Living in New Zealand: Electricity!

I’ll get into the actual voltage in New Zealand in just a sec, but first, let me show you a few photos:

One of our light switches in the “off” position with dimmer

Electrical outlet with plug using adapter and a plug protector

The light switches are different from what I grew up with in the US.  One of the biggest differences is that in order to turn the lights “on” you flip the switch down and to turn them “off” you flip them up.  Complete opposite of what I was used to.  It took me a few fumbling attempts before I finally figured it out.

And then there are the wall sockets.  Again, I grew up with a slightly different version in the US.  Over there, there is no “on” button for the socket.  They’re always on.  Here, you have to first turn them on in order to use them.  There are things that I like about this – such as being able to leave something plugged in without worrying that Joe will turn it on – and things that I don’t like about it – such as forgetting to turn on the outlet and getting all settled on the couch with my laptop, glass of water, and pillow, only to discover that my battery is nearly dead.  Grr.

New Zealand runs on a 230/240v system.  The US runs on a 115-120v system.  When we moved here, we kept some of our US electronics because they were able to run on a dual voltage system: our laptops, and TV, for example.  Other electronics weren’t able to do that, and so we gave some of them away, sold others, and then brought a select few that could run on transformers.  Transformers are heavy.  How heavy, I don’t know, but lets just say that you wouldn’t want to drop one on your foot.

We have 1 transformer for the Playstation, Wii, and our multi-region DVD player (because US DVDs won’t play on NZ DVD players, and vice versa).  We have another transformer for our wireless printer/scanner.  I often use this one for some of our kitchen appliances.

Side note: I later wished that we hadn’t brought some of those appliances and had just bought new when we got here.  Why?  Well, those transformers are heavy.  Getting it out from under the desk, lugging it onto the kitchen counter, and then repeating the process when I was done using the blender was a lot of work.  Well, maybe not a lot of work in comparison to, say, farming 40 acres, but it was a lot of work for making a smoothie.  Same deal whenever I used the crock pot.  Additionally, transformers take up space.  Not a lot of space, but enough space to be noticeable in a small kitchen.

And then, we have a 3rd transformer.  I normally forget about this one because I almost never see it.  Why?  Because it’s actually in Chris’ office at the uni and is used by his second wife coffee/espresso machine.

If you try to use an electronic device in NZ that doesn’t run on the standard voltage here, you will fry it.  If you decide to buy electronics on TradeMe, make sure you check the voltage.  I sold a paper shredder on TradeMe several weeks ago.  I listed it for the grand price of $1 because it was 5 years old and it ran on US voltage (something I made sure to list both in the item’s title and twice in the item’s description).  It ended up going for something like $30 and the evening after the buyer picked it up, I got a rather irate email, talking about how I’d sold him a piece of junk.

I gently pointed out the voltage, copy/pasted the item’s description as it ran on TradeMe, and asked if he’s used a transformer or just a plug adapter.  Give you one guess as to what he’d done.

So, have a think before bringing your electronics over here.  As a general rule, if it’s 5 years old or more, don’t bring it.  Just replace it, either in the States or over here.  And make sure you’re aware of the voltage!

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4 comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Yep, I was aware of this… so we’ll be leaving a lot of electronics behind in NZ when we move to the US next year (the first thing I’ll be buying is a new coffee machine… can not live without! Hee, hee!).

  2. Kelli says:

    Lots of transformers at our place, too!
    Hope you are feeling better – it’s rough being sick when you have a toddler.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I freakin’ LOVE the on/off switch at the source of the outlet. I wish that was more widespread in the States as electric bills would go down so much, instead of having electricity just run all the time.
    I had been living in Auckland for 10 months when my family came to visit and my mom was like, did you know you have to flip the switch to get electricity? Insert sarcasm here*Gee mom, is that how it works? I’ve been here 10 months, and I wondered why I couldn’t get things to work!* Oh lordy, parents…..

  4. Kristen says:

    Hi Jenny,
    My name is Kristen. Im an RN from California, and I just got my NZ nursing license last week! My husband and I are preparing to make our move at the end of the year- and I have so been enjoying your blog. You’ve answered some questions I didn’t even know I had, and plenty more (yes, we will need ALL new appliances… haha). I reference your posts all the time when pestering the hubs about our massive to-do list. So I just wanted to finally say hello 🙂
    Cheers,
    Kristen

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