It is truly maddening to consider how many electrical connectors you must deal with in using power tools in Italy. The following is a short primer to ensure you’re fully prepared to connect to electricity in Italy. The stability of the electrical grid is another story - I don’t want to confuse the reader excessively today. I’m in a kind mood.
Let’s see - since we’re from “America” (North or South? We’re actually from the United States, but nevermind) and since I didn’t want to replace my entire power tool collection I decided to use the current inventory I possess. Big mistake. First off, you must use a transformer to step down the “mains” 240VAC supply to 120VAC to use our U.S. tools here. These transformers weigh about the same as a medium sized anvil and are about as convenient to carry around. Try putting two 15 pound bowling balls together and carry them around your garage for awhile and you get the idea. The transformer I’m using has a round, two prong Euro style plug to plug into mains power. Our garage where I will work on Troopy has 3-prong large style flat outlets. Not directly compatible. So - we need to use an adaptor to take the round two pin plug into the flat 3 pin outlet. There are also two sizes of flat 3 pin plugs - a large size and a small size. To summarize so far - flat 3 pin outlet to round two pin plug through the transformer to a three prong U.S. plug. Wait, there’s more...
Now - the outlet in the garage where I will use my tools isn’t close enough to a suitable work area (Italian builders here normally only outfit a room with a single outlet - maybe two if you’re really lucky and he’s feeling extra generous (good luck)), so I will need an extension cord. These come in a dizzying array of connector sizes and mixes. I kept it simple and went with the flat 3 prong to another flat 3 prong so that I could use my precious adaptor (about 1 euro at the local hardware store) for the transformer.
I also purchased a 2 new shop lights that use a small flat 3 prong plug. Being the smart consumer I am I also purchased a multi-outlet power strip, but I did so before I understood the intricacies of Italian electrical distribution. The power strip has 4 round-two prong plug receptacles and 3 big flat plug spaces, but not the small kind, rendering it totally useless for our use in the garage with the lights. So - back to the hardware store (driving in downtown Catania, see previous posts about driving in Italy) to purchase a small 3-prong power strip. Aha! Found one. Back to the garage. Too short, even with the extension cord. Luckily I had another extension cord. All plugged in and working!
In summary, my set up: From the big 3 prong flat plug outlet in the wall into two big 3 prong flat exension cords into a big 3 prong flat plug adaptor to a round 2-prong plug into the transformer to step down 240VAC to 120VAC then out to the tool. Lights go into the transformer’s 240VAC side using the small 3 prong flat power strip into the 240VAC side of the transformer then out to the lights. Easy!
I’m now qualified to work for ENEL, the local power company, and completely electrify the Italian countryside. Given the constant power surges, brown-outs, black-outs, flickering and dirty sine-wave power generation around here, I’m sure my garage solution to power tools and lights will work perfectly!
Until next time...