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British vs American 240V

greasetrap
6 years ago

My wife lived in England for 10 years and loves British kettles. They boil water in a fraction of the time that am American kettle does. As we're planning a kitchen remodel, I was wondering if it might be possible to put in a 240V line wired to a British style electrical receptacle to run a kettle. I believe British current is 208 - 240V, 50 hz., while American 240V is 60 hz. I think I read somewhere that these differences aren't that critical, but that there's a difference in grounding that would make it dangerous to run European appliances off of American 240V.

Does anyone know if this is the case or if there's a transformer that would provide the type of electrical current needed?

Thanks for your help.

Comments (16)

  • bus_driver
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    For appliances that heat only, with no electronic controls, the Hz makes no difference. The GB power may be 220 volts, better double check that, while most of the power companies I deal with in the USA seem to keep the voltage a bit above 240. Damage, if any, to a heating appliance will be slight and quite gradual. It will heat noticeably faster than at 220.

  • Ron Natalie
    6 years ago

    I have a neighbor that put a 240 receptacle in, not because it boils water faster, but they are Swiss and have a few imported appliances that require it.

    As bus_driver points out, absent a motor, the hertz isn't going to make much of a difference. I don't think the line voltage is a big concern (220-240). Contrary to his observation, I find that it's more likely to find the voltage in the US below 240 than above.

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  • greasetrap
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Thanks for the information. I found the following discussion on another forum:

    START:

    However the most important difference is how the Neutral wire is connected:

    240 volt 50 Hz service
    A 240 volt 50 Hz appliance can have up to 3 wires altogether:
    •one single 240 volt "live" or "hot" wire;

    •a neutral wire;

    •a safety "earth" or "ground" wire but this is not required if the appliance is of the type known as "double insulated".

    The hot wire feeds alternating voltage from the power station to the load and, because the voltage is alternating, the load draws an alternating current. Then the neutral wire returns the current to the power station to complete the circuit.

    240 volts 60 Hz service
    An appliance that is designed to be connected to strictly 240 volts 60 Hz is connected with only a two wire cable plus a safety ground wire. (For example 240 volt 60 Hz base board heaters use that.)

    The only time a cable with three wires plus safety ground is used is if 120/240 volts is needed in the equipment. (For example kitchen ranges or washing machines which have time clocks or programmers that require only a 120 volt feed.)

    Thus an appliance designed to run on a 240/120 volt 60 Hz supply can have up to 4 wires altogether:
    •two 120 volt 60 Hz live "hot legs" which run in opposing phase to one another: when one hot leg goes "+" (120 volts positive) the other leg goes "-" (120 volts negative);

    •a neutral wired as a "central" common current return conductor:

    •a safety "ground" wire but this is not required if the appliance is of the type known as "double insulated".


    One of the two hot wires feeds a 120 volt alternating voltage from the power station to the 120 volt load - the clock or programmer - and, because the voltage is alternating, that load draws an alternating current. Then the neutral wire returns the current to the power station to complete the circuit.

    Important conclusion
    There is a 240 volt voltage difference between the neutral and the hot conductor in the 50 Hz system and only a 120 volt voltage difference between the neutral and each of the hot conductors in the 60 Hz system.

    That is why an appliance designed to be connected onto the 50 Hz system cannot be used safely on the 60 Hz system without first having a proper technical inspection done, followed by any necessary modification work done to ensure that the appliance can be operated safely because, in the main breaker box, at the point where the 60 Hz "neutral" gets connected to the ground, this difference will cause serious problems!

    A licensed electrician or electrical engineer would be able to consider whether or not a particular large appliance, that was manufactured to work on 50 Hz-only, could be modified to run safely at the higher 60 Hz frequency. However it won't usually be worth the expense of doing the work because it would be more cost-effective to buy (new or secondhand) an equivalent large appliance designed to work on 60 Hz.

    A further answer from briank101:
    Several appliances such as European electric kettles can be connected to the US 240 volt supply. I have done this successfully and safely. It has been absolutely worth it. One just needs to purchase a long extension lead that has a receptacle that matches the plug on the kettle (Buy this in the same country where the kettle was bought). You will cut the 3 pin plug off the extension lead and leave the rest of the extension lead intact. You will wirestrip the cut end to wire it into the 240 volt supply. As long as the ground within the European appliance is not in any way connected to the neutral within the European appliance, it appears that this method is doable. It is extremely important that the European ground or earth conductor is connected to the US ground conductor. Very importantly, the European Neutral conductor is not connected to the US neutral conductor, it is however connected to one of the live US phases and the European Live conductor is connect to the other live US phase within the US 240 Volt outlet (The US uses a split phase). The voltage between the 2 US live conductors is 240 Volts, which will now be the voltage supplied between the European Live and Neutral conductors. The American neutral conductor is not used in this configuration and must be isolated in this specific setup. Do not attempt this if there is any doubt in your electrical capabilities. I have connected a European 3300 watt electric jug kettle to my US 240 volt supply this way and it has been one of the most satisfying mini projects that I have performed. I can boil 2 cups of water in about a minute. It would take almost 3 minutes in 1250 watt American kettle. If your kitchen is located above or near a 240 volt outlet, it is a really straight forward job to run wiring to it.

    A comment from Martinel:
    Maybe this is getting to be like a discussion page but I think it's very important to say this: be very careful to ensure you know the risks you are taking because your existing 60 Hz 240 volt branch circuit would typically be protected by a breaker specified for a dryer, a water heater or a similar powerful heating device.

    Because of the current drawn by the appliance on the circuit it's protecting, that breaker could be for 30 amps, 40 amps or more.

    I know exactly how great the performance of a such a kettle is! If you are someone technical enough to really know what you are doing I'm not saying you should not do what you have described at all. But I am saying it would be best practice to say - as part of your instructions to the general public here - that it is necessary to install a separate 240 volt branch circuit protected by a 16 amp (or max 20 amp) breaker and having a socket outlet that is different in size and shape to the one you have on your existing 30 amp or higher branch circuit.

    The European 3300 watt kettle takes a bit less than 14 amps so your standard US 240 volt circuit will not be properly "breaker protected" for the kettle. In mainland Europe such a kettle would be plugged into a branch circuit protected by a 16 amp breaker. In the UK and Eire (Republic of Ireland) such a kettle would be plugged into a socket connected to a ring main protected by a 32 amp breaker but the kettle's own plug would always have a 13 amp fuse in it. In fact kettles are normally sold in the UK and Eire with a maximum power of 3000 watts, not 3300, because that only takes 13 amps at 230 volts.

    Also it is important to give advice to the end-user never ever to change the plug on the cord of the kettle to a type that can be plugged into a dryer or other higher amperage 240 volt outlet. If they do that, and something goes wrong with the kettle itself, its cord or its plug, there could be a significant fire risk if one of those items should ever get a fault condition which is not a simple short but one that is just a higher-than-normal current draw. That kind of fault condition often happens with an electric kettle because of all the handling it gets and the facts that it has to keep being filled with fresh water and when its boils it emits lots of steam, so the environments they are located in can be quite damp. If such a fault condition occurs, which is not uncommon, then the part that has the fault could easily catch on fire because the too-high-amperage circuit breaker would not necessarily shut off the power. If the kettle was unattended, a house fire could be started.

    BrianK: I second the advice that you have added. Some of what you suggested I had already done (resize the breaker and used the British standard outlet and plug), but failed to mention in my comments. As I spent half my life in Ireland and half in the U.S., I am pretty much aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each countries electrical characteristics.

    Yet another answer
    I have wired up a dozen or so 240v 50hz electric kettles that I have brought back from England for my family. As Martinel correctly points out, most 240v circuits in US homes are likely to have circuit breakers that are much too large to properly protect the kettles. I solve this problem by splicing inline fuse holders into both of the 240v legs of the kettles' cords as close to the plug as possible. Before insulating the connections and going "live", I use an ohm meter to check for any leakage between every connection and the body of the kettle. The connections should be soldered, not merely twisted, and each splice covered with at least two layers of heat-shrink tubing followed by another layer of heat-shrink over both splices. Fuses should match the manufacturer's rating which will be marked on the appliance (typically 15a for British kettles, 10a for New Zealand/Australia.) Install the appropriate size fuses (be sure and leave the fuse-holders accessible, don't cover them with heat-shrink) and you should be protected. In 20 years of doing 240v kettle conversions, I've never blown a fuse or encountered a problem but it is important that you know what you are doing lest you create a potentially fatal safety hazard.

    As always, if you are in doubt about what to do, the best advice anyone should give you is to call a licensed electrician to advise what work is needed.

    END


    Some of this is Greek to me, but the way I interpret this is that it can be done if you pay attention to grounding issues and install a smaller fuse. Is that correct? If so, is this something that a licensed electrician would consider doing and would it pass muster with a local building inspector?

    I have no interest in jury rigging something or swapping plugs, etc. But if we go to the expense of a whole kitchen remodel and this is something that an electrician would understand and wouldn't hesitate doing, then it might be nice to have a couple of British-style outlets installed for a kettle and toaster.

  • greasetrap
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I was just looking at the manual for a UK Russell Hobbs kettle and it said the plug has a 13 amp fuse installed. So maybe the size of the fuse at the breaker box isn't that important.

  • weedmeister
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    it looks like you would install a 20 amp 240v circuit, dedicated. Kitchen coutertop appliance circuits are 20 amps so this is not too strange. a 20 amp 240v recepticle looks a little different (i think the blades are horizontal), but it is not a dryer outlet.

  • Ron Natalie
    6 years ago

    Nope, a 240V 20A (6-20) plug has one horizontal and one vertical blade. They're just reversed from the 120V 20A (5-20). The receptacle has the T slot (to take either the 15 or 20A plug) and a horizontal. The 6-15 has two horizontal blades.

  • greasetrap
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Thanks for the information. Would a licensed electrician be willing to connect a U.S. 240V 20 amp circuit to a standard British outlet, and would this be in compliance with code?

  • Ron Natalie
    6 years ago

    I'm not sure a British receptacle would be complaint. I'd put in a 6-15 or 6-20 as appropriate and adapters are readily available. I know this as we used to do a lot of tradeshows and similar demonstrations popping between the UK and the US. I've got plug strips and all sorts of adapters for going both ways.

  • greasetrap
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Thanks everyone for your help. I'd much prefer to find an adapter rather than change plugs, first because the UK plug has an additional fuse for protection, and also because there's a chance I might screw things up. It seems that it's important that the UK neutral is connected to a U.S. hot lead and that the U.S. neutral is isolated. Would that be the case if I used a U.S. 15 or 20 amp 240V circuit with a UK plug adapter?

  • Ron Natalie
    6 years ago

    The adapter won't change this. It won't "screw" up the operation of an appliance. Bristish standards are a bit tougher on requiring grounded and fused plugs, so you aren't likely to have an issue with exposed connections to what would be the neutral in the UK (which would be connected to a hot leg in the US).

  • Ted Rogers
    6 years ago

    As a Brit, I can see another problem in hot wiring a UK kettle to an American wiring standard. Our plug tops contain a fuse, in the case of a kettle it will be 13amp. The fuse is a link in the live or "hot" wire as you like to call it. As you use a 2 phase (2 hot wire) 120v system you would need to install a 6/7 amp fuse into each "hot" wire. If you do not do this the fuse will be unlikely to blow unless there is a major fault. This is due to the fuse only ever being subject to half of the current draw as that current will be split between the 2 "hot" wires. All of our appliances come with a plug with a fuse rated for the current draw of each. Remember we tend to use a 32ampere ring circuit to power our homes. In this way we can install as many socket outlets on the ring as we care to, (well almost), and we will never overload the circuit beyond the maximum circuit breaker cut out. The worst that can happen is that if we plug in 4 number 3.0kWh appliances into a single ring main after a short period the breaker will trip due to circuit overload. This is why we can plug a 60watt lamp and a fan heater in the same double socket outlet and not have a problem and somewhere else on the same ring circuit we can plug in the telly box and the hi fi as well as having the old lady doing the ironing and possibly making a cup of tea from one of our brilliantly fast kettles :-)

  • Ron Natalie
    6 years ago

    Sorry Brit, but electricity doesn't work that way in either the US or the UK. 240 @ 13 A is 230 @ 13 A whether the one leg is grounded or not. The current is the same on both legs regardless.

    Other than the fact we use smaller branch circuit ratings for out outlets things are largely the same. In residential use there's no limit to the number of receptacles installed. The branch circuit overcurrent protection (breaker) protects the house wiring. Since we have smaller 15A/20A branch circuit limits, we don't tend to need to fuse the appliance to protect it from catching on fire but in some cases, we indeed do.

  • greasetrap
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    It's been several months since my original post, but I thought I would update everyone on this. We're in the midst of planning a major kitchen renovation and I wanted to install a 220V circuit to run a British kettle, but I wanted to make sure the idea would work before spending the money to have a dedicated circuit installed.

    While searching the web, I ran across a site called Quick220.com, which sells a device that plugs into 2 off-phase 110V circuits and then creates a 220V circuit. The person there was incredibly helpful and talked me through how to find off-phase circuits, as well as answering a number of other questions that I had. I ordered a 15 amp 220 device from them along with an adapter. I also ordered a Bosch kettle from Amazon UK, which was much cheaper than an American kettle of similar quality. The kettle worked great but, as you can imagine, it had to be placed in an inconvenient location due to the requirement for off-phase circuits. I found another place called stayonline.com that manufactures custom cables, and had them make me a 15 ft. cable with an American 15 amp 220 V plug and a British socket. The kettle has worked great, and my wife is very happy to have a real British kettle again.

    This has also given me the confidence to have a 220V circuit installed while doing the kitchen renovation. Thanks everyone for your help and advice.



  • weedmeister
    6 years ago

    I'm glad you got it working, but I'll mention that extension cords like this for appliances are a bad idea. But at least this is a temporary solution.


  • Adam Albanowicz
    8 months ago

    Here in Jamaica I am actually putting in a few British outlets. The inspectors here have no problem as long as we limit to 5 per DP breaker. The local inspector was like..these outlets are used on 32 amp breakers with radial circuits so you can go ahead and use a 20 or 15 amp DP breaker..just make sure it is all torqued right... But thinking about getting a washer and dishwasher from UK and think I need to only run them on a solar inverter system... not sure yet.