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220 to 110 voltage convertors


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#1 Kiarash Sadigh

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 08:19 PM

I've been doing a little bit of research on how to get my lights working in other continents and with different voltage currencies (I'm in canada). First off, i've considered the option of switching bulbs for 220, however there are some serious loss of foot-candle when it comes to my compact fluorescent bulbs; so I want to stick to my 110 bulbs and travel with a couple of voltage convertors.
I looked a few places and to my amazement, there are two radically different types available, one that is a small and compact version, claiming to convert 220 to 110 and up to 1600 watts, this piece goes for $6.00. There is another type that goes for $70.00 and is the size of a brick and weights about 10 pounds, this one claims to convert 220 to 110 and max wattage of 750 Watts.
I'm a bit confused and love to receive a little bit of education over this whole 220-to-110 conversion issue and hear from those who have had experience traveling with their north american lights.
Thanks
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#2 John Baustian

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 10:58 PM

The cheap, lightweight unit is essentially a light dimmer, permanently set at 50%. It works for things that are heating devices; irons, hair dryers, coffee makers, etc., and of course, incandescent lamps. It chops up the 220 volt coming in, then the heating element or filament averages that to something equivalent to 110 volts. DO NOT use these for anything electronic! You will probably be very unhappy if you do.

The big, heavy, and pricey unit is an honest-to-god transformer. It will keep your electronics happy, even if it is a pain to carry around.

Hope this is useful.
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#3 Kiarash Sadigh

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 08:24 AM

The cheap, lightweight unit is essentially a light dimmer, permanently set at 50%. It works for things that are heating devices; irons, hair dryers, coffee makers, etc., and of course, incandescent lamps. It chops up the 220 volt coming in, then the heating element or filament averages that to something equivalent to 110 volts. DO NOT use these for anything electronic! You will probably be very unhappy if you do.

The big, heavy, and pricey unit is an honest-to-god transformer. It will keep your electronics happy, even if it is a pain to carry around.

Hope this is useful.


Thanks John, so the cheap stuff is good for lights, would they also work with CFL bulbs? ....since they dim to %50, should I worry about them flicker?
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#4 John Baustian

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 08:57 AM

Perhaps I didn't emphasize it enough, the cheapies are OK for incandescent, i.e., tungsten, lamps. I haven't tried it, but I don't think CFLs would be happy. The electronics inside of the CFL are still getting 220V, though only for part of each cycle. Most likely, something inside would get fried.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 09:15 AM

In my experience, CFLs strenuously dislike triac dimmers, regardless of voltage.

P
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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 09:32 AM

I've been doing a little bit of research on how to get my lights working in other continents and with different voltage currencies (I'm in canada). First off, i've considered the option of switching bulbs for 220, however there are some serious loss of foot-candle when it comes to my compact fluorescent bulbs; so I want to stick to my 110 bulbs and travel with a couple of voltage convertors.


There are european compact flos out here in higher wattages too. I'm looking at one right now 65watts output 325watts equiv lightbulb! Perhaps you could switch out bulbs after all?

love

Freya
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 19 March 2009 - 02:38 PM

In my experience, CFLs strenuously dislike triac dimmers, regardless of voltage.


This isn't a triac, it's just a single plain old diode. It just chops off one excursion of the sine wave, leaving it at zero. So, it wouldn't have the extremely rapid rise of a triac. I've never tried that with a CFL, but it's worth testing.





-- J.S.
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#8 Keith Walters

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 11:51 PM

This isn't a triac, it's just a single plain old diode. It just chops off one excursion of the sine wave, leaving it at zero. So, it wouldn't have the extremely rapid rise of a triac. I've never tried that with a CFL, but it's worth testing.

-- J.S.


Putting a diode in series with an incandescent light bulb (or any other resistive heating device) will reduce its brighness because it will only have power applied for half the time. In fact people used to make inexpensive substitutes for light dimmers that way. However they tend to produce visible flicker, particularly with 50Hz mains

It won't make any visible difference at all with a CFL.

A 220VAC CFL's inverter circuitry runs off a supply of around 300V DC, which is derived from a 4-diode bridge rectifier connected to the AC input.

The diodes normally only conduct around the peak of the mains cycle, basically "topping up" the charge in the main storage capacitor for a few milliseconds, 100 times a second (or 120 times a second in 60Hz countries).

The circuit would work just as well with a single diode. It then would basically do its topping-up thing for a slightly longer duration, 50/60 times per second. One reason this is not done is simply that Power companies don't like devices that draw DC from the mains. Another is that a DC component drawn from the mains can cause spurious triggering of RCD safety switches.

Putting a diode in series with a compact CFL is thus unlikely to make any visible difference.

The problem with using a triac-type dimmer is that the voltage applied to the AC input can rise from zero to 300 Volts or so in a couple of microseconds, instead ot the 10 milliseconds or so of a normal sinewave. So on the input side of the diodes you might sudenly have 300 volts, while the power supply capacitor might only be charged up to say 290 Volts. The diode will suddenly have 10 volts across it in the conduction direction, when the very maximum it can usually handle is about 1 Volt. Their life under these conditions is normally pretty short.

The CFLs don't like triac dimmers, and triac dimmers also aren't too fond of CFLs either, since the triacs have to bear the brunt of the same whallops of current that can destroy the diodes.

But wait, there's more!
Fluorescent lights need to keep their electrodes hot to maintain proper current flow.

Proper dimmable fluorescent installations using old-fashioned non-CFLs need a separately wired transformer to keep the filament temperature constant with different power levels. You can't just wire an ordinary fluorescent fitting into a light dimmer circuit designed for incandescant bulbs.

You can get so-called "Dimmable CFLs" but they are a bit of a joke at present.
They can only be dimmed to about 50% brightness, they won't start unless full power is initially applied, and this has to be maintained for about 60 seconds before you can dim them.
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#9 Keith Walters

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 12:02 AM

There are european compact flos out here in higher wattages too. I'm looking at one right now 65watts output 325watts equiv lightbulb! Perhaps you could switch out bulbs after all?

love

Freya

I have yet to find a single CFL that produces anything like its stated "incandescent-equivalent" light output, and I've tested hundreds of the damned things.

Strangely enough, no government standard that I've ever seen for any country, (EN, IEC etc) requires the manufacturer to show how they establish this....

The strangest thing I've ever seen was a "handy range" box of different power ratings (10W, 15W, 20W) I bought on special in a Hardware store. Despite having different labelling, all 6 bulbs were identical, in size, light output and power consumption, and they all were equivalent to about a 50 Watt incandescent bulb, after a one hour warmup!
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#10 John Sprung

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 05:22 PM

It won't make any visible difference at all with a CFL.

A 220VAC CFL's inverter circuitry runs off a supply of around 300V DC, which is derived from a 4-diode bridge rectifier connected to the AC input.

The diodes normally only conduct around the peak of the mains cycle, basically "topping up" the charge in the main storage capacitor for a few milliseconds, 100 times a second (or 120 times a second in 60Hz countries).


The OP's question was about running 110VAC CFL's from 220VAC mains. Given this description of how the CFL circuits work, the single diode converter would likely fry the CFL's.

Oh, well.... CFL's really are a disgusting kludge, anyhow. ;-)





-- J.S.
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