All this for a quick cuppa — a cry for electrical help

If either of my regular readers have any electrical expertise, then I’d appreciate your input. Let me say up front that this is not by any means the most practical thing I’ve ever done, so if you want to tell me that, you haven’t told me anything I didn’t already know.

So, for a number of reasons, I thought it would be cool to get a particular model Russell Hobbs teakettle.

You will perhaps notice already what my issue is.

Yep, it’s a UK plug. Now, this was hardly an “Aha! Fooled you!” moment; I knew it had a UK plug when I bought it, and I ordered it off of Amazon UK. I knew exactly what I was ordering when I ordered it. I just figured, “Hey, there’s gotta be a workaround.” It seemed worth it; I was told that UK kettles are nice because they heat up near-instantly, and they’re great if you can get them working. There seemed to be some folks online who had done it, so there seemed to be precedent for my impracticality.

(And, I’ll be honest, there was a geeky impulse behind the purchase as well. Judge me if you must. I already said this wasn’t the most practical thing I’ve ever done.)

So, I took the element to a local electrics shop.

“What do I need to make this run?” I asked.

The guy looked at me like I was perhaps on the simple side. (And yes, perhaps I am.) “UK plug adapter and a step-up transformer for 220-240v, rated for 3 kilowatts,” he said. “Good luck.”

So, fine. I got exactly that.

Here’s what happens when I try to use the kettle:

(Forgive the Darth Vader breathing; I’ve been sick for the last two weeks.) As you can see, it works for a bit (aren’t the shiny blue lights awesome!), then the transformer’s circuit breaker trips. After a few seconds, I can reset the circuit breaker, the kettle goes again, the breaker trips, reset, kettle goes again, breaker trip, reset, kettle finishes boiling and shuts itself off. It still all happens in less time than it would take to boil the water on the stove, but I can’t really say that it’s exactly what I had in mind.

So, short of moving to the UK, what can I do to get this to work?


14 Responses to “All this for a quick cuppa — a cry for electrical help”

  1. 1 John 22 April 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I’m tempted to think maybe the ebay seller sold you a defective unit … been there myself with electronic stuff (though I do have a Russel Hobbs electric tea kettle — one purchased in the States and made for our system).

  2. 2 psiosifson 22 April 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I believe UK electric kettle heat up so fast due to UK electricity, not UK electric kettles.

    “In the United States household electricity is normally supplied by your local power company or municipal utility at 110 or 120 volts at a frequency of 60 Hz. Any device rated between 100 volts and 130 volts works fine. The quantity available in American homes is generally 15 to 20 amps at a single outlet or for the total of all outlets served by a single fused circuit. Thus, one circuit may provide from 1650 to 2400 watts of power. One circuit usually supplies more than one outlet.

    The European version of electricity is generally supplied at 220 volts and a frequency of 50 Hz. Officially it is 230 volts plus or minus 10%. Any device rated between 200 volts and 250 volts works fine. Some localities may have 110 volts but I haven’t seen this in many years. A frequency of 50 cycles [Hz] is the standard frequency regardless of the voltage throughout France, Italy, Germany, England, Spain, and the rest of Europe.”

  3. 3 Richard Barrett 22 April 2012 at 9:48 pm

    As a follow-up, I found this page that seems to address some of my questions:

    In particular, this appears to be what I’m looking for:

    “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.”

    Does this seem right? I assume I would want an electrician to do that?

    • 4 Chris Jones 22 April 2012 at 10:37 pm

      No, that doesn’t seem right. He’s answering a question you haven’t asked: how to use a US 240V outlet to drive a European 230V appliance. You’re not using a US 240V outlet (the kind you plug a major appliance like an electric stove into). You’re using a voltage converter which is specifically designed to deliver 230V – 240V power.

      The fact that the circuit breaker is tripping means that the appliance is drawing more power than the voltage converter is capable of supplying safely. The bottom line is that you need a bigger voltage converter. Or, to put it another way, the guy at the electrics shop gave you a bum steer. He told you to get a converter rated at 3000W, but you actually need one rated at 3750W or more.

      The voltage converter’s rating of 3000W means that it draws 3000 watts of power from your household 110V circuit — NOT that it delivers 3000 watts of power to the appliance you have plugged into it. The reason is that the voltage conversion itself has a cost; the conversion process consumes some of the power that you supply to it, and only passes on part of the power to the destination device. The “power cost” of the conversion process is expressed as the voltage converter’s “efficiency ratio”, which in the case of the converter that you have is 1.25. This means that for every watt of power you want out of the converter, you have to put a watt-and-a-quarter of power into the converter. Since the maximum watts you can put into the converter is 3,000, the maximum watts it can produce is 2,400. When the kettle demands 3,000 watts, the converter says “no can do” and pop! goes the circuit breaker.

      If I were you I would go for a 4000W voltage converter to be on the safe side; but be careful because not all converters have an efficiency rating of 1.25 (1.25 is actually quite good). If the efficiency rating is 1.5 or 2.0, you will have to go even bigger than 4000W to get the output power you need.

      Seems like a lot of trouble for a cup of Joe.

    • 5 Chris Jones 24 April 2012 at 7:06 am

      It occurs to me that I did not completely answer your question here. The article explains how to plug your UK appliance into a US 240V 60Hz outlet. If you have a 240V outlet available, this method will certainly work. If you go this route you will not need your LiteFuze voltage converter at all.

      “I assume I would want an electrician to do that?”

      ABSOLUTELY. I wouldn’t try this at home for any money. If you do something wrong you will either kill yourself or (at the very least) destroy the appliance you are trying to use. So yes, hire an electrician if you want to use this method.

      I don’t know what electrician’s rates are in Indiana, but every time I hire an electrician even for the simplest of jobs it’s at least $250.00, and if it’s anything at all complicated it’s over five bills. However, it’s got to be said that those blue lights are way cool.

  4. 6 Tom 23 April 2012 at 12:58 am

    Why don’t you just buy an American electric kettle? Our new Hamilton Beach kettle is all stainless steel, works like a charm, and was only $20 at Costco.

  5. 9 Tom 23 April 2012 at 12:59 am

    Why don’t you just get an American electric kettle? Our new stainless steel kettle made by Hamilton Beach works like a charm, and was only $20 at Costco.

  6. 10 AoibhinnGrainne 30 April 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Having lived in England, I can vouch for the efficiency of English kettles. Having also made the mistake of bringing these awesome kettles back to the States, they are a pain in the butt to make work here.

    Yes, hire an electrician. But also be aware that pulling that much power to heat up your water, whilst quick and efficient, is also expensive.

    But, then, the thrill of victory always trumps the agony of defeat… 😉

  7. 11 Madelene 30 July 2012 at 6:39 pm

    I don’t know if you’ve found a solution, but the Chefs Choice kettles are made by the same company. I bought the glass kettle and it matches up with the Russell Hobbs just fine 🙂

    • 12 Richard Barrett 30 July 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Excellent! The solution that I was exploring was wiring an outlet specifically for the kettle, but this will work. (And, incidentally, glad to know I’m not the only crazed maniac Sherlock fan who felt compelled to track one of these down.)

  1. 1 Orthodox Collective Trackback on 22 April 2012 at 9:07 pm
  2. 2 In which I boil water « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 6 August 2012 at 3:48 pm

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