Power converters for Brazil

What is the difference between a converter and a transformer?

Voltage converter

What is the difference between a converter and a transformer?

Converters and transformers are both used to change one voltage to another, but this ambiguity can cause confusion as their purposes are different:

  • Power converters are designed for simple electrical appliances which typically generate heat or use motors such as clothes irons, shavers or hair dryers. Transformers are designed for more complex electronic items such as televisions or games consoles.
  • Buying a power converter is cheaper than buying a power transformer.
  • Power transformers are larger and heavier making them more suited for permanent residential use; for example an expat wishing to use an imported television would need to use a transformer for this purpose.
  • Power converters are more suitable for travellers wishing to bring domestic appliances abroad such as hair dryers or flat irons. However, it is more practical and cost effective to purchase a dual voltage appliance designed for travel rather than a heavier power converter.
  • Power converters are suitable for 2 pin ungrounded appliances, it could be harder to find a converter if you want to use a grounded 3 pin appliance.
  • Transformers can be used constantly however it is recommended that converters are used for no longer than a couple of hours at a time.
  • Shops may sell transformers under the name of converters, for the purposes this guide we will be referring to both converters and transformers as converters.
What voltage is my appliance?

Single voltage hair straighteners

What voltage is my appliance?

The easiest method to see if a appliance is dual voltage is to look for numbers printed on the power plug or on the unit itself, typically near to where the power cord plugs into. The location will vary depending on the make or model of your appliance and could also state in the instruction manual.

  • Single voltage devices could have a specific number - such as 220V.
  • Single voltage devices could also have a small voltage range (around 20 volts) with a dash to accomodate small voltage fluctuations - such as 100-120V.
  • Dual voltage devices will typically say a large voltage range separated with a slash - such as 110/240V.

  1. Wikipedia - Wikipedia entry about Brazil.
  2. iec.ch - International Electrotechnical Commission World Plugs
  3. Step down power converter - A step down power converter allows a 100-120 volt appliance to be used in a 220-240 volt power outlet, under C$120.