Socket in an Irish Pub

Wall PlugIt is important to note that the power supply in Ireland and the UK (which includes Northern Ireland) is quite different from that in the USA and that the plugs and sockets used are different from those in both the USA and the rest of Europe.

Electricity Supply Information

Voltage Frequency Plug/Socket
Ireland & UK 230v 50hz 3 square pins
Most of Europe 230v 50Hz 2 round pins
USA 120v 60hz 2 prongs

About Voltage & Frequency

Why does all of this matter? Well, primarily because connecting things to a socket with a power supply it isn’t designed for can cause equipment to burn out!

Electrical equipment is designed to be used at a specific Voltage (measured in volts) and Frequency (measured in Hertz), which will be mentioned on a name plate attached to all electrical items.

What happens if…

… you connect 120 Volt equipment to a 230 Volt supply:

The current delivered to the equipment will go up almost 100% and the result will be dangerous, hot and catastrophic for the equipment – pretty much instant burnout.

… you connect 60 Hertz equipment to a 50 Hertz supply:

The current goes up too, because the cycle is shorter, but not so dramatically – by about 17%. Most equipment can deal with this for a short time so it may not appear to cause any immediate problems, but it will lead to a slow burnout of equipment in the long term.

Another effect of using 60hz equipment on a 50hz supply is that it will run more slowly. Anything with a timer, such as a clock radio, will lose 10 minutes an hour – not good if you are relying on it to wake you up in the morning!

Fortunately most electric appliances sold nowadays are dual voltage and dual frequency, which means they will work perfectly well with either US or European power supplies with just a plug adapter.

Electrical Adapters, Converters or Transformers?

If you are bringing electrical equipment from the USA to Ireland you will need one or other of these, and because figuring out which you need can be so confusing, we will look at each in turn.

1. Plug Adapters

Plug adapters do not change the electricity supplied to equipment, they simply allow it to be plugged in to a different type of wall socket or outlet.

Choose an adapter if:

The equipment you are using supports dual voltage and dual frequency. If it does then a plate on the equipment will state something like “120/240v, 50/60Hz”.

Most laptop computer and battery chargers are dual voltage, so all you will need to use them with a different supply is a plug adapter.

The vast majority of people coming to Ireland only need a plug adapter.

All hotels and most other accommodation in Ireland will have a two-pin 110V to 120V plug for shavers in the bathroom, which will accept an American style plug and allows 120v shavers to run safely, so if a shaver is all you are bringing you need no additional equipment.

DO NOT use this power outlet for anything except shavers. It is specifically designed for that one item only and will cause damage to anything else.

2. Power or Voltage Converters

Power converters step down the voltage from 240V to 120V, allowing equipment which is not dual voltage to operate at the voltage for which it was designed. Converters do not alter the frequency at which electicity is delivered and they are not designed for continuous use, 1-2 hours at a time is the maximum advisable.

Choose a converter if:

You wish to use common electrical equipment which is not dual voltage, such as some hairdryers, irons, fans etc.

Power converters are not inexpensive. Hotels and other accommodation pretty much all have hairdryers and irons available for guests. So, either leave these behind or consider whether it would actually be cheaper to buy a dual voltage travel hairdryer/iron rather than a converter.

3. Power Transformers

Sometimes also called ‘step up, step down’ converters. Power transformers will step down the voltage and they are specifically designed to be used with electronic equipment, that is equipment which is powered by a chip or a circuit rather than a mechanical motor.

They alter the voltage of electricity reaching such equipment to a safe level and can be used continuously, or at least for much longer periods than a power converter.

However transformers are heavy and can be expensive and are overkill unless absolutely required. They are not suitable for use with non-electronic equipment.

Choose a transformer if:

You wish to make extensive use of electronic equipment such as a DVD player, a computer or printer or a television that does not support dual voltage.

Note that transformers and converters only change the voltage supplied to equipment, they do not alter the frequency of the electrical supply. Thus long term use of equipment with either a converter or a transformer may damage it.

Images of adapters and converters courtesy of 220converter.com – I know nothing about this company, but they appear to have an excellent and well priced range of equipment and deliver internationally.

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59 Comments

  1. This page has been the clearest and simplest answer I have found anywhere. Thank you for the great information!

    • There is an inaccuracy or at keast confusing statement in the part about frequency.

      50Hz has a longer, not shorter cycle time than 60 Hz. 50Hz = 1/50th second = 20 milliseconds, 60 Hz = 1/60th second – 16.7 mS. Because the RMS (average) voltage is the same over the cycle it would be rare for an appliance to be be damaged by using the correct voltage but wrong frequency. Some appliances use mains frequency for timing (over a long period it can be very accurate) but many will use quartz and therefore be independent of the mains frequency.

    • Although the majority of Paul’s information is spot on, let’s clarify something with frequency. If your appliance, hair dryer or electric drill, has on the specifications “60 Hz Only” it may operate and it may not at 50 Hz. It may just get very hot and especially motorized items often burn up on 50 Hz and later fail to function well back in 60 Hz land. Variable speed items can operate unusually slow and strange. If the item specifications indicate “50/60 or AC only” they will generally operate on 50 and 60 hertz equally well at the appropriate voltage, of course. 

      Needless to say your statement on ‘timing’ can affect digital clock for instance, but old 60 Hz analogue clock radio’s clock simply would not function at 50 Hz. So folks if you want to take a hairdryer into another location, it should be one who’s specification say “120/240 VAC 50/60 Hz” and this one will not require a converter, only possibly an adapter to change its plug to the local layout (square, round, 2 or 3 prong, etc.)  Safe travels.

  2. I agree with Megan. Clearest, most concise description of elecrticity differences related to voltage and frequency. A+

  3. I also agree – finally an easy-to-understand explanation of what is needed to be able to use American electrical equipment in Ireland. Thank you so much!

  4. Yeah. Thanks for clearing up my adaptor problem. The info was very helpful.

  5. Such a clear description was greatly appreciated!

  6. Well done. Excellent and clearly explained

  7. My only question is if someone is using a C-Pap machine in Ireland it sounds as if it may be damaged in some way no matter what they use.  It says long term.  Does that mean if they sleep 8 hours a night for 10 nights it is likely they will receive “some” damage to the machine?

    • I had to look up what a C-Pap machine was. I really think that with something as specialist and important as that you’d need to be getting individual advice from somebody qualified. I assume that the makers or suppliers of the machine would be the place to start looking for such a person.

  8. What should one use for a phone charger and camera-battery charger?

  9. keivn jenkins | February 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    We are attempting to bring our radio cooking show to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Festival we have a mackie mixing board, shure wireless microphones and a speaker system all US electronics.
    What will we need to bring them over to Ireland to use?   We currently plug everyting into one power strip and then into the wall….could we do the same in Ireland?
    Thank you for any assistance.  We would be recording 4 1 hour shows.

    Kevin

  10. RE: C-PAP machines.
    I’ve used mine with the appropriate converter in Russia, Holland, Ukraine, Italy, German……..  with NO problems.  Going to Ireland this May and would anticipate no problems there either.
    Danny

  11. I’ve searched tons of articles… this was exactly what I was looking for.  Perfect!

  12. I think it is very clear. I wish you had pictures of each type of adapter/converter etc.
    I also wondered about using a power strip/US electronics with one of the above converters for electronics. (computer, cell phone, etc)
    What do others think?

    • Can I use a power strip with a transformer to be able to plug in all of our electronics? Need an answer soon as we are leaving in two days.

  13. do i need a converter adapter for a phone charger, mp3 charger and a camera charger?

  14. Very helpful.  Looking forward to our visit in Ireland this summer

  15. Excellent, clear info!  I am learning that the “plate” on the US equipment or the equipment’s user manual specifications will help you understand if you need a converter and adapter OR if you can plug directly into foreign outlet with appropiate country adapter only. As explained, some US equip is dual voltage and can be used in foreign country with only an adapter.

  16. Very well explained, leaving for Dublin in less than 2 weeks, NOW I know what I need!

  17. Good Day,
    thanks for the wonderful info! I was wondering . . .  I bought a converter which has a usa three prong as well as usb input holes.  What is I plug a usb device into the converter/adapter and the device does not need to be converted? Will I do damage or is a good way to go if I am not sure if the device needs a converter?  The droid and the kindle are the devices I have which i am not sure about . . .
    Cheers!

  18. perfect answer to a question i had and then informed me even more nice work publisher 5*

  19. Quick question – I am looking at bringing in lawn lights from the USA  that use 110 VAC Line Voltage. In ireland we use 230 – so what would be the best (adaptor, converters or transformer) to use to step down the power so that I can light up the house at christmas?
     
    Many thanks for advice. I dont want to buy and then blow them within a minute of using them.

    • You’ll need a converter. However do bear in mind that even in that case you are not altering the frequency of the supply, so it would not be a good idea to keep the lights on for too long at a time.

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  21. I found this information most helpful. I am going to Ireland so i needed to know exactly how the electricity worked over there. Thanks for the great advice you have made my day :) .

  22. Echoing the comments above – thouroughly excellent explanation & the best I came across on the internet.
    I’ve got a US 120volt food mixer that I’d like to use here in Ireland, so from reading above I understand that it is a power transformer I would need.  Do you have any ideas where these are sold and what sort of money I would pay for them?  Also, are these transformers simply pluged in or do I need an electrician to rewire my food mixer to the transformer unit?
    Hope you can help & thanks in advance :)

  23. Thanks for the great information on power supplies on USA vs Ireland!!

  24. Hello,
    I’m looking to run a lionel electric train set in Ireland which we bought in the USA.  Do you know if a converter would be enough or if a transformer would be better?  Is there any equipment which will change the frequency as well?  Thanks!

    • Check whether or not it is dual voltage and a plug adapter will suffice. I really don’t know that there is anything that will alter the frequency.

  25. Don’t see an answer to the question above about cell phones. I have a Droid that plugs directly into a US outlet (no transformer). Will I need to take a transformer to keep it charged? Or could I use the U.S. shaver outlet, if available? Thanks.

    • Do NOT use the socket in the hotel bathroom for anything other than a shaver. It is not safe. I would imagine it’s dual voltage and an adapter is all you need.

  26. Very helpful, want to take my Sony eReader with me to Ireland.  So if I understand this, I can charge my reader in the hotel bathroom if they have the 110v to 120v american style plug without worring that my reader will be fried – correct?  Otherwise, I need a converter and plug?

    • Do NOT use the socket in the hotel bathroom for anything other than a shaver. It is not safe. Chances are your Sony Reader is dual voltage, and all you will need is an adapter. This is electronic equipment so an ordinary converter would not be the right choice – if it isn’t dual voltage, you’d need a transformer, but I’d be very surprised if it is not.

  27. Thanks so much for this info! I have checked all my pertinent gadgets (which are plentiful!) and every plug has the 120-240V and 50-60Hz so it looks like I only need the adapter. Now I have to locate one of those. :-)

    Thanks again!!!

  28. hello,
    Im wondering if I cut the usa plug off and re-wire the usa appllicance to an three pin plug would the applicance work in Ireland, or would it lose some of the power?
    thanks

    • Not a good plan unless the appliance is dual voltage. It is is dual voltage, that will work. If not, it will fry.

  29. fintan brady | May 1, 2011 at 11:04 am

    thanks so much for the clarity and the comprehensivness of your article on power supply….basically, if i understand you correctly, buying electrical equipment with u.s. power supply for use in ireland on a long term basis is not a good idea

    • That depends. If it is dual voltage, then it will be fine. If not, then better not.

  30. I am traveling to Ireland this summer and am in charge of the hair for a bridal party. I will need to bring at least 3 different curling irons. I have been to a couple travel stores in the U.S. and none of them seem to be able to help with my questions. Do I need to buy an adapter AND a converter? I will probably have to bring a power strip or surge protector to have several things plugged in at once, so would a transformer be better? Any suggestions would help. Thanks!

  31. Hi. I bought tools online from the US but i have a situation. i need a transformer and have not a clue where to buy one. Im trying to improvise, so would a lead and plug from an old lap-top with a coverter built in work if i snipped it and connected it to my new makita charger? thanks 

  32. Beth Morris | May 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    You mention the hotel outlets for shavers.  You may want to add that high-wattage items like blow dryers should not be plugged into the shaver outlet.  Sometimes it is better to be specific about what not to do.

  33. Gayle O’Brien | May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I need to know what kind of adapter I need for my camera and phone.  Thanks

  34. Alan Weinstein | June 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Congratulations on the finest, most concise discussion of power and power conversion equipment I’ve ever seen.  The article was well organized, clear, basic yet complete.

    Thanks to whoever put it together from both me and any future readers.

  35. Marton Moshe Andre | July 14, 2011 at 5:43 am

    I was in Australia and used a “SHAD” masterplug adaptor , KM56507 , 250 a.c. BS1363/3 , with 3 rectangular prongs , one ( vertical ) prong is plastic ( I do not know what is under the permanent cover) and the other ( horizontal) 2 are copper ( or so it seems ) . Is this adaptor o.k. for Ireland ?

    • Australian plugs are quite different to ours. The prongs are flatter and the two lower ones are at an oblique angle. So no good for Ireland I’m afraid.

  36. what will happen if you plug a 50Hz lighting fixture to a 60Hz supply? considering both are 220-230V. thanks.

  37. Thanks, I now know I can take me hairdryer, straightners and laptop to Ireland and be fine :D

    • boyce barnette | April 17, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      Will I be able to charge my digital camera in the electric shaver outlet in the hotel bathrooms?  Most of the hotels advertise outlets for electric shavers 120 V.   BAB 

  38. So, if i am relocating permanently, should I go ahead and get a transformer for thins like my ipad, macbook, camera charger?  Or, will the adapter work longterm as well?  Im also finding that the adapter does not allow these devices to hold a charge very long.  Is there a solution to that?

  39. myles finnegan | April 23, 2012 at 10:33 am

    hi, i need to know, i have an alarm, clock from united states it says on back its 120v 60 herts, can anyone tell me what i need to get to work this in ireland, its a small radio flip alarm clock.

  40.  i am going over to Ireland, Nov 7th to nov 14th. I was told to buy electrical adapters for Ireland . I have a Nikon camera w/adapter but was told to buy a set of 4 adapters packge which i did. the following is the ratings on the adapters i bought
    adapters rating that was on the plug adapters 110-120Vac. 2.5A
    220-240Vac.2.5A
     
     
    My camera come with adapter rates states 100-240V~50/60HZ
    5V===0.55A

  41. i have just moved back Ireland from Canada for a year and brought with me a dj mixer that has 120v / 60Hz but has three prongs. I assume i would need a transformer to run this here? 
    Would i be able to use it over longer periods of time than 1- 2 hours?

    Any help on this would be much appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Neil 

  42. Thank you for writing “Electricity in Ireland”. I actuallymight really wind up being back
    for even more browsing and writing comments shortly.

    Thanks, Adan

  43. I think I am more confused after reading the comments. For straighteners I need a converter, for  iPhones and cameras I need an adaptor? Correct? We will have two separate rooms for 12 lovely days, so I don’t want to purchase more than necessary due to having to duplicate everything. Any help is greatly appreciated. 

  44. Hi i live  in the U.S. and i am traveling to Ireland I have a transformer that i can use but it  has two pins witch is for most of Europe . Can I buy an adapter say at the airport or electronics store in Ireland that will make my transformer work. leave on Wed. the 7th of May please respond   

  45. Basically just pick up your appliance and read the ‘ratings plate’. Almost everything has one. For things that take full mains voltage, you’ll usually see this on the appliance itself, usually on the back or on the bottom somewhere. Or, if it’s something like a mobile phone or a laptop, it will be on the charger.
    If it says something like:
    110-120V 60Hz – Then you can only use it in the US, Canada and other countries that use 110-120V 60Hz.
    To use it in Ireland, you would need a voltage adaptor. If it has something like a mechanical clock or certain types of motor, it may run slow as your voltage adaptor will not change the line frequency so you’ll effectively be getting 110V 50Hz from the voltage converter in Ireland. Most appliances won’t worry about that, but a minority (AC motors can run slowly, but many appliances use universal motors that won’t really care what the frequency is).
    If your appliance says something like this:
    100-120V 50-60Hz, then it will work with a voltage adaptor in Ireland. (Japan uses 100V 50Hz so, many US appliances are actually designed for US or Japanese use and will thus accept either frequency). You will still need a voltage adaptor for these.
    If it says:
    100-240V 50-60Hz or 110V/230V or 110V/220V you can just plug it straight in using a pin-adaptor only as it is quite happy to run on either US or European power. You’ll find most laptop and mobile phone chargers are in this category.
    For laptops, I’d recommend picking up a new cord in an Irish computer / electronics store when you get here if you’re planning to use it for a long time e.g. if you’re going to be in university here or something like that.
    For hairdryers and curling irons and all that kind of stuff, if you’re coming on a short vacation, maybe bring your own. If you’re staying for an extended period, I’d recommend just buying new ones here. These are quite high powered appliances and lugging voltage adaptors around for the sake of a hairdryer isn’t really worth it and it’s not the safest way of doing things in reality either.
    Also, if you’re vacationing here you can always just pick up a cheap hairdryer, hair straightener or whatever. They’re very easily available in drug stores like Boots, most large supermarkets, chains like Argos, most small towns will have local electrical retailers that all stock them. They’re certainly no more expensive than the US and you can always use them for any other European vacation as they’ll be 230V 50Hz.

  46. Also, you can pick up a Micro USB mobile phone charger quite cheaply in any mobile phone shop. Same goes for iPhone chargers, just call into an Apple retailer (there are some in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway etc) quite prominently around the place or you can pick them up in most computer stores etc. 
    This is probably easier (often cheaper) and safer than using a pin adaptor.
    For laptops, you can just pick up a power cord without having to change the adaptor. Just drop into a computer shop. Mac power cords can also be swapped for a simple “figure of 8″ connector. These are the common ones that go into the back of your cable box or into audio equipment and look like a “8” shape and are available for a few Euro at most with the correct plug on the end.
    You can also buy a snap-on Irish/UK plug for Apple laptops and iPad chargers from Apple directly although this is a bit pricier.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By How to pack for Ireland on December 16, 2008 at 1:00 am

    […] equipment.áVisitors from Australia and New Zealand only need an adapter. See our article about electricity in Ireland for […]

  2. […] if my MacBook Pro, iPad 2 and iPhone 4 would need any special electrical connections. I quickly found the power supply in Ireland to be 230V and 50Hz, which is far different than the 120V and 60Hz used […]

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