The Complete Guide to Buying Power and Plug Adaptors

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The Complete Guide to Buying Power and Plug Adaptors

Power adaptors are used to connect devices that work with direct current (DC) power or a different type of alternating current (AC) power to a household AC power supply. Power adaptors are available in a range of shapes, sizes, and types, with different voltage and current ratings. The specification is determined by the type of device, its power needs, and the type of electricity supply available. The latter changes from country to country.

Plug adaptors are used where the configuration of a power point does not match the configuration of a plug's pins, for example, where there is a three-pin power point, but a two-pin plug. In the case of a single point plug adaptor, the plug is connected directly to the adaptor.

Using the wrong power adaptor could severely damage an electronic device, and the wrong plug adaptor prevents the user from plugging a device into a socket. Before shopping for power and plug adaptors, learn about UK electricity and plug types, understand how to find the right power adaptor according to a device's power needs to ensure that both the user and the device are protected from harm. Power and plug adaptors are available from electronics retailers, hardware shops, supermarkets and online, from sources such as eBay..

Household Electrical Information for the UK

The most common plug type used in the UK is the "Type G" British Standard (BS) 1363, which features three rectangular prongs that form a triangle. This standard, published in 1962, requires the use of three-wire grounded and fused plugs for all connections to the mains power. Fuses add an element of safety as they are designed to break an electric circuit if the current exceeds a certain level. Small appliances usually have 3 amp (A) fuses in their plugs, while heavy duty appliances have 13 A fuses. In addition, UK power outlets feature integrated shutters and neutral contacts to prevent users from introducing foreign objects to power points. This is considered the safest plug and power point arrangement in the world.

UK voltage is 220 to 240 volts (V), while this is 110 to 120 V in the United States and Canada. As a result, a power adaptor is needed to adapt the voltage of an American product for UK use and vice versa. Simply using a plug adaptor does not change the voltage of the power supply or the device.

How to Find the Right Plug Adaptor

Finding the right plug adaptor is a fairly simple process. First, ensure that the appliance is compatible with the AC power supply available. If it is, look for a plug adaptor with contacts that match the pins of the device's plug. If the device's plug is not fused, a fused plug adaptor should be used. If more than one device with a non-standard plug will be used in the same power point, consider using a multi-plug adaptor.. These are available with different numbers of plug points, for example two or three-pin points. In addition, multi-plugs with built-in power adaptors are available that feature integrated power adaptors. If the device is not compatible with the AC power supply available, look for a plug adaptor with an integrated power adaptor.

International Plug Adaptors

Before travelling internationally, research the type of plug points available in the countries that will be visited. If the voltage and current differ from those used in the UK, opt for a power adaptor that is compatible with the power used in those countries. If the same type of power is used as in the UK, make sure that the plug points are the same and buy enough adaptors to allow easy use of all the electronic equipment that will be taken on the trip. Remember to include personal audio players, digital cameras, mobile phones, and hair care appliances when calculating the number of plug or power adaptors required.

Universal Plug Adaptors

Universal plug adaptors feature a range of configurations. The most popular include adaptors that are compatible with plugs across the European Union, Australia, and North America. Those who enjoy travelling or own electronic devices originating from multiple countries benefit most from this type of adaptor. Opt for a combination power and plug adaptor to cut down on luggage while travelling.

How to Find the Right Power Adaptor

Finding the right power adaptor is slightly more complicated as using the wrong voltage adaptor could damage the device. However, knowing what to look for simplifies this process. Some devices use power adaptors that automatically adapt to the current and voltage available. These include power adaptors for:

  • laptop computers
  • desktop computers
  • mobile phones
  • PDAs
  • digital cameras

It is important to note that this is not always the case as individual devices may vary.

AC to AC Power Adaptors

AC to AC power adaptors adapt the AC current to a version that is compatible with the device. To find out what the recommended voltage and current are for a particular device, check the manufacturer's instruction manual or look for guidelines printed on the device or the existing power supply. Choose an adaptor that matches these requirements.

AC to DC Power Adaptors

AC to DC power adaptors are the most common adaptor type available. These adaptors change the AC current in use to the appropriate DC current. Choose a power adaptor that meets the device specifications. This is usually indicated in milliAmperes (mA) and volts, for example as 1000 mA, 12 V. Matching these specifications to those of the device is crucial as the wrong amperage and voltage can irreparably damage electronic devices. Always check the manufacturer's guidelines before plugging a device into a power adaptor.

Universal Power Adaptors

Universal power adaptors are adjustable and can be used for devices with varying specifications. While the amperage tends to stay the same, the voltage can range from 3 V to 12 V, with settings available in between. Common voltage settings include 3 V, 4.5 V, 5 V, 6 V, 9 V, and 12 V. Remember to also take the ampere rating into account when choosing a universal power adaptor.

Buying Power and Plug Adaptors on eBay

Finding power and plug adaptors on eBay is simple if you know who to search. Type a search phrase or product details, such as "universal mains AC/DC adaptor&", into the search field, which is available on every page, to see the items available from eBay sellers. Refine your search by choosing the most appropriate item features, or limit the search to a price range or a condition. To narrow or expand your search, use the advanced search feature..

Evaluate the Item and Seller

Before buying on eBay, take a moment to evaluate the item and the seller. Clicking on an individual item displays the listing page for that product. Here you can find information such as the full item description, the buying options, the seller's accepted payment methods, postage and packaging costs, and the seller's feedback information. If you have any questions about an item, then click on the "Ask a question&" link to contact the seller directly.

eBay's seller feedback feature allows buyers to leave feedback about specific sellers' products and customer service. To see what other shoppers have experienced when buying from a particular seller, click on the number next to the seller's username. Detailed seller ratings provide additional information about the seller's communication, whether the postage and packaging costs were reasonable, how long it took for the seller to dispatch the item, and the accuracy of the product description in the item listing.


Power adaptors allow users to plug devices into household AC supplies that differ from the supply specified for the device by converting the current into a usable format. In contrast, plug adaptors allow users to plug devices into compatible AC supplies that feature different power outlet connectors. Some plug adaptors feature integrated power adaptors.

Choosing the right plug adaptor is easy. Simply match the plug pins of the device to the adaptor. These adaptors can be used where, for example, a two-pin plug needs to be plugged into a standard three-pin power point. British Standard 1363 requires that all plugs are fused, and if the device's plug does not have an integrated fuse, ensure that the plug adaptor does. Multi-plugs or universal adaptors can be used where more than one plug type needs to be converted.

If the device does not have the same voltage rating as the available AC power supply, opt for a power adaptor or plug adaptor with a built-in power adaptor. To match the device to a power adaptor, check the manufacturer's guidelines for the recommended power supply for that device. This is usually included in the instruction manual, or printed on the device or the existing power supply. For increased versatility, choose a universal power adaptor with varying voltage levels and the most common amperage required. eBay sellers offer a range of power and plug adaptors to suit every need.

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