I spent today researcing plug adapters, voltage converters and transformers that I would need for my move to BsAs (yes, this seems to be the common abbreviation for Buenos Aires). The International Electrical Supplies (IES) web site has a lot of useful information including a basic electricity introduction, a guide to choosing the right product, and, of course, a store to buy them all.
To quickly sum it up, since US electronics run at 110v and 60hz, there are three possibilities needed to use them in Buenos Aires where the voltage is 220v and 50hz:
Plug adapters simply convert the standard US electrical plug to fit the plugs used in Argentina. They do not convert the voltage! These will only work for electronics that are multi-voltage. This is important to remember as plugging in something that is not multi-voltage will short it out. Most laptops, digital cameras, computers, etc. are multi-voltage. To check if your device is multi-voltage, look at the power adapter and see what it lists as the input. For example, my Dell laptop is listed as: INPUT: 100-240V / 50-60Hz, so all that needs is an adapter to work. My Dell desktop PC has a red switch on the back of the power supply that converts it work at 220v, so all I need to do is add the adapter and flip the switch before I plug it in. The same applies to my Sony digital camera charger, Blackberry charger, and wireless router. My computer speakers, DVD player and Nintendo Wii only operate at 110v / 60Hz so those will need a converter or transformer.
A voltage converter steps down the higher 220v to the US standard of 110v. These converters are lightweight and cheap, unfortunately, they are for non-electronic and ungrounded appliances only. In addition, they are not designed for continuous use and should be used at most 45 minutes to an hour at a time and unplugged when not in use. I haven’t found one thing that I am bringing that I can use this for, so I’ll need to bring a voltage transformer as well.
Unlike converters, transformers can be used with grounded or ungrounded plugs as well as electronic or non-electronic devices. The transformer we’re interested in is the one that steps down the voltage from 220v to 110/120v. Transformers can also run full time unlike simpler converters. In order to determine what transformer you need, you first need to figure out what the wattage of the equipment you need to power is. Wattage is a simple calculation: Volt x Amp = Watt. If this is not given for a device, you can calculate it by multiplying those numbers off of the power supply on the device. You should also consider whether evertyhing needs to be connected simultaneously and whether you need multiple transformers for different areas. IES has a good guide to choosing a transformer. You’ll also need to buy adapters for these if you plan to use them in BsAs.
So, looks like I’ll be picking up a bunch of adapters and a 100 watt and 1000 watt transformer for my needs.