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Thread: Step down transformers for US appliances - for us, not worth it

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Step down transformers for US appliances - for us, not worth it

    We cleared out almost all of our US appliances before loading our container. Happily, many of the newer things for the entertainment center were suitable for use in NZ, but none of the kitchen things. I did keep a couple of favorites, my Instant Pot and slow cooker, with the idea that we could get one transformer for kitchen use, and maybe one for our PS3 or office. We did just that, but my Instant Pot is 1000W, so the transformer that could handle that ended up being the size of a toaster. In our reduced size kitchen, that alone was nearly a deal breaker. They were also quite expensive. And yes, there's a hum.

    But the actual reason we ended up returning them was surprising. They STANK!!! The plastic housing has some serious off-gasing going on. We left them in the sun room with windows open for like a week so it wouldn't stink up the house, but they never seemed to get less noxious. When we put them back in the original packaging, even the cardboard box still smelled really gross, even after sitting in the garage with nothing in it.

    I suppose you could find a good one through trial and error, but it really wasn't worth our time or mental energy, and it's just as reasonable to buy new appliances as it is to shell out for the transformer, really. Unless you have something irreplaceable or for some reason sentimental (mom's KitchenAid? I dunno), I wouldn't bother.

    Briscoe's has frequent sales on homewares, so much so that if something isn't on sale, you should just check back next week and it probably will be 50% off :-P

  2. #2
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    Oh, and of course picking up used electronics on TradeMe or Facebook Marketplace is a good option, too.

  3. #3
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    Very interesting experience. We also decided against transformers, for counter space and hassle reasons. One more appliance to deal with? No thanks. Replacing the Vitamix and the KitchenAid stand mixer in NZ hurt the wallet, but we sold the US ones, and got new ones on sale. A transformer taking up space on the counter (and humming and smelling!) isn't worth it unless the item is irreplaceable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniper View Post
    Oh, and of course picking up used electronics on TradeMe or Facebook Marketplace is a good option, too.

  4. #4
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    I have been using transformers in Europe for 110V step down for many years, and never noticed an issue with smell or performance. The only minor issue that I have is with a 2000W transformer that makes an irritating low-pitched noise when connected. Of course all of the transformers that I am using have solid metal cases and are stamped with "West Germany" as their country of manufacture.

    They work well for solid-state electrics, but generally should be avoided for things with AC motors. But, a 20 year old laser printer has been connected to one for more than half of its life and it still works fine.

    Regarding your PlayStation 3, I believe that it is generally known that PS3's have a dual voltage power supply which allows them to run directly from 110v or 220v sources, regardless of what is stamped on the unit. There's plenty of discussion elsewhere on the web if you'd like to investigate further.

  5. #5
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    I use a solitary transformer with a power bar attached to it for TV devices: Amazon Fire, a cheap multimedia PC, and something else that escapes me at the moment.

    But just got a 220/240 Instant Pot from amazon.co.uk. Shipping to NZ saves around 25 in VAT, but the shipping was 50. All up it worked out to around NZD220. Worth it to me. But all my accesories came from the US amazon store.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by diallta View Post

    Regarding your PlayStation 3, I believe that it is generally known that PS3's have a dual voltage power supply which allows them to run directly from 110v or 220v sources, regardless of what is stamped on the unit. There's plenty of discussion elsewhere on the web if you'd like to investigate further.
    Hey, it worked! Thanks :-)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by diallta View Post
    I have been using transformers in Europe for 110V step down for many years, and never noticed an issue with smell or performance. The only minor issue that I have is with a 2000W transformer that makes an irritating low-pitched noise when connected. Of course all of the transformers that I am using have solid metal cases and are stamped with "West Germany" as their country of manufacture.

    They work well for solid-state electrics, but generally should be avoided for things with AC motors. But, a 20 year old laser printer has been connected to one for more than half of its life and it still works fine.

    Regarding your PlayStation 3, I believe that it is generally known that PS3's have a dual voltage power supply which allows them to run directly from 110v or 220v sources, regardless of what is stamped on the unit. There's plenty of discussion elsewhere on the web if you'd like to investigate further.
    One exception to the gaming console power adapters is the Nintendo Wii. I've recently bought a 240VAC Wii power adapter 2nd hand off TradeMe as my original US 120VAC one was being flakey with the step down transformer. For $10 I could not complain. If your PS3 power adapter does not specifically have in print for multivoltage use (ie 90-250VAC) but only say 120VAC, I would not trust it to use in NZ. While it may work, it may not be tested safe for 240 voltages and could pose an even greater risk ; catching on fire! I would not without a chance leave it connected to house mains power indefinitely.

    NOT ALL transformers are the same. Your early German made transformer would be of quality build and i'm certain would of cost a fair bit of $ at the time. But there is caution. Most of these early transformers (say pre-1990s) used carcinogenic chemicals inside, particularly the varnish used to to coat the windings, known as PCB https://www.epa.gov/pcbs/learn-about...biphenyls-pcbs
    It's when the transformer gets hot and is in use, the off-gassing from the PCB occurs.

    As for the 1st post. A device using 1KW is serious power in the realm of using a power transformer. Not only it would be like the size of a toaster but it would also be quite heavy. Some go to the effort of having their home internal wiring and sockets changed for the lower voltage (by having the transformer wired up away ie by the garage switch panel). Great effort for the dedicated person not wanting to depart with their beloved appliances.

    On a personal experience i've purchased this transformer off TradeMe : https://www.trademe.co.nz/electronic...2057591208.htm

    We purchased an RV fridge/freezer in NZ and took it over to Canada to be installed in our old RV there. Yes it was quite the journey and commitment. Word of wise, Air NZ does not allow pre-booking & payment for additional check-in luggage, they informed it could ONLY be done at the time of check AT the airport and is a 1st come 1st serve basis pending on available space. Anyways, for $40NZD I wasn't expecting much and it would be a far cheaper option than to replace the heating element inside for 120VAC. Does the transformer smell? Not that I could tell when I last tested so those looking can choose this particular transformer.

  8. #8
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    Good advice re: fire risk for the PS3, thanks.

  9. #9
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    I shipped my digital piano from Canada and bought a step down isolating transformer from Jaycar, costs $209! My piano costs 5K so I don't mind to pay a good quality transformer so that it doesn't fry the electronics. 2.5 years later, the transformer still works fine but digital piano doesn't really use that much power. However, I did throw away my Canadian Dyson vacuum cleaner because it used too much power and not worth using a transformer. One thing I did right is that, I bought along my 110V power extension cord so that I can have the transformer connected to the extension cord to power more than one 110V appliances.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Super_BQ View Post
    If your PS3 power adapter does not specifically have in print for multivoltage use (ie 90-250VAC) but only say 120VAC, I would not trust it to use in NZ. While it may work, it may not be tested safe for 240 voltages and could pose an even greater risk ; catching on fire! I would not without a chance leave it connected to house mains power indefinitely.
    It's been my experience that all PS3 units, regardless of country of sale, have a fully compliant 100V-240V power supply, regardless of what the sticker on the bottom of the assembled unit itself shows. There is no more risk of it catching fire connected to 220V as it is connected to 110V, and my unit labeled for 110V power has been connected to 220V for almost a decade. Certainly this is unusual--most devices are correctly labeled, the PS3 is an exception, and I've got no idea why Sony did this.

    If an appliance or device isn't rated for 220V power and you connect it as such, you're going to know immediately when you hear a pop and the magic smoke comes out. I've accidentally destroyed a few things this way over the years. It's not going to work for a while and then spontaneously combust later. The only exception to this is 110V surge suppressors, which should never be connected to a transformer, as they may continuously shunt current from the supply to ground as a 'surge,' and can heat up, fail, and yes, potentially cause a fire.

    If you're not convinced regarding the PS3 then you can see here in the third picture on step 12, and even disassemble your own unit yourself for a look: https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Play...+Teardown/1121

    Quote Originally Posted by Super_BQ View Post
    NOT ALL transformers are the same. Your early German made transformer would be of quality build and i'm certain would of cost a fair bit of $ at the time. But there is caution. Most of these early transformers (say pre-1990s) used carcinogenic chemicals inside, particularly the varnish used to to coat the windings, known as PCB https://www.epa.gov/pcbs/learn-about...biphenyls-pcbs
    It's when the transformer gets hot and is in use, the off-gassing from the PCB occurs.
    For what it's worth I use a 2.000 watt transformer and a 1.600 watt transformer typically at under 20% of their rated capacity and neither ever even get warm with my typical usage. So this is no doubt a risk, but I'm guessing one that's far less than the risk from the diesel particulate I breathe in every day on my way to the office or from the off-gassing from my mouth full of mercury amalgam fillings each time I have a sip of coffee.

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