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Power Shave

US ShaverPopping back to England at New Year gave me a great chance to re-charge my shaver which I used to use back home. When I came to Charleston in May of last year, the two most important things that I bought in Target in the first week were: 1) An electric kettle, and 2) A new electric shaver [right]

Since then, I hadn’t really thought about it, until I went home for a bit three weeks ago and I realised that my ‘old’ shaver was actually a lot nicer, smoother on the skin, and gave a better cut that the one I bought here. So why don’t I use it? Because I can’t … or at least I think I can’t, because of the odd plug that we brits use on our shavers means that I can’t charge it up here.

In the UK, it’s against the law to have a standard 220V three pin plug in the bathroom – electricity and water don’t mix, remember? Here it’s not such an issue though – or maybe because it’s on the lower 110 Voltage it’s not an issue … at least I think that must be what it is, because in the UK – most bathrooms have a special ‘shaver outlet’ plug built into them, which is 2-pinned jobbie, and and can run at 110V volts too, it’s actually got it’s own British Standard number:

BS4573
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, there is a special version of the type C plug for use with shavers (electric razors) in bath or shower rooms. It has 5 mm diameter pins 16.6 mm apart, and the sockets for this plug can often take CEE 7/16, US and/or Australian plugs as well. Sockets are often able to supply either 230 V or 115 V. In wet zones, they must contain an isolation transformer.

So here’s the deal. My old UK shaver is of the weird British 2-pinned design but DOES run (I think) at 110V. What sort of adaptor/converter/whateverer do I need to be able to plug it up and charge it in here in a US style socket?

UK 2-pinDo UK 2-pin to US 2-pin adpators exist? I bet they don’t. Instead, will I have to get a UK 2-pin to UK 3-pin adaptor, and then use a regular UK 3-pin to US 2-pin adaptor, and hope that the voltages match – along with the frequency, because I seem to recall that UK power runs at 50Hz, but US power at 60Hz.

Confused? Me too. But hopefully there’s a smart enough person out there that’ll be able to tell me what to do. Otherwise, I might be blowing up my bathroom here shortly.

• I feel like I should point out if anyone doubts that I am not manly enough to grow facial hair, then you should see here.

• I also feel like I should give a passing nod to the fact that it is the Superbowl today. Which apparently is something to do with football. Well what they call football here anyway…

21 responses to “Power Shave”

  1. Chris says:

    Pretty much all electrical devices can run at either 110, 220, or 240 volts – this is especially common in camera chargers, laptop chargers, and other devices that people actually travel internationally with. I’m sure your shaver is the same way. All you really need is a plug converter that takes European 2 prong plugs to the US style plug, and voila – you’re all set. We don’t actually have a plug in our bathroom, so we use a European -> UK plug adapter so we can charge our electric toothbrushes at an empty mains outlet elsewhere in the flat.

    http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml04/04152.jpg

    BTW – very few electrical devices are cycle-dependent (cycles are measured in Hertz (Hz)). At one point in time power supplies in Canada and the US had different cycles – now they both run at 60Hz – but it didn’t have any ill effects on travellers.

  2. Chris says:

    Hi Geoff,

    2 pin shaver to 2 pin US adapters do exist, I have one for my shaver but I bought it so
    long ago I can’t remember exactly where from. I think any travel gadget shop at an airport
    should sell one. I think I bought mine from the AA.

    I know that’s not that helpful but at least you know they exist.

    Chris.

  3. centraluser says:

    The nearest I can can come up with is something that converts your shaver lead into a UK 3 pin plug. It appears to integrate the plug (so it actually turns it into a UK 3 pin) rather than plugging it in to one of a line of adapters.

    http://www.maplin.co.uk/module.aspx?ModuleNo=19246&doy=4m2#overview

    You would then need to plug it into a US > UK adapter, one of which you presumably have.

    There must though be something along the lines of what you want, else how do German people shave when they travel to the USA?

    If nothing better comes up, happy to buy & post.

    Voltage changes don’t apply to your devices. Your UK shaver plug has a built in transformer in it. It will either have an inconspicuous screw switch to tell it you are pumping in 110v or it will just work more slowly (and less efficiently) than in the UK. If it does have a voltage change switch don’t forget to change it back when next in the UK otherwise it might go bang if the fuse doesn’t go first.

  4. Talal says:

    If both shavers are the same brand, why not just switch cables/adapters? If not, you’ll probably want to get this:

    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=7012332&type=product&productCategoryId=cat08117&id=1099392844538

    I’m pretty sure that will cover your needs. I’m from the Middle East but study here in the States; my mobile, laptop, and camera chargers all have 2 round prongs similar to your shaver’s. I got an adapter from Ace Hardware, I think, but I distinctly remember seeing them in Target, too.

    Good luck!

  5. Convict says:

    “or maybe because it’s on the lower 110 Voltage it’s not an issue … at least I think that must be what it is”

    We run 240V here in Australia (that’s extreme i know) and we have regular plugs in our bathroom so i don’t think that’s what it is.

    “the sockets for this plug can often take CEE 7/16, US and/or Australian plugs as well”

    Most of our plugs are 3-pinned so i don’t see how that works. We do also have 2-pins on some things, but they are slanted towards each other like this / \ so i don’t know if they really would fit.

    Our three pinned plugs are also slanted like this

    / \

    |

    just for those who have never seen one. I always get confused when travelling to Europe and North America, because they have two prongs and i wonder if i’m plugging my appliance in upside down, because here, there is only one way the plug fits.

  6. It’s not to do with voltage. It’s to do with the fact that a few americans, by and large, are expendable.
    50-60hz won’t make much difference. I think.

    Or check the voltage inputs and just rewire it.

  7. jaz says:

    Geoff,

    I think that you should grow a long, long beard like the gentlemen in the American rock and roll band ZZ Top.

    Then shaving won’t be an issue.

    Hoping this finds you well,

    J

  8. jj says:

    circuits in US bathrooms are required to have GFCIs installed. not sure if that’s so in the UK.

  9. geofftech says:

    5/ talal.. yes, they’re both Philips ‘Phillishave’ shavers, but the plug at the shaver ends are different shapes – tried that already! I couldn’t even swap the rotating blades bit around (take the softer edge of the UK model, and put in on the US model) as they plastic edging is of a /slightly/ different design, so they’re not interchangable – Grr!

    9/ JJ – wtf is a GFCI?

  10. Kirk says:

    #3 – Are you sure a UK shaver plug is similar enough to an EU plug to go in one of those adapters? Pretty much any 2 pin plug will go in any other 2 pin socket in the world, but not always perfectly. Plus the plug needs to be very low profile to fit in (I have one of these on an EU appliance)

  11. Chz says:

    You can usually ram a UK shaver plug into a standard Europlug adapter without too much fuss. You’ll bend the pins a bit, but it generally works and Europlug->US adapters are pretty easy to get ahold of.

    Or you can contact Philips.

  12. Bob H says:

    Geoff,

    You only need to adapt the shape, as was shown before in the ebay link all you need is that adaptor.

    Its all the same voltage and from what I see what you have on the shaver is a standard European Type C connector.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_AC_power_plugs_and_sockets#Type_C_.28European_2-pin.29

    The frequency difference of the countries shouldn’t matter as far as that little converter is concerned.

    My girlfriend has one of these:
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=3729&A=details&Q=&sku=420177&is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation
    It’s more expensive, but it has everything on it.

    The main reason the UK uses a different socket is that it has the isolating transformer for added safety in the bathroom.

  13. All shavers should have a 230/110V switch (if not automatic). Like #3 says, be very sure to switch it back to 230V when returning to the UK.

    The easiest and least cumbersome way to “adapt” to the different mains sockets is simply to buy a replacement power-lead from an American shaver shop (department store or somewhere that can get accessories, replacement blades etc).

    If you’re not planning on bringing it back to the UK you could even chop off the British shaver-plug on the lead you have, strip the wires, and wire it to a two-pin American one (two wires, two pins, polarity doesn’t matter – the US 2-pin plugs are simpler than a Lego plug!). I have a self-hacked lead with a US plug for when I’ve been to Japan. On second thoughts if you really are going to use it with potentially wet hands then a moulded plug is probably safer…

  14. STOP!

    I’ve just looked at your picture – looks like there’s a transformer / power-supply built into the plug. You don’t want to be cutting that off! Certainly not connecting lead directly no mains. No no… sizzle sizzle BANG!
    You’ll need an adapter (buy from a British airport!).
    *Probably* it will adjust to the voltage automatically? Check the label.
    Or buy a replacement US power-supply (will probably cost $30?)

  15. Jon Allen says:

    I agree wiith Chris. I had a two pin shaver to two pin US style converter, for exactly this situation. I have no idea where I got it though.
    but just found what you need here :
    http://www.walkabouttravelgear.com/elect.htm

  16. geofftech says:

    ok ok ok !! MANY THANKS all of you … I think i shall be capable now in finding a suitable adaptor, and buyone one online.

    God bless the power of blogs & the internet. πŸ™‚

  17. jj says:

    a GFCI means it (usually) won’t kill you when you complete the circuit with your body. essentially, it’s a really sensitive circuit breaker that acts really fast.

  18. DivineMrsM says:

    Why don’t you wet shave?
    πŸ™‚

  19. Stuart says:

    6) – it’s irrelevnat which way round you have the pins as it’s an alternating current – there is no positive and negative. The only thing that is important is that the earth connection isn’t confused with the others

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