Electrical Adapter and Converter
by Benjamin Breedlove
(Texas City, TX, USA)
I live in America. I will be visiting Switzerland in a month and I have a question regarding the electrical adapter and/or converter that I need to purchase to power my electrical devices such a laptop, CPAP system (for sleep apnea) and my daughters curling iron.
I heard that Switzerland has 220V while we use 110V here. The hotel that I am going to in Switzerland has a power connection with 2 holes. My laptop and CPAP system has 3 prongs, so what do I need to do to use them in there?
You did a good job asking the hotel about specifics. Unfortunately, many of the older and smaller hotels as well as B&Bs still only have wall sockets with two holes.
In your case, you need a so-called non-grounded plug – an electrical adapter with two rounded prongs (this plug can also be used in wall outlets with 3 holes, should you change your hotel).
"Read the Labels"
To make sure you buy the right plug for Switzerland’s 230Volt system, read the electrical specifications embossed or printed on the back or side of your items.
A simple electrical adapter
works just fine for most rechargeable electronics such as laptop computer, cell phone, camera, iPod, etc., (they operate on DC = Direct Current electricity).
For example, the electrical nameplate for my battery charger states:
- Input: 100-240V ~50/80 Hz
so a simple two rounded prong electrical adapter
is all I need (the same applies to my laptop, cell phone and iPod).
If your daughter’s curling iron is a dual voltage item (in other words, if it has a 240Volt switch), it only needs a simple electrical adapter
. If it is a high power electrical curler (1400 Watts and more), then she would need a transformer.
Your CPAP system could very well be a high power item that needs a voltage transformer
, unless it has a built in dual voltage system. Again, read the specifications on the back to be sure. A two-prong adapter fits into a three-hole wall socket.
For high power appliances, you will need a transformer.
The common travellers transformer with an output of 50 watt can be used for your daughter’s high power curling iron, but read the specification to be sure.
If she travels frequently, an alternative would be a cordless travel curling iron
. Although it is cheap, she’d need refill cartridges and I don’t know how long they last.
Your sleep apnea device tough will run for hours and therefore I would recommend looking into a transformer that is rated for at least twice the wattage that is written on the nameplate of your CPAP system. I don’t know which system you have, but I doubt that it is a dual voltage travel item (that only would need a simple electrical adapter).Do not use a Converter
. Even if you use the correct wattage that is written on your appliances, converters are very unstable and they can fry your appliances. You don't want that for your sleep apnea system.
Make sure your appliances are rated for 50 and
60 Hz cycles. Transformers designed only for one frequency - 50 or
60 - could overheat and burn out your item.
How to know which electrical adapter works?
If the electrical specifications on the nameplate of your items state:
- 110-220 volts, 50/60 Hz, 200 watts (2 amps) or less, then you can use a simple electrical adapter
and/or a 250 volt universal surge strip
. Most likely, you want to charge your chargeable items (laptop, batteries for camera, cell-phone) over night. Most older hotels don’t have enough outlets in the rooms. If you take more than just your laptop, I recommend bringing a universal surge strip
with you – in most cases they have a built in surge protector which helps as well in case of unstable power. You still need the two prongs adapter with it.
- 110-220 volts, 50/60 Hz, 200 watts (2 amps) or more, then bring a simple electrical adapter
with you, but don’t use a surge strip
- 110 volts and 60 Hz , 25 watts (1/4 amps) or less, then buy a 50 to 60 watt transformer
with a Swiss two rounded prong plug in.
- 110 volts and 60 Hz, 26 watts (1/4 amps) or more, then the appliance is not fit for travel
220 volt applies for voltages between 200 and 250 volts.
Where to buyAt Home:
Many department stores and electrical specialty stores, travel agents and luggage retailers offer electrical adapters. But make sure you know exactly what you need, because most store clerks don’t know anything about it (my personal experience).Internet:
There are many online stores (amongst them Amazon) that sell both, electrical adapters and transformers. Again, make sure what you need before you hit the buy button.
I tried to find the two rounded prong non-grounded adapter
at Amazon for you, but couldn’t find one. Although the "VCT – PLUG ADAPTER – CONVERST GROUNDED USA PLUGS TO EUROPE PLUG-GERMAN SHUCKO PLUG 9(VP 11w}" has two prongs, do not buy this electrical adapter
because it doesn’t fit into Swiss wall sockets (the prongs are slightly "fatter" than the Swiss prongs). Plugs should be marked "+S" for use in Switzerland.Airports:
- Duty free shops at your departure airport carry electrical adapters, but if you need a transformer for your sleep apnea system, don't rely on finding one there. Chances are, they don’t have what you need.
- If you only need a simple electrical adapter
, you can buy one at the Airport in Zürich at the Manor Papeterie. Open from 8am to 9pm. See store location below. Tip:
I suspect that you are staying in an older hotel (most newer ones have 3 prong wall sockets). Make sure your daughter can plug in her – probably high power - curling iron
in the bathroom wall socket. If there’s only a socket integrated in the light fixture at the "medicine cabinet" above the sink, chances are, she will not get enough "juice" out of it to make it hot enough. This socket is only meant for razors. To be on the safe side, ask at the desk if it can be plugged in or not.
Enjoy your trip to Switzerland!