Converters and transformers can seem confusing—but you must understand what they are and what they do if you travel frequently and/or want to be able to run all kinds of appliances and electronic devices in your home. Both transformers and converters are primarily used to step up or step down the voltage to make it compatible with your device or appliance. However, there are differences in terms of how they should be used.
What are converters?
Converters are only used with ‘electric’ products—which refers to simple heating devices as well as those that have mechanical motors. Some examples of electric products are hair dryers, shavers, toothbrushes, steam irons, and small fans. Because they are not built for continuous duty, converters can only be used for one to two hours (or shorter periods of time). Many of the converters available today are only designed for ungrounded appliances, which you can identify because they have 2 pins on their plugs. Remember to unplug your converters from the wall whenever you are not using it, as a safety precaution.
What are transformers—and how are they different from converters?
Transformers are also designed to step up or down the voltage, just like converters. However, they are more expensive and are typically used with devices that are ‘electronic’ in nature. ‘Electronic’ items are different from simpler ‘electric’ products because they have chips or circuits. Transformers are built for continuous operation, so they can be used for many hours and even days.
Note that computers are classified as ‘electronic’ devices, so they need transformers (unless they have dual voltage features). Most laptops, phones, and tablets these days are dual voltage, so you don’t need a transformer anymore. You can use them with a simple travel adapter.
There are a lot of smaller capacity converters and transformers available online which you can use for a variety of purposes. The key is to determine what you need and buy your unit from a reputable online shop.