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What is An Electrical Adapter?

written by: Raunekk • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 3/31/2010

An electrical adapter is a small device which facilitates using an electrical appliance and a power outlet with different plug configurations. Electrical adapters is an important device, especially for travellers visiting countries with different plug configurations. Read inside to find more.

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    What is an Electrical Adapter?

    Electrical adapter is a specially designed device which allows using an electrical appliance if its outlet plug configuration does not match with the configuration of power outlet of that particular country. Different countries have different plug configurations for their wall power outlets. For e.g. North America has power outlets with flat pinned plug, whereas Europe and Asia have round pinned power outlets. Thus an electrical adapter allows using an appliance with a plug configuration different from power outlet configuration on the wall.

    However, this also means that if X and Y countries have two different plug configurations then an electrical appliance bought in the country X cannot be used if taken to country Y. However, by using an electrical adapter, the country X appliance can be used in country Y. The electrical appliance can be used by plugging it to the electrical adapter and then plugging the electrical adapter to the wall power outlet. Thus, electrical adapter is an extremely important device, especially for people who keep on travelling in countries with different plug configurations.


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    Types of Electrical Adapters

    Though there are several types of outlet plug configurations around the world, electrical adapters are mainly of two types – Grounded or Un-grounded. Grounded electrical adapters are three pin adapters with one of the pins for earthing, whereas un-grounded adapters are two pin adapters devoid of any earthing connection. It is to note that un-grounded appliances can be used with grounded or un-grounded adapters. However, grounded appliances can only be used with grounded appliances having three pin plugs and a connection for grounding.

    grounded   ungrounded  

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    Important Information

    It is to note that an adapter is only a small device which helps is making two different plugs compatible; however it doesn’t bring any change to the voltage. Thus an adapter only changes the shape of the plug. For changing the voltage, a transformer or converter is to be used. It is extremely important that the user before using an appliance checks about the voltage of the current coming in the power outlet.

    Also, some of the countries have 220V in their power outlet, while others have 110V. There have been many cases in the past, wherein people have used appliances and power outlets with different voltages, considering that an electrical adapter will do the needful. Plugging an electrical appliance meant for 110 V into a power plug of 220 V might lead to unpleasant consequences and even total failure of the device. Thus, special care should be taken while using an imported electrical appliance. However, it is to note that electrical adapters have nothing to do with the voltage differences and can be used in both 110 and 220 V power outlets.

    There are at least 13 different plug configurations around the world. Thus, a frequent traveler will find it difficult to remember the plug configurations of each and every country. For this reason, electrical adapter kits which feature all the main plug configurations are available in the market today. The kits make using of imported appliances extremely easy, especially for frequent travelers. Most of these kits also contain a transformer or converter which helps in using appliances meant for a voltage different from that coming in the power outlet. In order to use a converter, the appliance is first plugged to the converter which is then attached to the adapter. The adapter is then plugged into the power outlet. It is to note that many countries have problems related to current fluctuations and most of the transformers are not able to withstand this, providing a considerable threat to the appliance. For this reason, many people also use a surge protector, especially while using delicate electrical appliances. A surge protector protects the appliances from sudden electrical surges and fluctuations.