Join Date: Dec 2010
First Name: sergio
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Argentina uses mains electricity at 220 to 240 volts 50Hz (like most of Europe, such as here in the UK) whilst USA and Canada use 120 volts at 60Hz. The frequency (Hz = Hertz) is significant as not all electronic speed controllers built to work on 60Hz will work on the lower frequency of 50Hz. I've had success using some American sourced power tools such as the Porter-Cable 691 router bought in the USA and run through a British site transformer which converts 230 volts AC to 110 volts, although the frequency remains the same. This 3.3kVA transformer is big enough for almost any power tools you wish to attach and is the sort of box I'm talking about, although the weight might make shipping prohibitively expensive
I have a question for you Phil. In Canada and the US we get 220v by connecting 2 different 110v leads that are out of phase with each other. Is the 230v circuit you have the same or is it a single lead (hot wire) and a neutral. In our 220v circuit, we don't need a neutral unless we want to take a 110 volt lead off the circuit for an oven light, plug-in on the stove for a coffe pot, etc. Otherwise, we just have 2 hot conductors and a bare ground wire.
A European 220 to 240 volt supply (harmonised to 230 volts, i.e. within the +/- 10% tolerance permitted) requires 2 wires, a live and a neutral and is normally obtained by taking a single phase from a 3-phase 380 to 415 volt supply (415 in the UK, 380 volts elsewhere) together with a neutral. In reality the neutral to earth often tests at 20 to 40 volts, especially in old properties. Domestic properties in many European countries are supplied only with a single phase supply whilst commercial properties often have a 3-phase supply, although much of the grid here in the UK is 3-phase. As a matter of interest the site transformers we use in the UK for work on building sites, etc are centre tapped and thus have two hot conductors at 55+ volts and 55- volts respectively
The potential difference between +55 volts and -55 volts is 110 volts, which is what our industrial site power tools run on. I've found that most 115 volt US tools with universal motors will run on that quite happily unless they have some sort of frequency-based speed controller. The UK and Ireland are probably the only places in the EU which have 110 volt power tools on building sites (and other restricted areas such as railway lines, etc). My understanding is that if one live is exposed and you accidentally touch it the 55 volts earthing through your body cannot kill you, but as some people are killed every year testing 9 volt bicycle batteries on their tongues, maybe I'm wrong there. So it is supposedly intrinsically safer. Maybe. The rest of the EU, however, doesn't play that game and instead insists on the standard 220 volts (live + neutral) with an RCD to protect each circuit. We normally get an MCB or RCD per circuit on larger transfornmers so maybe the health and safety brigade/insurance brigade are a bit more belt and braces here in the UK. What I do know is that it costs me more to buy some of my work tools and that not everything is available in 110 volt form.
The only other thing I can say about 110 volt site tools is that they are useable outside safely when it's a bit damp with minimal risk of electrocution. By that I don't mean standing up to your oxsters in water core-drilling a wall in the middle of a monsoon, but certainly I've been out there jigsawing a hardwood shop frontage to scribe it in whilst the rain is spitting and the pavement is still wet. So far, at least, without problems!
I suppose that it's the transient nature of construction work (be it domestic kitchen fitting, commercial bar fitting or building a skyscraper) which means that most of the problems will occur in the extension cables which do tend to get dragged all over the place, run-over by trucks, etc rather than problems in the tools themselves
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