It 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
|Ireland & UK||230v||50hz||3 square pins|
|Most of Europe||230v||50Hz||2 round pins|
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
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.