What Australian Electrical Goods should you take to the USA?

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.

washing-machine-and-dryer-in-nj-houses

Most rented houses and apartments in New Jersey have a washing machine and dryer provided. The machines pictured were provided in our current rented house free of charge.

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.

Using-our-Australian-portable-DVD-player-in-the-USA

We use our portable Australian DVD player, connected to our Australian TV, to watch Aussie DVDs that we brought along with us, as well as USA DVDs. It has dual voltage and frequency, so just needs 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.

step-up-step-down-transformer

A typical step-up/step-down transformer. This can be used in both Australia (for using US electricals) and in the USA (for using Australian electricals). This is only a small watt capacity transformer. Much larger versions are needed for high wattage electricals and electronics. This transformer is 8cm high, 9cm wide, and 13cm deep; weighs 1.4kg and handles less than 100w e.g. a desk lamp.

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.

microwave-ovens-are-cheaper-to-buy-in-the-USA

This version of the Panasonic Microwave oven is a lot cheaper to buy here in the USA, at US$139.99 versus the $247 pricetag I saw it advertised for online in Australia.

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.

    using-an-Australian-TV-in-the-USA

    We use our Australian TV here in the USA to watch Netflix, Australian and US DVDs, and to get US cable TV.

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.

Your Takeout

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?

 

Related Posts

What Australian electrical goods can you use in the US?

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5 thoughts on “What Australian Electrical Goods should you take to the USA?

  1. Interesting- we bought our lamps from Australia with some picked up along the way in both Hong Kong and South Africa and they work here without any converters, just with plugs changed. I usually find that things from elsewhere work OK but never trust anything from US in another country because nearly everywhere else has higher voltage and they don’t seem to make dual voltage things here. Friends in South Africa were thrilled to get a ‘white noise’ maker on a trip home (to the US) but forgot about the voltage difference and on the first night nearly caused a little fire in their house in Durban. We also have our HK tv here – just connected to cable and gaming devices, although one is a US one. I cringe though when I think of the appliances we have bought and where we may move next and cannot take with us. Ahh time with tell.

    • Thanks for the comment Nikki:) We tried our lights w’out the transformer but no luck. It seems hit and miss what can work when the frequency rating is different at 50Hz vs 60Hz. I tried using an Australian hairdryer a while back here. Although it turned on, it just ran at the wrong speed and did nothing pretty much.Fortunately I picked up a dual voltage one (has a switch);more of a travel hairdryer but it works fab. I was also suprised to find a couple of appliances yesterday in Target that were dual voltage/frequency but as you say it’s rare.

      Shame that there can’t be some sort of unified standard worldwide as the waste in appliances feels sinful. Each time you move, you throw away a heap it seems. Not looking forward to laying out the cash for more new ones whenever we move home, with Oz being so expensive! Wish there was some sort of expat appliance pool where they could at least be recycled. It amazes me how there can be so many varying combinations of voltage and frequency around the world though-just crazy!

      It’s great you can use your other TVs etc. I’m really glad we hauled our Aussie TV over-it’s got lots of use. I’m assuming that anyone moving from a 220v place to another e.g. UK, SA etc probably doesn’t have the voltage issue, at least with appliances.

  2. Cathy Wilson says:

    I think the fact most electrical stuff is big and heavy to ship and cheaper in the U.S leads me to think we are better off buying it over in the U.S.
    Funny I brought a hairdryer home from the UK years ago and had to use an adapter plug for it but it worked perfectly for a long time. But I bought a sound system in the U.S and it must of been a different voltage and i blew it up pretty quick back in Australia.

  3. Anathea ruys says:

    Have you been able to buy bulbs with the right attachments for your Australian lamps? We don’t want to leave our lamps behind but I’m not sure what bulbs are available in states. Thanks

    • Hi,
      No we could not buy the right globes here for 2 reasons: 1. they don’t do bayonet globes which my lamps require-they only do screw-in bulbs; 2. US bulbs only work on US lights due to different voltage and frequency used in Australian lamps. We brought bulbs with us and re-fill on trips back home to Oz but even then with a transformer in the US, the bulbs short out much quicker than normal, so this can be a bit trying. Lamps are cheap here relatively, so may not be worth taking with you. If I had my time again, I wouldn’t have taken them to the USA.
      Hope that helps
      Anne-Marie

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