electricity

 
 

Electricity in Budapest is the European standard…220 Volt with the two round prongs and generally recessed sockets.  Here is what a typical socket looks like:




If you are traveling from a country like the USA with a different voltage standard and different outlets/plugs, here is what you need to know to operate any gizmos you happen to have brought along and feel are essential to the quality of your life:


In order to get electricity out of the wall and into your gizmo there are two, separate, requirements: the voltage needs to be acceptable to your gizmo (if it is not, you will likely fry the gizmo and, perhaps, set fire to your loved ones); and, separately, the plug from your gizmo somehow has to fit the receptacle on the wall.  These two requirements are dealt with either separately (voltage conversion is done by a CONVERTER that ‘steps down’ the 220 voltas to 110; making the plug fit the holes is done by an ADAPTER; sometimes, converters also function as adapters, sometimes they don’t; adapters never function as converters).


HERE IS THE BIG DANGER IN CONFUSING THESE TWO SEPARATE TYPES OF DOODAD: it is possible to make your gizmo’s plug fit into the wall without changing the voltage.  If you do that and your gizmo requires 110 volts, it’s bye-bye gizmo.  If, on the other hand, you have a gizmo that works with both 110 and 220, and you plug it into a converter rather than an adapter (an easy mistake to make if your converter also functions as an adapter), the chip in your gizmo that decides whether it is getting 110 or 220 will get confused and anxious and frustrated, causing it to heat up and potentially fry the gizmo (and perhaps those standing nearby).  SO the first thing to do, before you do anything else is ascertain what voltage your gizmo needs, and use a converter if, and only if, you have to modify the voltage.


Many small electronic gadgets work with anything from 110 to 240 volts.  Those are very flexible doodads, and many laptop power supplies and many cell phone power adapters fall into that category.  YOU NEED TO KNO WHETHER YOURS DOES.  All power supplies for laptops, mobile phones, PDAs, iPods, and the like tell you somewhere on them (sometimes in very tiny type and sometimes it’s just in raised letters in very tiny type, black on black, but it’s there) how many volts (input) and how many watts (input) the device requires.


If your device will accept 220 Volts USE AN ADAPTER to change the plug at the end to one that will fit into the receptacles in the apartment.  DO NOT USE A CONVERTER, which may well get confused (or confuse your gizmo), causing it to overheat, melt, give off toxic fumes, and otherwise act in an anti-social manner.  Here are four adapters that are commonly available.  They are basically interchangeable…though the two on the left will accept almost any plug as an input, while the two on the right will only accommodate US and European plugs.  (Why use an adapter for a European plug, you may ask?  Because many sockets are recessed and grounded and some  devices will not fit into them, like the COBY converter two photos below, without an additional adapter.)




Now here are two adapters that are disguised as replacement power cables for many laptop power supplies (different power supplies have different cables; these are two of the most common; using a power cable with a European plug on the end will successfully ADAPT your doodad). REMEMBER, just using one of these does not convert the power from 220 to 110.  Your gizmo must accept 220 volts to use one of these safely by itself.




If your device requires 110-120 Volts, you need not just an adapter but also a converter.  TO USE A CONVERTER YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW MANY WATTTS YOUR GIZMO EATS FOR LUNCH.  Here are three different levels of converter:


      


Note that the one on the left (stupidly designed by COBY) will not plug directly into a recessed outlet even though it has a European plug; you need to use an adapter to extend the reach of this into a recessed outlet, any of the adapters above will do the trick. 


Again, before using a converter, you must check the watt requirements of your gizmo.  If they are more than the converter allows, the converter will overheat, melt, short out, and potentially burn the place down.  I would prefer that you avoided that result.  The converters are marked with the maximum number of watts they will accept.  Your doodad should also be marked with how many watts it draws.


If you are in doubt, or confused, or scared, please err on the side of caution. 




 

Preaching to the converted.  And the adapted.