Compatability of Goods-Canada

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Introduction

  • In this article we will out line the difference in the power source between the UK and Canada and hopefully suggest ways around things.
  • Whilst the power source of Canada is 110v, the power source in the UK is 220v.
  • As a lot of our electrical goods are dual voltage, they can be used with a travel adapter in Canada. (An adapter does not change the voltage. It only provides you with a way of plugging a device into a Canadian-style electrical outlet.)
  • Many (but not all) small electronic items are dual voltage. You can check by reading the rating label on the device. Items labelled '110-220V 50-60Hz' are dual voltage and can be used with a simple adapter. Those labelled '220V 50Hz' or similar are single voltage and would need a transformer.
  • For items that use a power adapter or charger, look for a rating label there.
  • Goods that are 220v theoretically can be used in Canada, but you will have to use a "down converter" or a transformer (depending on the size of the appliance). Actually you will need to use a transformer / converter, to change the voltage, and an adapter, to assist you in plugging the device into an electrical outlet.
  • The word "theoretically" was used because, in real life, it is not convenient or prudent to use some British appliances with transformers in Canada.
  • Technically speaking, the UK generates single phase 220VAC on one live wire, the neutral is 0VAC as is the ground/safety wire. Canada generates 120VAC on one phase wire and 120VAC on another which would make the UK appliance live with 120VAC on the neutral wire. The ground/safety becomes neutral. Canadian 220VAC appliances, like cooking ranges and clothes dryers, are wired appropriately for this system but UK 220VAC appliances aren't.

Insurance risks and legal liabilities

  • No electrical appliance in Canada may be sold without a CSA (Canadian Standards Association) sticker.
  • In addition to the law forbidding the sale of electrical appliances without CSA stickers, you'll find that many homeowners insurance policies will include clauses stating that insurers will not be liable for fires caused by electrical appliances that do not carry CSA or UL stickers. (UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories Inc. It is an International testing organization whose standards are considered to be similar to those of CSA.)

Copy of part of a post on the topic of home insurance and imported electrical goods:

'When this was raised previously, none of the posters in the business could think of an example of this being an issue. I checked the wording of homeowner's policies issued by two companies and couldn't find any such clause. I then went and asked the head of claims for a major Canadian home insured if, to her knowledge, any claim had ever been refused or negotiated down on such grounds. "Eh?" was her initial response, later clarified to "no".

Even if such a clause existed and even if insurers were aware of it, the hair straighteners would be plugged into a transformer which likely carries a sticker so the grounds for disputing a claim would be weak at best.'

If anyone has an example of such wording then fair enough but until there's a link I believe this to be a myth.

  • This leaves the expat with a dilemma.
  • Technically, if people wanted to be in compliance with their homeowners insurance policies, they'd find themselves having to leave behind all their electrical appliances and electronic devices.
  • Most expats accept that they're going to have to bite the bullet and leave behind their large appliances -- fridges, stoves, washing machines, clothes dryers and the like.
  • This is because of the voltage issues that will be discussed in this article, as well as the CSA approval issue.
  • But of course replacing all your electrical appliances and electronic devices is expensive.
  • Many, if not most, expats think that they can get away with bringing their smaller appliances and electronic devices to Canada.
  • They operate on the logic that some appliances are used less frequently than others, and are plugged into the electricity supply only when the operator of the appliance is physically present and actively using it.
  • Many expats make this trade off with respect to less frequently used appliances and devices. But you should be aware that it is a trade off, and it carries risks.
  • One workaround is to get your UK appliances inspected by an inspector from your electricity provider. After inspecting and approving the appliance, the inspector will place a CSA sticker on it. It has been reported that the fee for this kind of inspection runs to about $75 per appliance.
  • Another thing you can do is to inspect your computer, laptop and similar devices. These items often are manufactured for the world market, and carry three or four different approval stickers. You may find that your computer and laptop carry CSA stickers, or at least UL stickers, after all.
  • If you decide to use non-CSA-approved appliances in your Canadian residence, you should be aware of the risk you are taking.
  • It would be prudent, to say the least, to read the fine print of your homeowners insurance policy.
  • If you will be using electrical appliances for a business operation, you have to be even more diligent in meeting federal, provincial and municipal standards. If you violate regulations when you're running a business, you open yourself up to another whole level of consequences. You should also clarify the requirements for workplace safety with the provincial workers compensation board.
  • Whatever you do, never sell a non-CSA-approved appliance in Canada.
  • This topic has been debated recently (winter 2010) in the forums. One poster in Alberta who works in the insurance industry says that it is illegal for an insurance policy to exclude coverage for non-CSA approved electrical items. No evidence has been found to indicate that any insurer (in any province) has declined to pay out on a policy because a fire was caused by non-CSA approved electrical items. Note that each province has its own insurance act. For example, in BC an exclusion would be legal and it would be up to the courts to decide if the exclusion is reasonable.
  • At the end of the day, the decisions are yours.
  • Please keep this section in mind as you read the rest of this article.
  • The information in this article is not intended as legal advice.

Entertainment Systems

If your entertainment system is relatively new you could take this to Canada and use adapters/converters were necessary. Any problems known are listed below in the subheadings.

TVs

There are a few things to think about when considering to bring your UK TV with you. The most important thing is power (see section below) then it is TV reception and connection of other devices.

Power
Check the TV's power rating, if it covers 110 - 230/240 V 50/60 Hz then you will be able to plug them into the mains via a simple travel adapter (if the power cable is removable yoou will be able to buy a North American replacement).
If the device's power input does not cover 110 V then you could buy a step up voltage transformer which converts 110 V to 230 V....ensure the transformer has a higher wattage than the TV.

Analogue Over-the-air TV

  • NTSC is the analogue over-the-air TV signal type in use in North America.
  • PAL is the analogue over-the-air TV signal type used in the UK.

Unless your TV is multi-region (ie, it can accept both PAL and NTSC input), your UK devices will not recieve Analgue TV transmissions in Canada.

Digital Over-the-air TV

  • The digital over-the-air TV signal type in North America is ATSC, and DVB-T in Europe (also known as Freeview in UK). They are not compatible. So if your UK TV has freeview in built it wont be usable over in Canada.

Cable TV
Cable TV has two signals associated with it, clear signals and encrypted signals. The encrypted signals require a set-top box from the cable provider to decode the signals. The clear signal is different and will be discussed here. The clear signal uses a signal called Clear QAM.

  • Clear QAM: The clear cable signal can be received by TVs that have a Clear QAM receiver inside. North American TVs generally have this functionality and it means the TV can be connected directly to the cable outlet. UK TVs do not have this functionality and can not receive clear cable TV. There are clear QAM set top boxes available in North American (search online) which could be used to receive clear cable on a UK TV......note, read the section below (connections) and ensure you the clear QAM set top box has the right connection for your TV.

Connections

  • Composite: The composite connection (yellow phono socket) is an analogue signal and it uses the PAL or NTSC signal type. The type it used is dependant on where the TV was produced, hence a UK TV if it is not mult-region it will not display a NTSC device connected to it via the composite (yellow) input.
  • HDMI: The digital connection HDMI is not region dependant and means a UK TV with HDMI input can display a North American device (say DVD player) via the HDMI connection.
  • Component: The component connection (red, blue and red socket also marked Y:Pr:Pb or Y:Cr:Cb) is not region dependant. Hence a UK device can be connected to a North American TV via a component cable.
  • SCART: This connection type is only generally found in Europe. You will not find this on North American TVs or devices like DVD player.
  • VGA: This connection is not region specific.
  • S-Video: This connection uses PAL or NTSC signal type depending up where the equipment is purchased and will only display a signal correctly if the device connected supports the same mode.

Note (1): Certain devices such as DVD players may output in both NTSC and PAL formats, so it is worth checking.
Note (2): If you are planning on bringing UK games console with you that has only a composite output then consider bringing a TV to play it on.

Videos

  • Older video cassette recorders (VCRs) tended to be formatted for NTSC or PAL only, and could not work in other regions.
  • Several later models, however, were designed to switch back and forth between multiple formats.

DVD Players

You need to consider four things:

(1) Power (see TV Power section)
(2) Connection (see TV Connection section)
(3) DVD disk region
(4) DVD player region

DVD Disk Region:
A DVD Disk normally has a region number and type/format associated with it (printed on rear of DVD case). The main regions numbers are:

Region code 	Area
1 	        United States, Canada, Bermuda, U.S. territories
2 	        Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland
ALL 	        Region ALL (also known as Region FREE) discs have all 8 flags set, allowing the disc to be played in any player.

The region type/format is either PAL or NTSC.

DVD Player region:
A DVD Player normally has a region number and type/format associated with it. The numbering and type/format is the same as DVD disk region.
You can buy DVD Players that are Region Free.
Some DVD Players can be made "Region Free" by either a menu setting or using a codes (aka 'hacks') found on the internet. This is an example of the many websites - click on 'DVD Hacks' in the menu. website.
There are DVD players available in Walmart which are already region free but not marked.

Generally both NTSC and PAL DVD Players can play back both NTSC and PAL formatted disks.

Stereos

  • Power (see TV Power section)
  • If your stereo system includes a conventional radio (not digital radio), it will work fine in Canada. Of course it will pick up local, Canadian radio stations.
  • Radios with a digital tuner may not get a good AM signal. In the UK, AM stations are tuned 9kHz apart, whereas in Canada the interval is 10kHz. Some radios, particularly portable ones, may have a way to switch between North American and European tuning.
  • If your stereo system includes a CD player, it will be compatible with CDs that you purchase in Canada.
  • Your British stereo system won't have the CSA stamp of approval. However, in most instances you would play your stereo when you were in the same room (or at least returning to that room at intervals).
  • A stereo system is not like a fridge that operates night and day, and that operates whether you're in the house or not.
  • Hence, there probably is less risk associated with operating a non-CSA approved stereo system than there would be in operating a non-CSA approved fridge.
  • Please see the section on White Goods, below, to understand the implications of operating electrical equipment that is not CSA-approved.

Digital Radios

iPods, IPads,Tablets and MP3 etc

iPods are the same the world over.

The USB cable will work the same with a Canadian computer as it will with a British one. If you have the wall charger, it's dual voltage and can be used in Canada with a simple adapter.

Apple don't provide warranty service for British iPods in Canada. You'd need to go back to Apple in the UK for that.

Gaming Consoles

Games consoles using a TV

There are three main things to consider about bringing your UK games console, there are power, TV connection and finally games.

Power:
Check the Games Console power rating, if it covers 110 - 230/240 V 50/60 Hz then you will be able to plug them into the mains via a simple travel adapter. If the device's power input does not cover 110 V then you have two options:

a) Buy a north american power supply for the device (if it seperate). This is acceptable for Slim line PS2, Wii, XBox or b) Buy a step up voltage transformer which converts 110 V to 230 V....ensure the transformer has a higher wattage than the games console

TV Connection:
The video connection between the games console and the TV is the next consideration. There are two common connections, composite and HDMI.

  • Composite: This is an analogue signal (Yellow plug) which uses a signal type based on where the equipment was purchased, in the UK it is PAL and North America is NTSC. PAL will only display on a TV that can receive a PAL signal. (see TV section). If you dont have a UK TV then you could try to see if a PAL/NTSC converter will work but you must first plug it into a North American TV. If the display is blank a PAL/NTSC will not work, if it is black and white then the converter will work.
  • HDMI: If the connection is HDMI then it will display on either a UK TV or North American TV as this is not limited by signal type.

There is another signal connection type, that is Component (notice the "nent"):

  • Component: This is the best quality analogue signal and available on most games consoles (see specific games consoles for more info) but the cable is not normally supplied. The component signal is not region dependant. The cable has three connections for video (red, green & blue) and two for audio (red & white)........dont get the two reds mixed up. The component connection can be used to link a UK games console to a north american tv (provided it has component input). Generally you need to change a setting on the games console to enable the component output.

Games:
Games consoles are generally region specific so North American games will not work in UK machines and visa versa. (this does not generally apply hand held games machines)

Specific games console info:

Playstation 3 - these are multi regional and will play UK and games from around the world. Most blue ray movie discs are not region specific but some are a list can be found here only 'B' region locked discs will work on a UK machine.

Nintendo Wii - These are region locked you cannot play Canadian Games on the Wii but you can bring your console and play your UK games. You can also buy a North American replacement PSU for approx. $15. The UK Wii is PAL so if using the composite cable (yellow/red/white) then you need a PAL compatible TV (See TV section). You can use a component cable (video: red/blue/green & audio: red/white) to link you UK Wii to a North American TV. There are reports on the internet that some TVs (North american and UK) with component input may not work properly with any Wii via component cable so you have been warned (it does not do any damage just does not work properly). To enable the component output select 60 Hz (480i) in Wii Settings (TV Type).

Hand-held Consoles

  • Generally speaking the hand held type of gaming console is compatible with Canadian Games.
  • Exception - UMD videos for the PSP systems are incompatible.

White Goods

  • White goods will often come as part of the package when you buy or rent a home in Canada.
  • Due to their size, weight and voltage incompatibility, it is simply not worth bringing them.

Canadian homes do have 220V circuits, for the stove and dryer. However, it is not as simple as changing the plugs. British appliances are unlikely to be approved to CSA standards. Using them in Canada could invalidate home and/or contents insurance. But see discussion at the top of this article about the mythical nature of this concern.

Electric Cookers

  • When you rent or buy a house, it usually comes with a combined stove top and oven.
  • Most cookers / stoves / ovens operate on electricity, but sometimes they work on natural gas.
  • Since a stove / oven typically comes with a house anyway, there is no point in shipping one from the UK.

Fridges

  • If you rent a house, townhouse or apartment (flat), it usually comes with a fridge (a large-ish fridge with a small freezer compartment above it).
  • It is less common for a fridge to be included in the price when you buy a house, but may be a negotiation point with the vendor.
  • Nonetheless, it usually is not worthwhile to ship a fridge from the UK.
  • The Canadian and British electrical supplies differ not only in voltage but also in Hertz (cycles per second).
  • Fridge motors, in particular, suffer from being operated on the "wrong" electricity supply (if you use a transformer to step up or step down the voltage, as the case may be, it still doesn't address the difference in the number of cycles per second).
  • Besides that, your British fridge wouldn't have a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) stamp of approval; see discussion at the top of the article about whether this could have insurance implications.
  • If you plan to buy a house in Canada, you should budget for a new fridge.

Washing Machines

  • Canadian washing machines operate on 110 volts.
  • When you rent an apartment (flat), it's common for laundry facilities to be provided (either in the individual suite or in a communal laundry room).
  • When you buy a house, it usually does not come with a washer and dryer (although some houses do come with them).
  • In theory you could use a UK washing machine in Canada, as long as you had a transformer and a plug adapter.
  • In practice, a transformer is not that cheap, and shipping a washing machine is not that cheap either.
  • Also, there's the matter of insurance. See discussion at the top of the article.
  • All in all, it is not worth shipping your washer from the UK.
  • Not to mention that Canadian washer / dryers are much bigger than the standard 600mm size for the UK and take a much larger load. You will wonder how you ever managed using those tiny 600mm appliances!
  • A washer is another appliance for which you should budget.

Clothes Dryers

  • When you rent an apartment, there usually is a clothes dryer, either in your individual unit or in a communal laundry room.
  • When you buy a house, it's less typical to inherit a dryer along with the house.
  • Most Canadian dryers operate on electricity, although mains gas powered dryers are not uncommon as they are cheaper to operate.
  • Interestingly enough, they operate on 220 volts.
  • Don't get excited and think that you can bring your British dryer with you, though.
  • There's that matter of CSA approval (see top of article again).
  • Note that Canadian dryers are much larger than the standard 600mm British dryers and can take a much larger load. You will wonder how you ever managed with a 600mm dryer!
  • Whether you choose to go for an electrical dryer or a natural gas one, you should budget for a dryer if you plan to buy a house in Canada.

Small Appliances

  • Small appliances -- toasters, kettles, hair dryers and the like -- are so cheap and readily available that it is not worth shipping your small UK appliances and using them with voltage converters and plug adapters.
  • In fact the voltage converters would cost more money than new toasters, etc.
  • The selection of electric kettles is not as extensive in Canada as it is in the UK, but it is adequate (North Americans don't drink anywhere near as much tea and often use specific coffee makers like Kurig and Netspresso).

Lamps

  • If you have cheap lamps that are merely functional, it probably is not worth shipping them to Canada.
  • However, if you have expensive and/or beautiful lamps, it's worth shipping them and either getting them re-wired once you arrive in Canada OR buy plug adapters. As you are going from 240V to 120V, the wiring in UK lamps will easily meet Canadian standards
  • Depending on the kind of bulb fitting your lamp has, it too may need to be changed. Bulbs will normally state the voltage they require, most (but not all) UK bulbs will state 220 - 240V, so they will NOT work in Canada (although sometimes, some LED bulbs are stated as 120 - 240V, so they worked fine).
  • Most Canadian light bulbs have an 'Edison Screw (ES) fitting. Bayonet type fitting bulbs are almost impossible to find in 120V. If you have a bayonet UK fitting you can either get the whole fitting replaced or buy some cheap bulb adapters on Amazon (bayonet to screw). Canadian light bulbs are not the bayonet style.
  • Note that North American bulb fitting sizes DO differ from European bulb fitting sizes. In most cases the difference is so small as to make no practical difference, EXCEPT for the 'intermediate' bulb fitting size. In North American, this is 12mm, but in Europe it is 14mm. It is very hard to find 120V 14mm bulbs! Your simple alternative is to buy screw on 14mm adapters from specialist lighting stores or Amazon (i.e. you won't find them in normal hardware stores).
  • Note that North American lampshade fitting are normally (but not always) the small top screw type that also required a 'cage' to screw into. The common British shades with a large open hole that fit directly onto the light fitting with a retaining nut are normally a larger diameter than North American lamps that take this type of fitting (i.e. a British lampshade will be too big to fit a North American lamp). Again, if you MUST retain the British shade and fit it to a North American lamp, then you can purchase plastic clip in diameter reducers from Amazon.

Other Items

Car Stereos

  • Whether a car stereo is in Canada or the UK it still needs power to be used and this is drawn from the car battery so this is ok.
  • However, the problem with car stereos seems to be in the frequency stepping.
  • The frequency (Mhz) in North America tends to search for stations in odd numbered "steps" as opposed to even "steps" as in the UK and therefore this can affect the reception of the local radio stations.

Advice

  • Before you leave the UK it has been suggested that you do a manual tuning search so that you may check how the stereo steps up so that you will be able to assess any loss of reception.
  • Some tuners can be set to a North American setting so it might be worth checking if your stereo can be reset this way so that your reception is what it should be.

Mobile/Cell Phones

  • You can use your UK cell phone on a Canadian network if it is unlocked.
  • You will also need a phone that supports Canadian frequencies:

-) 1900MHz and/or 850MHz.

  • Tri-band and quad-band phones support one or both of these frequencies.
  • O2 say their phones are always unlocked. However if you have an iPhone from O2 you need to request them to unlock it (free, if you've been with them for 12 months).
  • Phones brought through ASDA stores/online are unlocked, it is part of their policy to only sell unlocked phones
  • Virgin will unlock your phone free of charge after you have spent a certain amount with them (in the region of 30 GBP).
  • To check if your phone is unlocked, try a friend's SIM card from another network.
  • If it works, your phone is unlocked.
  • If it is not unlocked, Google to see if your model can be unlocked or ask at one of the phone carts in local malls; they can often unlock phones cheaply.
  • The SIM card is now becoming more popular with network providers in Canada. Most office Sim card + compatible phones. The following networks provide SIM cards:

-) Rogers
-) Telus
-) Koodo
-) Bell
-) Mobilicity
-) Fido
(Please feel free to add your provider's name if they support SIM cards)

  • Also check that your cell phone charger is dual voltage. Check on the plug, read the text to see if it says 110v-240v. If not, travel chargers can be bought for most models.
  • When you buy a Canadian Sim card or mobile phone you can specificy the phone number including area code. There is no difference in area code to a land line. Moving phone numbers between providers is very simple and normally done with 1 hour. This includes between land line and mobiles etc.

Paper Sizes

  • The standard paper size for submitting resumes (Canadian versions of CVs) and covering letters is North American letter size (8.5" x 11").
  • High quality stationers in the UK carry North American letter sized paper.
  • Not at all easy to find European paper sizes (e.g. A4) in Canada!

USA Information

You also may find it useful to read the article in the USA section of the BE Wiki that is entitled Should I bring my electrical goods? Since Canada's electrical appliances, television sets, DVD players, etc., are compatible with those in the USA, the information in that article also is relevant to Canada. That article has some information that this article doesn't have, and is a useful supplement to this article.