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Moving back to UK - changing plugs on electrical appliances

(19 Posts)
PigletJohn Sat 23-Feb-13 11:46:35

European countries have standardised on a nominal voltage of 230v give or take a bit.

However, they didn't actually change their voltages. Countries like the UK, where the actual voltage is 240v give or take a bit, left it at 240v, and countries where it is 220v, give or take a bit, left it at 220v.

The allowable tolerances have been deliberately drawn widely enough that all the actual voltages fit within the allowable band.

The UK electricity supply industry does not want to drop the actual voltage down from 240V because it would cost a lot in cabling and also supply losses would increase.

If you actually measure the electricity in your house (I have) you will find it is actually 240v but varies a bit depending on time of day and how far you are from your substation.

It doesn't matter to you, except that Belgian light bulbs will burn a bit brighter and not last so long over here. Energy Saving lamps (CFLs) are tolerant of voltage differences, and so is pretty well everything else.

specialsubject Sat 23-Feb-13 09:57:08

UK voltage is 230V +/- 10%, Belgium is 230V. Everything will work.

you might make life easier by buying a new kettle, they aren't expensive and due to the high load they can't share an extension lead with anything else.

PigletJohn Sat 23-Feb-13 09:53:41

BTW anything you plug into a UK socket must be fused. Due to the different design of UK circuits they have more power (Amps) available which is why the fuse in the UK plug means the same socket can be suitable for a 3Amp blender or a 13Amp tumble drier.

PigletJohn Sat 23-Feb-13 09:45:28

If there is no earth wire in the flex then the appliance will be unearthed whichever country you use it in, and whether you use a plug or an adaptor.

Double-insulated appliances (identified with a symbol of a square within a square) do not need to be earthed.

UK plugs and sockets always have an earth available even if the appliance does not need it. A 2-core flex with no earth wire is connected to the L and N pins of the plug only.

NichyNoo Sat 23-Feb-13 07:26:57

We have multi-socket extension leads but the appliances won't all be in the same room so that won't really help.

I'm happy to put UK plugs on everything but I'm guessing that if the cable leading from the appliance doesn't have an earth wire then the appliance won't be earthed hence the danger? Or does the fuse in the UK plug solve this problem?

I know the chances of an unearthed appliance causing a house fire and invalidating our insurance is very slim but I have an irrational fear of house fires which is why I am worried.

I guess the only other option is to get rid of all European appliances and re-buy in the UK but this would cost a fortune.

Southwest Sat 23-Feb-13 01:54:17

I thought it was the wires but then again its a long time since I've looked inside a plug

I feel a bit sad about that my Dad taught me how to do all sorts of things, I can lay lino, change plugs, put up wallpaper, check my oil and tyres, apint things

my useless husband can do none of them

PigletJohn Sat 23-Feb-13 01:18:20

Used to be called live and neutral, but by another perspective the N is also a live conductor.

In current UK convention, Brown wire is L and Blue is N, in domestic installations, and may be marked on connectors in plugs and switches, but there are other conventions which you will not normally come across

Southwest Sat 23-Feb-13 00:59:03

What is an L and N connector please?

PigletJohn Sat 23-Feb-13 00:52:20

two things

1 - the fuse in the plug will blow if there is a fault big enough to draw a current which exceeds its rating by about 50%.
So it is better to have a fuse near to the design load of the appliance. A fuse alone will not prevent you being electrocuted in the unlikely event of you touching a part which has become live.

2 - it is very preferable to have an RCD protecting the circuit, which will trip in the event of a fault to earth, fast enough to prevent a shock being fatal. It will not protect you if you are insulated from earth, and simultaneously touch a L and N connection. RCDs should be tested at least quarterly, or preferably monthly, by pressing the "T" or "test" button. If not regularly tested they may stick or seize.

In any event, you will not be electrocuted unless there is a fault which causes a metal part, which you can touch, to become live, and you are simultaneously in contact with a N conductor or Earth. European electrical safety standards on older appliances may not be identical to UK standards, but on modern appliances they are comparable or equivalent.

montmartre Sat 23-Feb-13 00:38:12

I would be worried about fitting the to UK plugs without an earth wire- how will they prevent electricution? (because the fuse goes across the live wire to prevent it perhaps???)

PigletJohn Sat 23-Feb-13 00:28:30

plugs are very cheap and easy to change. I can't see any benefit in using adaptors. Once you have got your screwdriver, strippers and wire cutters out you can do heaps of them in an hour.

Buy a selection of fuses as well, new plugs usually come with a 13A fuse fitted, which you need for a kettle, toaster or washing machine. Small appliances without a heating element, and table or standard lamps, will be better on a 3A or a 5A fuse. If you can see the rating plate it will tell you the amps, or the Wattage.

Most European countries have a voltage in the region of 220v, and the UK is usually in the region of 240V. Kettles will boil slightly faster, lamps will be slightly brighter and will have a slightly shorter life. Electric heaters, irons and ovens will warm up faster but will use no more electricity provided they have thermostats to turn them down once the temperature is reached.

US and Canadian appliances are unsuitable for use in Europe (including UK) due to the lower voltage and different phasing on large appliances.

Talkinpeace Fri 22-Feb-13 21:16:14

bulk pack of adapters ....

dikkertjedap Fri 22-Feb-13 18:31:38

EU appliances are roughly same voltage as UK, no problem there.

ChunkyPickle Fri 22-Feb-13 18:27:10

No - US products are, Japanese too I think (although some are dual voltage) Euro, and a lot of Asian stuff works at the same voltage - it's just the plug that's sometimes different (had a complete mix when living in Malaysia - you never knew if you were getting a euro or UK plug when you bought something and just had to have lots of adaptors/know how to fool the socket with a chopstick).

PolterGoose Fri 22-Feb-13 18:20:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChunkyPickle Fri 22-Feb-13 18:08:25

If they're the unearthed 2 pin-type plugs (as opposed to the round ones with 2 pins, then two ribbon-like bits at the sides) then nothing you're going to do is going to earth them..

We've always taken dikkertjedap's solution for stuff - made sure we came home with a few multi-plug extensions. Only changed the plug on a few bits and pieces that it was more hassle to use the extension with.

I have no idea about the insurance - there's plenty of UK things that aren't earthed though - just look at the plugs which have a plastic 3rd pin (stuff like lamps normally)

dikkertjedap Fri 22-Feb-13 18:01:42

Buy a few continental multiple socket extension leads and at the end of the extension lead replace the plug with a UK one. This is much safer than lots of adapters as they can be a fire hazard and some can invalidate house insurance.

For those appliances you are going to use a lot and which are unlikely to be replaced in the near future I would change the plug. Most continental appliances have plugs which are earthed (hence the two metal pins in the plug).

lalalonglegs Fri 22-Feb-13 17:47:01

Could you buy a load of adaptors instead? It would be safer.

NichyNoo Fri 22-Feb-13 17:36:03

We're moving back to the UK from Belgium in a month. We have lots of electrical appliances that we will take back with us (microwave, kettle, lamps, electric razors, TV, DVD player etc.). These all have continental two-prong plugs that do not have the 'earth' in the plug like in the UK.

Can we simply replace the plugs with UK-style plugs? I am concerned that this means they won't be earthed. Apparently some appliances are earthed inside the appliance but I can't find reference to this in the appliance instructions. I'm concerned that if we have a house fire in the UK, the fact that our appliances aren't earthed via the plug will invalidate the insurance.....

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