RELOCATION: This article is a continuation of last week’s post on ‘Can you use Australian Electrical Goods in the USA?’ As a follow on, here are some guidelines to help decide what items you may be able or want to pack when you relocate.
1. Electrical Goods you probably won’t need
If you are going to be renting a place to live in New Jersey, most properties, house or apartments have a washing machine, a dryer, a refrigerator and some type of internal heating system provided for tenant use. Of course, there are no guarantees but I haven’t seen a rental property in New Jersey where those things weren’t available.
You should still check this is the case before you move in case there are local variations where you are relocating. Even so, it is not advisable to move these bulky, heavy items in the goods to the USA because of the extra shipping cost, the cost of the large transformer you will need to make them work and the absence of spare parts should they break down.
2. Electrical goods to pack: those that can run on a dual voltage system
Some electrical goods can be used in both US and Australia. These goods have a range of voltage range listed as 100v-240v and a frequency range of 50 – 60Hz. These specifications will be provided in the operation manual or on the base plate of the device. It may be written something like: 110/240v and 50/60Hz.
We found a number of our Australian electricals (more correctly electronics) had this flexibility and just needed an adaptor plug to work. This included a Playstation; laptop, printers and scanners; TV and portable video players. Our mobile phones, camera battery chargers, iPods, iPads and similar small electricals were also easily used with an adaptor plug.
3. Electrical Goods to be reviewed: can they be run with a converter/ transformer?
If your electricals don’t have dual voltage, then assessing their likely usability becomes harder. Some appliances can be run off US electricity with a convertor or step-up transformer to handle the voltage differences. Converters are usually OK to use for simple electricals: things that are simple heating devices or have a mechanical motor. This may include some hair dryers, steam irons, shavers, toothbrushes or small fans. Convertors are only designed to be used for an hour or two maximum.
Transformers in comparison can be used for much longer duration. They are specifically needed though to use electronic devices: items that have a chip or circuitry e.g. desktop computers, printers, fax, TVs, CD/ DVD/Blue-Ray players and camcorder battery rechargers. Transformers are also better to use for items with big power usage, although there comes a tipping point when you have to weigh up large wattage versus the size of the transformer needed. Be careful when working out wattage capacity that a transformer will need. Some equipment requires higher capacity wattage due to surge levels during operation. Review your technical instructions in your manual carefully.
While they are not listed here, we actually took our own desk lamps and bedside table lights because we were so attached to them. These also run fine off transformers. The cost of transformers varies depending on the size used. This can be anything from US $20 for a 100W Step up/down transformer to $90 for a 1500W Step up/down transformer.
The downsides of transformers are that they are heavy, are bulky, have a tendency to heat up while operating and are reasonably expensive. You will need to work out if the convenience of taking your own electricals (those suitable) outweighs the cost and inconvenience of using such a transformer.
4. Electrical Goods to be left at home: those that have problems even with a convertor /transformer
Here is where it gets grey. Even when the voltage differences are accounted for there may still be issues with electricals not working reliably. The differences in frequency (Hz) may affect some of these appliances working safely and effectively even with the right sized transformer.
Opinion varies a lot on what appliances this may include. Clock Radios, dishwashers, laundry washing machines, mixers and anything with a motor or heater have been listed as potentially problematic by various sources.
However, I have my doubts about any medium to high wattage household appliances. We left behind most of our appliances including our high wattage hairdryer, steam iron, toaster, sandwich toaster, blender, mix master, microwave oven and blender. They possibly could have been used with convertors or transformers but then the cost of the transformer becomes prohibitive versus purchasing new appliances. And more importantly, I was nervous about how they would work. I didn’t fancy having something blow up or burn out while I was using it!
Where there is a doubt, I am firmly of the opinion, it’s better to err on the conservative side. So these were left behind and new US appliances purchased instead. Fortunately, these appliances are often cheaper in the US than in Australia. The final decision whether to take something or not though, will be yours to make.
5. Electrical Goods that won’t operate because they aren’t compatible formats with the US
Cross-regional compatibility issues affect TVs, DVD/Blu-Ray players, DVDs, Blu-Ray discs and video games. Working out whether they can be used in the USA is a complex and often confusing subject to grasp because of the multitude of nuances. PAL vs NTSC, regions, voltage differences, tuners… it’s enough to give you a headache. It was precisely because of this type of neural torture that I wanted to make it easier for others to get a grasp on this subject. If you are interested in learning more about these compatability issues, the major differences were covered in my previous post: ‘What Australian electrical goods can you use in the US?’.
When assessing compatibility, the key specifications you need to check in your electrical entertainment gear are:
- Dual voltage and frequency capability
- Ability to play region-free discs and dual formats of PAL and NTSC (DVD and Blue-Ray player)
- Region-locked or region-free status of video game hardware
Aside from checking your equipment specifications thoroughly, there are few ways to guarantee your equipment will work in Australia and the USA.
One way is to purchase a multi-format TV. These are usually more costly but can play TV from several regions and have dual voltage and frequency capacities. The equivalent for a DVD or Blue-Ray player would be a multi-format player that is region-free, so that it can play discs from any region. Video game hardware, from my knowledge, doesn’t seem to have multi-format options available.
If you don’t fancy laying out money for a multi-region system, give some thought to how your Australian TV may be useful. As long as it has dual voltage and frequency capacity, it may be capable of some basic functions. As mentioned last week, we ended up taking our Australian TV and even though we can’t tune in to the broadcast version of US TV, we were able to use it to:
- Access Netflix,
- Receive US cable TV,
- Play both US and Australian DVDs on our Australian DVD player,
- Play Australian video games on the Australian PS2 we took across.
All we needed to make this equipment work was an adaptor plug, and the usual connector plugs for the DVD player and Playstation. There were many advantages to taking the TV, not the least being our son was able to still keep using Australian video games, while we started to build an American game library.
There is no simple guideline that can be provided to help you decide whether to take something or not. You need to check each item for compatibility by looking at the model you have and it’s system specifications. If in doubt, always contact the manufacturer.
The aim of this post and the previous one, was to provide some clarity on whether it’s worthwhile to take your Australian appliances and other electronic equipment, when relocating to the USA. Although it’s impossible to give a clear answer on every item, at least you now have a starting point to start making some decisions.
Have you taken any appliances from home with you when relocating overseas? If you did, what was your experience using them?