This past week I published a video of my Canon laser printer “blowing up” when I plugged it into the wall socket. As background, I had noted that the data plate on my MF-232W stated it was appropriate for 120 volt power but that Best Buy had said it would work on 220. So, having received the printer that day in a balikbayan box, I dutifully plugged it in to see if Best Buy was right or not. Doing something like this is called a “smoke test.”
The result: The printer powered on but after about 5 seconds, something towards the back blew and a lovely column of white smoke drifted out of the printer’s ventilation slats.
I caught the whole thing on video, and you can see that HERE on my YouTube channel.
Now, what I failed to note at the end of the video, was that I later plugged the printer back into the 220 volt line and that it powered on. It did note a CMOS battery error (battery drained) and that the date and time function would not work. I then copied a document with it, connected it wirelessly to my computer and printed up a Word document.
It worked on 220 volts. This, despite the fact that the data plate only said 120.
Well, not actually.
Before recounting the story, let me address one important issue. A number of people stated that I should have simply gotten a $10 converter off of Amazon to lower the voltage from 220 volts to 110. It was a good suggestion and headed in the right direction, but you have to realize that some devices (air conditioners, kitchen appliances, power tools and laser printers) require dedicated step-down transformers that are watt-rated for 3 or 4 TIMES their actual operating rate. That is, if you have a 400 watt laser printer, you should have a 1200-1600 watt (2,000 preferably) step-down transformer. A converter is also not up to snuff for devices with circuit boards as the converter is bascially just cutting the sine wave in half. For chipped/circuit devices, you need a transformer. These big, ugly devices run around 100 bucks by themselves on Amazon (Goldstar brand) which would have cost more than the printer itself. Plus, by then I was fairly certain that the printer would work on 220 volts (see below).
So, if you leave this article with nothing else, hold onto this: There is a difference between small, cheap converters and big, expensive (and inefficient) step-up (or down) transformers.
Not all converters are transformers, but all transformers are converters.
I purchased my Canon MF-232W laser printer on Ebay from the Best Buy sales site. I wanted a laser printer as I am not a fan messy inkject cartridges and laser printers are generally more reliable and cheaper to operate. I do a LOT of document printing for my work, so the lower cost-per-page piece was important. The printer arrived a few days after I ordered it. I set it up and tested all the functions. Pleased with the ensuing results, I then noticed something a bit disconcerting on the back data plate: The printer appeared to only be compatible with 120-127 volts. In the words of one of the world’s foremost dog detectives, “Ruh-roh……”
Concerned, I messaged Best Buy via Ebay and they promptly replied that the printer would work on 220. They also suggested that I contact Canon customer support. I did that and after being ‘elevated’ to supervisory technical support, they said that they were “pretty sure” it would work on 220. The tech went on to explain that most electrical devices have been able to automatically switch between 110 and 240 volts for quite some time. He said international companies don’t want to source multiple power supplies for different regions, so they just use one PSU that can adjust to anything in that 110/240 range (and between 50/60 cycles as well). Although the “pretty sure” piece kind of worried me, his explanation made sense. I then did some research online which backed it up.
And that would explain why the US online printer manual said 120-127 volts and the Asian version said 220-240 volts.
With all that in mind, I was fairly certain that the printer would work in the Philippines (220 v/ 60 cycles).
At least I was about 93.2% sure.
70 days after shipping my balikbayan box from Florida via UMAC (love those guys), it was delivered to my doorstep. I did a short video on what I had sent myself (books for the kids, the printer and an assortment of wasabi-flavored snacks) and then set the printer up on the porch. I plugged it in and it powered right up. Now, back in 2013, I had spaced out and plugged a 110 volt US surge protector into Philippines 220 volt plug. It instantly popped/detonated and from then on the surge protection was gone but it still made for a solid power strip. So, five seconds after plugging in my trusty laser printer, as I am starting to recount that tale, something popped in the Canon and the white smoke coalesced. And this was about a second after I said “burst” in the video, so the timing couldn’t have been better.
As I noted above, I plugged the printer back in later and everything worked except the CMOS battery. I popped it open and saw that a small capacitor had blown on the CMOS board. I consulted a Fil-Am neighbor who knows electronics (and has a soldering iron!), I picked up a 70 peso replacement cap at Sunny Electrics and he replaced it. It hasn’t blown again, and we don’t know why it did in the first place. To me, it just made for an amusing video.
People REALLY got whipped into a tizzy over that video. Some in fact were so over-the-top that I had to delete them. (My troll meter is this: If what you say is not what I think you would say to my face, then you are simply trolling.) I mean, peeps got really, really heated. Finally, I realized that I should have noted at the end that the printer still worked and wasted a bunch of time explaining to individual commenters to calm down and that the printer still worked.
Unlike what is noted in the comment section of the video, you can’t always trust what is on the data plate and/or owner’s manual. You also can’t expect to use a cigarette pack sized voltage converter to power a laser printer (or power tools, aircons and the like). And finally – and as I should have done in the video – it is ALWAYS wise to use an automatic voltage regulator (AVR) in the Philippines. Electricity here is notoriously ‘dirty,’ and a good AVR will keep your precious devices safe. (This might have even been why the CMOS capacitor blew.) Most laptops and such have built-in voltage regulation, but my 550 watt desktop PSU doesn’t. Until I hooked it up to an AVR, it would randomly restart. I now have my desktop, PS4 and 4K Smart TV running through an AVR.
Just. In. Case.
OK, that’s it. Until next time, keep dreaming of the puppies and rainbows!