Want to buy a new device and you came across two options of the same device, one operates at 110V (or 12V), and the other works at 220V (or 240V), and now you are asking, what costs more to run: 110 or 220 volt devices?
This is a question that many people with no technical background ask, and that’s fine, because there’s some technical terminology that could create confusion and misconception for most people.
I’m an experienced electrical engineer and I wrote this short article in order to help you know if it was cheaper to run 220v or 110v devices.
What Costs More to Run: 110V or 220V Appliances?
There’s no real difference in cost between running 110V or 220V devices, as you get charged from the utility company on the kWh (kilowatt hour), and not on the voltage.
If you try to read the electricity meter, it will show you the reading increasing in kWh and not in voltage.
For example, a 1,500W, 110V space heater that is used to heat a 200 sq.ft. room, will consume in one hour of operation around 1.5 kWh.
And a 1,500W, 220V space heater that is used to heat the same area of 200 sq.ft. room, will also consume in one hour of continuous operation around 1.5 kWh.
And if you live in California for example, where 1kWh costs around 19 cents, then the cost of one hour of operation of this heater would be 28.5 cents, regardless if the system there was operating on 110V or 220V.
While if you compare two devices that operate at 110V, but one of them was rated 1,500W, and the other was rated 1,000W, then the 1,500W device will consume in one hour of operation 1.5 times what the 1,000W will consume in one hour of operation.
It is the energy consumption in kWh that decides the running cost and not the voltage in V.
Then What devices and appliances should you purchase, 110-120V or 220-240V?
Simply, you must choose the electric devices based on the voltage level of the network at your utility company or country, for example:
- USA & Canada: 110V-120V.
- UK, Germany, and most of the world: 220V-240V.
You compare between the devices based on the (W – Watt) rating, and choose based on your need, but the voltage rating (110 or 220) should be based on your utility network’s rating.
But there is an important question that most people now ask, which is:
What Will Happen if You Run 110V Devices on 220V Network, and Vice Versa?
Here you will face one of two problems, depending on the case, as follows:
- If your network is 220-240V, and you connect an appliance that is rated on 110V, and try to switch it on, then it will operate at double of the rated current (measured in Ampere – A), and that would burn the fuse or any protection it has, or even could burn the device itself.
- If your network is 110-120V, and you connect a 220V rated appliance and switch it on, then the device will draw only half of the rated current, and it will not function properly as it won’t give the desired output power in kW. For example, the space heater in the previous example won’t be giving more than half of the heat it was supposed to give for the room it is in.
However, for most of electronic devices, like smart phones and laptops, the charger comes suitable to operate on both networks: 110V and 220V, as it has an internal transformer that automatically detects the voltage of the network and gives the device the voltage level it requires in order to function properly.
Conclusion – Is it Cheaper to Run 220V or 110V Appliances?
No one is cheaper to run when it comes to you, the consumer. Choose the device with the voltage rating of the electricity network in your area.
The only difference in cost might affect the utility company as operating their lines on 110V might cause them waste more money on the losses in their cables due to a higher current value, which might make the 220V-240V system more efficient than the 110V-120V system for the utility company, and not for you.
If you are trying to save money on your electric bill, then choosing between 110V or 22V appliances won’t change the cost on you, but you might need to check out the following my article about the ways of reducing electric bill in winter, and the ways for saving money on electricity in summer.