countertop appliances - Is 220v more powerful?

lalitharMarch 8, 2012

We are doing electrical in the kitchen and the electrician tells me that it is simple to add a 220v outlet now if I wanted. I was not sure but my european friend insists that 220v is inherently more powerful than 110, more reliable and cheaper too in amount of electricity it consumes. I thought the wattage is basically same whether it is 200 or 100 so it should not matter. But she then pointed out that the oven and the inductioon cooktop and the older miele washing machines are all 220 and can heat up faster. Also saw this older thread 220 or 110 advantium. So the question is.. Are 220v appliances inherently more powerful, faster and more reliable than 110v for things like

Electric kettle

stand mixers

blenders etc


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This is a multi part answer.

1. You would have to buy appliances from Europe. Will you be importing toaster, electric kettle etc yourself? They are not approved for USA use.

My friend's house got on fire when they were on vacation from a toaster oven left plugged in. He actually had a receipt for the toaster.. The insurance company made the manufacturer of the toaster oven pay for the claim! He was also told that small appliances are one of the common causes of fire in a house. Anyhow, yes. They seem quicker to heat up when I use them in Europe. But, not sure if the difference is enough to warrant the idea of my insurance being voided. You may want to check with your insurance regarding small appliances. My 110 electric kettle seems good enough to me as is.

2. I have a Miele speedoven which is a 220V microwave oven that funtions as a second oven. I love the space saving quality that it can double duty. Every now and then, I have the oven going and someone wants the MW. That does not happen too often. This is not a countertop MW oven. This is no different than your 220V oven installed. Advantiums are NOT countertop ovens either. I think what you are asking is ALSO about built-in ovens such as Advantium and Miele..... You have to plan for the cabinets as well as the electrical supply for these ovens.

3. I have an European washer with 220V that was sold in the USA with 'approval'. My washer heats water temp up to what you set it at and really washes in HOT water. I LOVE my washer.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 6:35PM
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I think the mentioning of "Europe" is incidental, I don't think the OP is planning to import appliances.

That said, the short answer is "yes" to many of those points. 220V is more efficient at carrying current as compared to 110V. 20 amps at 110V equals 10amps at 220V. 220V can certainly deliver "more power" to an appliance. 110V is only good up to about 1800W, hence blow driers always being on the cusp of blowing the circuit. A 220V line can drive much more, around 3600 watts.

Most importantly your electrician is right. It is ALWAYS cheaper to run additional lines when the walls are open or otherwise during construction. Wire is cheap, fuses are cheap, shouldn't take the electrician long to do.

We have an all-gas range but we put in a 220V line anyway to the same location because... why not? Who knows what the future holds and we sure as shootin' ain't tearing up the walls again!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 8:36PM
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In the US portable 240v appliances are uncommon. We really don't even have a standardized connector for them. Bigger appliances like dryers and stoves are all 240v. They use big plugs. Look at your dryer to see what one looks like.

You need at lease one 240v branch circuit in your kitchen in case you ever want an electric stove or wall oven. The Advantium is the only appliance I know of that gives you a choice. The 120v model is anemic. I have the 240v one but I haven't tried it because my kitchen is still being constructed.

If you really want a 240v outlet on your splash, take a close look at the code in your area. You'll probably need a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Not a big deal.

BTW the 2 voltages available in homes are called 120v and 240v these days although the the service your power company brings to you can vary by a few volts in each direction. The other low voltage standard is 208v which is only used industrially.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 9:57AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Unless you buy a portable induction hob that uses 240 (restaurant type), there is zero need for a countertop 240 outlet. There are no home appliances that you can purchase that will use it. Yes to putting an outlet (in a recessed outlet box) behind the range in case you ever want to change to induction. But, you'd also need to make sure that the outlet went to a 50 amp breaker in your panel. If your panel isn't updated, that's a lot of juice to dedicate just for "someday".

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:01AM
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Some commercial toasters and countertop convection ovens also run on 240. If you lust after one of those, maybe it's worth doing.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:43AM
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Thanks folks. I was just trying to understand the logic of 220v or 240v being more powerful. There are not that many appliances as you all have pointed out that are 220v capable but there seem to be a few like grain mills etc.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 12:01PM
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I can say from experience that an electric kettle in the UK on 240v will boil water far, far quicker than an electric kettle here in the US. Ditto for pop-up toasters. My US kettle is almost identical in construction to the UK one, but is horribly slow.

I had another Brit. friend living here who had a UK 240v outlet installed in her US kitchen, so she could continue to use her stand mixer, food processor etc. Me, I just ended up having to buy new appliances.

I do have a step-down transformer for my sewing machine, but it's not enough for appliances that heat stuff: they take much more power.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 2:08PM
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The thing to remember is Power, not Volts.

Power is Volts times Amps, given in Watts.

In general, counter top outlets in the kitchen are limited to 20 amps. So if you double the available Volts, you double the available Power. Note: I said 'available', not 'your toaster is now twice as powerful'.

With a 120v 20amp circuit, you are limited to 2400 watts theoretically. Practically, it is a smaller value. Take my word on that, I don't feel like explaining.

This is why my counter top Cooktek 120v induction hob is limited to 1800 watts. The 240v unit is 3600watts, twice as powerful.

Let me also say that this has nothing to do with 'efficiency'. If I were to run the 120v Cooktek for 1 hour, I would use 1.8kwh of Power. If I ran the 240v Cooktek for 1 hour, I would use 3.6kwh of Power, costing me twice as much.

The amount of Energy required to boil a pot (quart? liter?) of water is (theoretically) the same whether you use a 120v kettle or a 240v kettle. The time will be shorter for the 240v unit since it will deliver more Energy per unit of Time. But that doesn't make it more efficient.

I've seen 240v outlets smaller than a dryer outlet used for window AC units. The blades were at right angles to each other so it would not go into a 'standard' outlet, nor could a standard AC unit be plugged into the wall.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 2:39PM
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It depends on the watt rating of the appliance, not the voltage. If you can find and buy an appliance with a higher watt rating that runs on 220V then it will be more powerful. Probably will be hard to find though as the standard in North America is 110V.

In my shop I do have 220 volt outlets for my heavy tools -- table saw and planer. Most of the larger motors can be wired for 220 or 110 Volt. With a large motor the current draw especially when you start it up can trip the breaker. This is less likely to happen if you wire it for 220V.

The biggest concern is that if you go 220V in the kitchen then you really should put in a different recepticle that only accepts 220V plugs. If you put in a standard recepticle and plug a 110V appliance into the 220V then you will let the magic smoke out of it. The magic smoke is what makes electricity work. And if you put a special 220V approved receptical in then you will likely have to change the plug on your 220V appliance cord.

Short story? Not worth it.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 2:40PM
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In a hotel in indonesia they had a 220V kettle that only drew 400W and took forever, so certainly not all 220V appliances are more powerful.

That said, having a 240v outlet for a tea kettle here would be nice. I guess one needs to get instant hot instead (which certainly uses a 240v outlet).

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 7:53PM
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not all 240V (220V) receptables are the same. The ones that they use in Europe are different from the ones that Americans put in the laundry room or for the electric ranges.

Not only that, they also change over time. We had 3 prong 220V for many years. When I remodeled the laundry room in 2002, they told us that we had to use a 4 prong receptacle. They receptacles look completely different. I had to buy a do-dad (no idea what these things are called) to use my old dryer on the new receptacle.

Mostly; you probably would NOT pass the building inspection, if the inspector knew that you put in European type of prongs with 240V. You should check. If you don't pass the building inspection AND you have an insurance claim, then you are really hosed, IMHO. To me, there are certain things that are beyond your control and too much of a hassle to make it happen. One of those things would be voiding my home owner's insurance.

Anyhow, my DH burned up one of those step down transformers as well as his cell phone. We were using one of those stepdown thingies that Americans take to Europe to be able to use laptops etc. It worked for a few days and one day, POOF, the cell phone was history as well as the thingie! Who knows what happened. Glad it was not the lap top that we brought with us that disintegrated. After that incident, I am a bit leary of those step down transformer thingies.

The reality is that there are many different type of receptacles that people use. For example, the boat docks have a certain type of receptables that I never see anyplace else. Depending on the amperage, they have different type of cables and receptacles for the boats to plug into. Boaters buy these expensive specialized cables and carry them with us to dock to dock.

I work in a hospital. We have odd looking receptacles that I never see in any other place. But these are very specialized applications....

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 9:38PM
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My old kitchen had a 220 outlet. I heard it was for a commercial style coffee machine, though the builder was Australian, and it might just have been for a small appliance from elsewhere. I never used it. :)

Sara, you need a different kettle! My electric kettle rises to a hard boil in half a minute.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 12:50PM
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NEMA 6-15 is a plug/receptacle standard for 240V @15A that fits into standard boxes and matches standard North American 120V receptacles visually.

As long as it is UL-approved, and protected by a GFCI, a NEMA 6-15 receptacle might be allowed in a kitchen; I haven't checked any electrical codes to see for sure.

As others have noted, a good European kettle or toaster knocks spots off the US equivalents. A British kettle runs ~3KW compared to ~1.5KW for a large US model. That means water boils 2x faster. The problem would be that no such appliances are UL-listed; if your house burns down due to a fault in one, your insurer is likely to disown you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Example of a UL-approved NEMA 6-15 receptacle

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 7:28PM
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You can get a letter from your insurance company authorizing use of a European appliance. :) I did :) The Euro standards are excellent.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 12:58PM
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North American 110V kettles may be slower than 220V European ones, but they are still WAYYYYYY faster and more efficient than boiling water in stove top kettles. I'm totally amazed so few Americans use them. When I lived in Texas, I used to bring back several each time I took home leave. I was very popular with the other ex-pats.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 3:20PM
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"You can get a letter from your insurance company authorizing use of a European appliance."

Wow - I think our new kitchen just might have a 240V outlet and a nice imported kettle and toaster! (Amazon UK is my friend...)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 6:12PM
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Peter, just don't forget the frequency difference. You can have a British outlet wired, but you can't convert the Hz. From what I understand, that shouldn't affect your toaster an kettle unless they have timers, but don't forget about it. :)

(My cooktop was made for either. The only requirement from the insurance company was that it be wired by a proper electrician.)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 8:11PM
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I get it that 220V is way faster and more powerful -- does that translate to more efficient from an energy-use standpoint? Or does the amount of energy "spent" just wind up being twice as much for heating water twice as fast (if you follow)?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 12:35AM
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Pllog - yes I know about the frequency thing (in one existence I was an electronic engineer).

I would not use British outlets/plugs, much though I love them, because I think they would clash horribly with the rest of the kitchen design; I'd go with the NEMA style I mentioned above.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Aliris: I tried to explain. The amount of Energy needed to heat a quart of water to boiling will be the same for 120v or 240v. You pay for Power, which is Energy over Time ( E * T ) in Watt-Hours.

So you end up using twice the Energy in half the Time, so it works out to be the same cost.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 2:36PM
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That's what I figured; thanks. And I realized later you'd tried to probably say as much above. But I appreciate the bottom-line confirmation. Same cost (and environmental profligacy). Thanks for your patience.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 2:48PM
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Amana and Sharp both used to sell countertop high-speed ovens in the U.S.A that ran on 220v not too long ago (I used to own one). There IS a standard outlet for 220v - one for 15 amps, another for 20 amps. The currently-available GE Advantium 240 runs on a 30 amp circuit (with the same outlet used with most electric dryers), although only over-the-cooktop and built-in oven cabinet models are available, no freestanding. Some commercial countertop appliances run on 220. And finally, many window air conditioners run on 220v.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 3:30PM
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I wasn't aware that there are ANY 240 Vac receptacles that standard 120 Vac 15A or (rarer) 20A plugs can plug into. 240 Vac receptacles are supposed to protect against that by orienting the contacts differently. A NEMA configuration diagram I just checked concurs.

Weedmeister has addressed the misunderstandings of efficiency, power, voltage and current adequately, as I recall. How this essential topic is missed in 8th grade science mystifies me, as understanding it is important for functioning in a modern powered society.

On the original point, most common 240 Vac appliances are rather large for the kitchen counter, but there are exceptions, such as some Cooktek induction units. I put a suitable outlet (NEMA 6-20R, IIRC) over the cooking counter for such a device in case I bought one. I have another within the cabinet to feed my built-in Cooktek wok hob.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 8:51PM
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There are no outlets that accept either 120V or 240V devices, but I should have noted that some 240V plugs and outlets are for 240V only (i.e. hot, hot, ground) and others are for 120V/240V devices (hot, hot, neutral, ground). The latter type is used on most American electric cooking appliances and clothes dryers for example, so the light bulbs, clocks, and such can run on 120V whilst the heating elements run on 240V. This allows common 120V "appliance" light bulbs to be used, and allows the control panels and dryer motors to be shared with the gas versions which have only 120V power available.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:33PM
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Kas - I learned it all back when I was supposed to (prob not 8th grade). Trouble is, I can barely remember my name now, a few years later.... there's no way there is room for that stuff any longer. It just doesn't get enough practice to stick around.


p.s. It was actually not until college that this material got taught, I think. (which is perhaps your point, that it should be treated as more fundamental).

The 240V receptacle installed for my Miele speed oven looks entirely different from any other I've seen, as, for that matter, was the plug that went into it.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 12:27AM
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Bring two single 20A circuit runs (12g wire) from opposite legs of your fuse box box to a standard 20A recepticle. This will use up two 20A 120v fuses. Wire one to the top outlet and the other to the bottom. Put an outlet set up like this in any area you may want to use a 220v appliance in the future. An electrician can switch these to 220v 40A single outlets with a recepticle change and fuse addition to your box (make sure you leave empty space in your box) at a future time if needed. Easy and gives you better 120v power distibution even if you do not need 220v.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 1:31AM
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"There are no outlets that accept either 120V or 240V devices"

Yes, but you can get a combo duplex receptacle - one 240 + one 120.

Here is a link that might be useful: 120V/240V duplex receptacle

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 1:06PM
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Dan: the conversion to 240v would still be 20 amps, not 40. Actually, if it was a dedicated circuit (to that one outlet), then all one would need to do is change the breaker (and mark the wire for 240 operation).

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 2:54PM
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The wires for these two legs should be run in close proximity or the circuit may radiate more noise than desirable, and possibly induce currents where they are not wanted.

Start with a dual breaker anyway, as otherwise one might end up with a live outlet when one wants it depowered. The dual breaker becomes mandatory when the circuit provides 240V to a single receptacle.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 7:35PM
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Higher voltage does not inherently provide any more power but for a given current, higher voltage provides a linearly higher power assuming a zero power factor (i.e. pure resistive load). Safe wire guage requirements depend completely on current. What this means is if 12awg wire is considered safe for maximum current of 20A for the given length run, then having 240v on that circuit would provide twice the power as compared to a 120v circuit. So, given real world limitation and conditions, it can be said that more power can be delivered using higher voltage.

As for efficiency, you have to look at the problem in another way. Given two 2400W appliances, one running on 120v and another running at 240v. The 120v would be running at 20A whereas the 240v would be running at 10A, again assuming zero power factor pure resistive load. That would result in the the 120v appliance having 4x the line loss (power lost to the transmission line) because P = I^2 * R. With a given resistance, double the current means quadruple the power. That said, the wire R is very low given large enough cabling so even quadruple the power is still very low compared to the delivered 2400W.

BTW, this is the main reason high voltage transmission lines are used for long distances. US long distance high voltage lines are > 100kv (or even more than 200kv) which allow for a large amount of power with reasonably low current.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 8:56PM
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Two diiferent 120v circuits with 12g wire would be limited to 20A 220v. To go to 40A the runs would have required 8 gauge to the box and a jumper to each of the recepticles for 120v usage.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 10:59PM
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