug and needs to adapt to a US 3-pin plug for travel to the States. These adaptors are sold in a wide variety of options and often come as part of travel kits.

Buying Power Adaptors and Converters on eBay

The online auction site eBay functions as an aggregator, assembling a range of vendors with different types of products in one place. Consumers looking for power adaptors and converters can benefit from the large catalogue available on eBay.

To purchase a power adaptor on eBay, you can approach the process in several ways. An easy way is to use the search interface on the site. The website’s search bar, found on all pages, allows you to enter a search term, such as "AC/DC adaptor&", and access a number of listings related to that search. eBay also extends the option of using the advanced search option which can narrow search results and get you closer to what you are looking for.

An important part of the purchasing process on eBay, once you have found a preferred listing, is to evaluate the seller associated with a product. You can do this by accessing the seller’s page and reviewing past auctions and the feedback that other customers have submitted. This information can help you determine whether the seller can address your needs to your satisfaction.


Power adaptors and converters are helpful devices which can facilitate the use of electronic devices in a range of settings. Whether on an extended car trip or travelling abroad, consumers can use power adaptors to adequately and safely operate devices under varying voltages and with different source currents.

While traditional brick-and-mortar stores may have some options, the online auction site eBay provides consumers with a diverse range of choices, all in one place. Step down converters such as might be needed to power a UK device in the US, or DC to AC inverters which allow a laptop to charge in a car, can all be found on this website. With its helpful search interface, consumers can quickly zero in on relevant listings and take a closer look at each of them. By taking the time to evaluate the product as well as its seller, an individual can quickly find and purchase a converter or an adaptor that addresses voltage differences in any setting.

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