A Simple Guide to OCONUS Voltages

June 8, 2018 at 10:06 am by SEM

While most of us know that OCONUS stands for Outside the Continental United States, we sometimes do not consider that the electrical items which work in the United States do not work internationally. The most common question asked when ordering a paper shredder for an OCONUS base is, “can the paper shredder work overseas?” The simple answer is yes, but there are a couple of factors that must be considered to fully answer the question.

As most international countries operate on a completely different voltage system than we do here in the United States, voltage is the first factor to consider. Most all of today’s paper shredders come in either a 110/120V or 220/230V single phase version, and most all will operate within one of these two voltage ranges. For example, European countries commonly run on the 220V/230V version as compared to the United States which operates on the 110/120V version.

The second factor to consider is the frequency or cycle of the voltage; most commonly recognized as Hz or hertz. This mainly refers to the speed cycle of the electrical current. Most European countries run on 50 Hz. The United States runs on 60 Hz. It is very important to determine the correct cycle of your voltage, or your equipment will not function properly.

Common international voltage within Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, is 220/230V 50 Hz. Countries such as Korea, Okinawa, South America, and most US Territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico, run on 110/120V 60 Hz. While mainland Japan runs on 100V, Japan operates on either 50Hz or 60Hz cycles depending on your location. Most northern territories in Japan and areas around Tokyo run on a 50Hz instead of a 60Hz cycle. An excellent high security shredder for Japan is the SEM Model 1201CC. This dual frequency model is uniquely designed to run at both the 50Hz and 60Hz cycles. It is designed to operate at the lower 100V range, and is manufactured in either the 110/120V or 220/230V versions as well. Dual frequency models can assist if your FOB (Forward Operating Base) is running off temporary generator power and you plan to switch to an in country voltage source later where the cycle changes.

SEM Model 1201CC

Another common question asked is “can the shredder run on dual voltage?” The answer again is yes, but these units are generally more expensive that standard single voltage units. You should always consider where the shredder will be placed in operation. If mainly utilized in an office environment, then the operating voltage within your facility will likely suffice. If you plan on deploying your shredder to multiple locations, then dual voltage units should be considered. Step up or step down transformers can be utilized, but note these will only convert the voltage and not the cycle or Hz.

A good resource guide is Voltage Valet. It also provides references to plug types. Simply find your country location, and click on the country for both voltage and common plug types. It is often easy to think that an adaptor plug will modify electricity. Adaptor plugs DO NOT convert electricity; they only modify foreign outlets. Some international areas have uncommon voltages, and may operate on a combination of both voltage and cycle outside the norm. This is why you should always double check your existing in country voltage or check with your building or facility manager to be certain.

Considering the lengthy delivery times often involved when shipping an item to an OCONUS base through a Defense Depot, it is important to ensure the shredder will work when it is received. Never hesitate to contact us if you have questions regarding OCONUS orders!