Across the globe, electrical voltages are used on a day to day basis - but there are very few electronic devices that can work anywhere in the world. Voltage levels and frequencies for electrical supply systems differ greatly around the world, as systems are designed specifically for each country.
New Zealand, Europe and most other countries are using between 220 and 240 volts, which is double that of the United States and Japan (who use only between 100 and 127 volts).
But what exactly is voltage, and how does it work? In this blog post, we discuss everything you need to know about voltage in NZ.
Woman plugging an appliance in using power adapter
Electrical voltage in NZ
Electrical voltage is something that most of us don’t think twice about - that is, until we go travelling! With different voltage levels and frequencies worldwide, having the right power adapter is crucial if you’re taking any devices or appliances with you. While Australia has the same electrical outlets as New Zealand, you’ll find that an adapter is required for the majority of other countries.
Before travelling overseas, it’s crucial to get the right product for the country you’re travelling to. This will prevent any electrical issues occuring or devices being damaged. When you go to purchase your power adapter, ensure you know the correct voltage for both NZ and the country you’re intending to visit.
Electricity is supplied throughout NZ at around 230-240 volts, and our power outlets only accept three or two pin plugs (depending on if there is a earth connection fitted).
If you’re intending on travelling overseas indefinitely, it’s a good idea to find out what the current electricity prices in that country.
What is voltage?
Voltage is the change in electric potential between two places. Voltage is what makes electric charges move - it’s the “push” that makes charges move in a wire (or other electrical conductor). Since moving charges is a current, voltage can cause a current.
Electrical voltage sources really are the unsung heroes of our electronic lives. Imagine living in a world without voltage; you wouldn’t be able to power your mobile phones, TVs, laptops, fridge, washing machine, oven and other electronic gadgets!
One of the most common types of voltage sources is batteries - something most of us use in our day to day lives. While there are many different types of batteries, they all work the same way: using chemical reactions to generate voltage. Each battery consists of two electrodes, made of different metals, and an electrolyte solution which aids the reactions.
The reason that batteries eventually stop working is that the chemical reactants in the battery have been all used up, no longer sustaining reactions.
Difference between voltage and current
Current and voltage are two fundamental qualities in electricity - but what is the difference between voltage and current?
Current is the rate in which electric charge flows past a point in a circuit. Voltage, on the other hand, is the electrical force that drives the current between two points. Current is the effect and the voltage is the cause. While voltage can exist without current, current cannot flow without voltage.
Let’s use the example of wax and wool to explain this. If you rub wax and wool together, you’ll find a surplus of electrons in the wax (negative charge) as well as the deficit of electrons in the wool (positive charge). This creates an imbalance of charge between them, which manifests itself as an attractive force:
If a conductive wire is then places between the charged objected, electrons will flow through it. As some of the excess electrons (in the wax) pass through the wire to get back to the wool, filling the deficiency of electrons there:
The imbalance of electrons between the atoms in each object creates a force between the two materials. As there are no path for electrons to flow from the wax to wool, all this force can do is attract the two objects to each other. Now that there is a conductor bridging the insulating gap, the force will provide electrons to flow in a uniform direction through the wire, until the charge in that area is neutralized and the force between the wax and wool diminishes.
Find out more about the relationship between current and voltage here.
If you’re travelling overseas with electronics, you’ll need to purchase a power adapter to have the ability to use/charge electronic devices while abroad. While it may be tempting to just pick one up overseas, buying one in advance locally will help ensure you’re selecting the right adapter.
There are a range of both in-store and online options for where you can purchase your power adapter. You’ll generally be able to find these at your local department or hardware stores. Prices for power adapters go from $10.00 and upwards, depending on your power requirements.
Universal adapters have gained popularity over the years; allowing you fit plugs into different shaped outlets around the world. These are priced from the $50.00 mark, but are a great investment for those who travel regularly.
If you are bringing expensive gadgets such as universal adapters and other electronic devices overseas, make sure you have them fully insured. You can compare travel insurance providers and policies here.
We hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of voltage, how it works, how it differs from current and the importance of purchasing power adapters for overseas travel. If you ever have friends or family travel to New Zealand from overseas, be sure to educate them about voltage in New Zealand.
If you’d like to find out more about voltage and learn about volts, coulombs, joules and power supplies, check out this great YouTube video on the basics of electricity.