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Saturday, August 2, 2014

My get ready for Australian power / Will my TV, computer, device or appliance work in Australia?? guide

Australian power is 230 Volts and 50 Hz.  A medium sized plug is used that looks like you took a three prong US / Canadian plug and bent two of the flat blades of the plug out...as per below.  The wall plugs are also always switched like you see in England.

This is not a voltage change if you are coming from most of the world with 220-240Volt power. In that case you either use a plug adapter (see a paragraph below) or cut the plugs off and buy a rewireable Australian plug at your local Bunnings, Masters or electrical wholesaler. Wire it up (or hire an electrician to do it) and you're good to go.

Rewireable plugs are easy to buy at Bunnings, Masters or many other shops

North American electrical items are a bigger problem.  Our kitchen appliances, stereo receivers and most TV's (more on TV's later) are 120 V - 60 Hz.  Unless you plan to plug in a big step down transformer rated to handle the power requirement they're not going to work in Australia.  For this reason, we have a whole pile of really nice small kitchen appliances sitting in a big wooden box in Canada.  I regret not bringing our stereo receiver and speakers as they're pretty expensive here but otherwise that seems like it was a good decision. I also don't like the idea of big step down transformers sitting around the house.

A relatively small step down transformer with US / Canada / European outputs.

Computer / tech gear is a different scenario.  Most computers*, laptops, monitors, cellular/mobile phones and other computer peripherals in general have auto switching / universal power packs.  My electric razor was also fine.  You can tell by looking at the power pack which should say something like 100-240V AC 50/60Hz.  If you see this range you are good to go and just need the plug adapter.  We did have a couple of computer items that were a problem including the printer and pc speakers but everything else was fine.  One small technicality to note is that electrical items "should" have the Australian "check mark" as shown below in order to be used here.  I have found that most electronic gear has it, but some may not.

*Be a little careful with desktop computers which may require you flick a switch to enter 230V mode.

Quickly on Australian plug adapters....we originally bought a 10 pack of US/Canada to Australian plug adapters on eBay.  While these have filled a gap, the quality is really suspect (honestly, they're terrible!) and some of them either don't stay plugged in or don't hold the plug you are trying to adapt.  They will move electrons across but consider yourself warned.  The more expensive ones such as Korjo (readily available at airports and Dick Smiths) definitely work a LOT better.

I love the "High Quality" comment.  Buyer beware on these eBay Australian plug adapters.
These adapters from Korjo are readily available and work excellent at a price.

The even better solution has been (where possible) buying the correct IEC power cords (some people call these kettle leads or cords).  I always knew that computers seemed to use the same style of cables but I didn't realize that they were part of global standards, easily available with any countries plug end and relatively inexpensive.  As per the chart below which I shortened to focus only on some of the more common cords, the ones you likely have are the C5-which is usually your laptop, the C7-this was on one of my scanners and apparently is used for for some appliances and the most common C13-which is used on TV's, monitors, printers, desktop computers and more.  For some reason when you buy the cables they refer to the female end even though you're buying the male end.

I did a quick survey of all of my tech gear and found that I was easily able to create a shopping list of all of the cables I needed.  I used website www.4cabling.com.au  which has all of the cables with Australian plug ends for approx $5.00 per piece and ridiculously good service.  The cables themselves are perfect.  For the 10 dollar shipping fee I had my plugs in Perth the next day.  There were a number of options with the cheapest being eBay but I decided I didn't want to chance it on these.

An example of an IEC power cord for my PC.

The result is we're down to just 3 US / Canada plugs-my electric shaver which will cost almost as much to buy a new plug as a new razor (note to self, buy a new razor, you never get a decent shave anymore), a Bose stereo plug which has an interchangeable plug but I can't find them, and one iPad charger which could easily be replaced from the Apple monsters.  Don't ask me why, but these projects make me smile.  (Note to self, get help)

** Exceptions you need to know about:

Wireless home phones (not cellular / mobile phones) from the US / Canada cannot be used here as they use a different frequency which is causes a conflict in Australia.  I never tried and don't suggest it.  See my post on my awesome voip phone for what I use here.

Television broadcasts have different standards in different parts of the world.  That said will always work as monitors from computers or same standard DVD players (assuming they have universal power or you buy a large enough step down transformer) but US/Canadian TV's will very likely not be able to play broadcast television.   We ended up leaving 2 big plasma TV's in that big wooden box.  For other countries see below the current digital standards around the world.

Some helpful links:

Want to know what power your country or any country has... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mains_electricity_by_country

More on IEC standard cables.... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEC_60320

A good discussion on bringing a US / Canadian TV to Australia (the summary-don't bother) http://www.avsforum.com/forum/25-hdtv-technical/1390270-possible-bring-us-cdn-tv-australia-atsc-dvb-t.html

About the digital television standard DVB-T that Australia uses: DVB-T and Countries using it