Oct 042007

Moving to France is costly enough without having to replace all of your electrical appliances. The good news is that you can use your British electrical appliances in France, in most cases without worrying about the different voltage.

Electrical Supply in France

France, like most of our continental cousins, uses 220-230v at 50Hz, which is very similar to the UK’s 230-240v at 50Hz, and since most electrical items are rated at 220-240v you can be reasonably certain your British appliances will work in France. If you happen to have an older appliance which is only rated to work at 240v, don’t be disheartened, allowing for the usual 10% variance inherently built-in to most appliances you should still have no problems.

Plugs in France are the two round pronged design found in Northern Europe, and do not include a separate prong for earth. Instead, the earth prong is actually built into the wall socket. In addition, sockets in France do not have an on/off switch like their British counterparts. Whilst this is not inherently less safe than in the UK, it can be a little disconcerting the first time you use French power. In addition, many appliances sold in the UK contain a surge fuse within the plug. You will not find this France.

Adaptors, Transformers and Surge Protectors in France

French power supply is notorious for surges, and in the south of France ferocious thunderstorms are common making it imperative that precautions are taken with power supply. Your first step when moving to France should be getting a local electrician to check the electrical wiring in your home, paying particular attention to shorting and the earth leakage system.

Good advice for anyone bringing appliances to France is not to change your plugs. Whilst you can purchase replacement plugs easily, doing so will often void the warranty that came with it, for example laptop computers, battery chargers for video cameras etc. If your appliances are fitted with a surge fuse in the plug, it is doubly important that you do not remove this, it may be all that protects your appliance from electrical surges caused by erratic supply and lightning strikes.

Travel adaptors that convert from British to French power sockets cost a couple of pounds each from discount stores in the UK and its well worth stocking up on several. You want to have enough to enable running several appliances simultaneously without having to disconnect anything.

Surge protectors as you might imagine are invaluable in a country with erratic supply. Several types are available, single adaptors that attach to the socket, or power leads with one to several sockets attached and a little red button that pops out and disables power if a surge is detected. For computers, it is often worth buying a surge protector with battery backup giving time to save your work before powering off. These can be picked up for £65-£300 from most high street electrical retailers.

Using A British TV in France

British TV’s are built to use the PAL system, which is the same system used in most of Western Europe, except in France. The French use a different system known as SECAM. Whilst your British TV will work in France, it will only work with satellite TV from the UK and other European countries. If you also want to watch French TV, you will need a TV that supports SECAM. Buying a multi-standard TV will do the trick. Often these are cheaper in France than the UK so do your research before making a purchase.

Using your British electrical appliances in France allows you to keep using familiar, and perfectly serviceable items, and this guide should provide the peace of mind that unnecessary expense can be avoided. Taking a few precautions should make your move to France a success.

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