Can I Convert an Appliance Outlet?

220 to 110 adapter

Whether you’re installing modern appliances with higher voltage requirements or you’ve purchased an electric vehicle that needs a charging station, your Southern California home may need more outlets to support your home’s needs. Devices such as 220V to 110V adapters and upgraded outlets and wiring can boost the functionality of your home’s electrical system. 

Understanding Appliance Outlets

Laundry machines, kitchen appliances, portable air conditioners, and other common household appliances can’t use the same outlets that power your lights or small electric devices.

Compared to most other countries that use 220V outlets, electrical systems in the United States use 110 or 120V appliance outlets. Unless you have a dual-voltage appliance, plugging a 220V appliance into a 110V outlet can cause irreparable damage. In some cases, you can purchase an affordable voltage adapter from a local hardware store or convert the appliance to get around this problem. Make sure to familiarize yourself with different plug and outlet configurations. They vary from country to county.

When a simple adapter won’t work, you may need to convert the appliance outlet altogether. Since U.S. homes don’t typically use 220V outlets, converting a 110V or 120V outlet may require complex electrical work. 

Reasons for Converting Appliance Outlets

While converting appliance outlets can involve more demanding electrical work than other options, it does provide several useful advantages.

Outdated outlets

Older outlets have different configurations compared to newer versions. For example, outdated outlets are ungrounded — they have two holes instead of the modern three. The third hole of modern outlets provides a path for the electrical currents in case of surges or faults, reducing shock and fire hazards for both you and your home. Many modern appliances and devices require grounded outlets and won’t function properly without them.

High energy demand

Technology changes can influence your home’s power needs and consumption. Inconsistent power, flickering lights, or breaker trips may suggest your current wiring and outlets aren’t meeting the increased power demand.


Depending on quality and usage, electrical outlets last between 15 and 25 years — in some cases, they degrade in only a few years. Friction, debris, and other damage can lead to malfunction, loose wires, and fire risks. Replacing an old outlet with a new one can reduce safety risks.

Steps to Safely Convert an Appliance Outlet

To convert an appliance without rewiring, you need a step-up AC power transformer with a British-style three-prong flat outlet or a European-style two-prong round outlet. The power cord on such an appliance is often a standard U.S.-style cord. To convert the appliance:

  1. Check its rating: An appliance rated for both 110 and 220 volts or that has a voltage switch can’t be converted. Some devices have switches that you can set to 110 volts.
  2. Find the wattage: Check the appliance’s wattage so you can find the right step-up transformer. The wattages should match, but you can use a transfer with a higher rating. If the transformer has lower wattage, the appliance won’t operate. 
  3. Make the connection: Plug the appliance’s power cord into the transformer outlet; use an adapter plug if necessary. Make sure to verify the type of transformer outlet you need.
  4. Plug the transformer into the outlet: Plug in the transformer’s power cord, and turn on the appliance or device. It should work as it normally would, although motorized appliances may run at slightly different speeds.

Converting 120V to 220V or 240V outlets

You can still upgrade a 110V outlet if a 110V to 220V voltage transformer won’t work for your system, but it often involves extensive rewiring that only qualified electricians can perform. 

Converting 240V to 120V outlets

If a 220V to 120V adapter or 220V to 110V voltage adapter won’t work for your system, you can also convert or split a 220V or 240V outlet to 120V or 110V outlets. As with upgraded outlets, this involves rewiring and requires the help of a qualified professional

When it comes to splitting 240V or 220V outlets, these branch circuits are served by a two-pole breaker. Removing it provides room for a single-pole breaker, which can be wired to create a 120V circuit allowing your electrician to adapt the breaker panel rather than converting the appliance outlet itself.

Common Challenges and Solutions

Since electrical systems are complex, even seemingly small changes can present various issues. Here are the common challenges and solutions involved with converting and rewiring an appliance outlet:

Local building code standards and regulations

Depending on your location, your electrical system may be subject to certain building code standards and regulations. Some upgrades or conversions require new permits. For example, Southern California codes dictate that certain outlets must be grounded. Failure to comply with these standards can result in fines or other consequences. A qualified electrician can help make sure your system is compliant.

Proper grounding

Grounding is often an important safety requirement that falls under building code standards. To ensure proper grounding of your converted appliance outlet, you may need to connect the outlet to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This is especially important for outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other areas prone to hazardous moisture.

Underperforming electrical panel

In U.S. homes, simply converting an appliance adapter is insufficient. Your electrical system must be capable of supporting the power requirements of your appliance outlet and the attached appliance to avoid system overload and potential fires. Consult with an electrician about load calculation to determine if your electrical panel and wiring require upgrades to support your converted outlet.


A lot of effort can go to waste if your new appliance isn’t compatible with your newly converted outlet. Make sure to consider voltage, amperage, watts, and plug configurations for your system and appliances to get the most from your appliances and electricity. At best, incompatibility can hurt energy efficiency and cause undue wear on your devices. It can also increase the risk of electrical accidents.

Safety hazards

In addition to their complexities, electrical systems also require certain safety precautions to reduce serious risks. For example, an accidental shock from a 110V outlet may only be jarring, but mistakes with 220V or 240V outlets can be lethal.

Electricians possess the knowledge to safely handle wiring and circuits, and you should generally avoid working with electrical systems yourself if you don’t have professional qualifications. Always turn off power from the electrical panel before beginning any electrical work and make sure to follow electrical safety standards such as using insulated tools.

When to Call a Professional Electrician

Electrical systems require skilled and experienced professionals to accurately complete repairs, upgrades, or maintenance. Hiring a professional means you can enjoy peace of mind in the quality of their work and avoid extra costs from DIY mistakes or surprises. Plus, they’re equipped with the tools to access wiring in less accessible areas of your home. More importantly, electricians possess the know-how to avoid dangerous hazards during their work and to ensure the safety and reliability of your system when they’re finished.

Contact Express Electrical Services

Whether you’re using a 110V to 220V adapter or converting the outlet altogether, upgrading your system can improve the safety and functionality of your home.

At Express Electrical Services, our licensed electricians install outlets, switches, GFCIs, circuit breakers, wiring, electrical panels, and home safety devices. We are available 24/7 to provide emergency services throughout Southern California. We offer specials and financing, making budgeting for upgrades easy. Contact us today or book online to get started.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I use the wrong outlet?

Appliances likely won’t malfunction as soon as you plug them into the wrong outlet, but they’ll likely underperform and overwork with insufficient or overloaded power availability. For example, stovetops, washers, and other higher-demand appliances won’t dramatically fail, but they’ll perform to a fraction of their capacity.

Why do different countries use different outlet voltages?

There isn’t a current international standard for outlets. In North America, the voltage standard is 120 volts; in Africa and Asia, it’s 240 or 220 volts; in Northern Europe, it’s 230 volts. Japan is the only country that uses 100V. Plugs in the U.S. and Japan use a Type A design with two parallel pins, so Japanese appliances can plug into North American outlets but may overheat or burn the motor out without a step-down transformer.

What’s the difference between an adapter and a transformer?

When converting an appliance outlet, make sure you’re using the correct device. An adapter simply lets you plug electronics into a different outlet than the shape of the original plug allows. A converter adjusts the voltage from the outlet to match that required by the device.