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Laptops and voltage spikes

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Laramie, Wyoming
posts: 13
reviews: 1
Laptops and voltage spikes

Hi all. I'm currently visiting Nairobi, and am noticing something disturbing while charging my Macbook: it looks like the power is waxing and waning through the charger, and I'm worried that voltage spikes will damage my computer.

I am using a converter with "high" and "low" options and have it on the "low" setting. Any advice on how common this is or how I can fix the problem? I am here for work and really cannot lose the use of my laptop, but I can't afford to permanently damage it either.

Destination Expert
for Mombasa, Diani Beach, Kenya
posts: 6,785
reviews: 15
1. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

I'm not at all technical and I'm sure Doff will answer your question. What I can say is I always use a surge protector with my electrical gadgets.

Laramie, Wyoming
posts: 13
reviews: 1
2. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

Okay great, thanks. The last time I was in Kenya I was just using a netbook, and didn't notice this issue, but it was very pronounced with my Macbook.

Does anyone have a recommendation for the best place to look for a surge protector in the Westlands area?

Mtwapa, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Barcelona, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bamburi, Mtwapa
posts: 13,618
reviews: 51
3. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes


Most modern electronic equipment works at voltages anywhere between 100 and 240 volts meaning they can be used without a converter in the US, Europe or Kenya, so you shouldn't need the converter. (check the small print on the back of the transformer on your charger cable)

However the power supply here is inconsistent and fluctuates, you can often notice ceiling fans speeding up and slowing down, and we do get power surges, particularly when the power returns after an outage, so as TF says a surge protector is highly recommended. I lost an mp3 player when I went out and left it charging directly from a socket as our surge protectors were all in use, it melted the plug / transformer and killed the hard drive,

You can get surge protectors from supermarkets (Nakumatt, Tuskys, etc) or hardware or electric stores, you can buy 4 way extension cables with built in surge protectors for just over 1,000/-

Mombasa, Kenya
posts: 607
4. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

I am not a tech person :) and do what am told by those who are. On advice we use Solatek products for everything except simple bedside / side lights. For fridges we use their products for fridges.


Their products are not cheap in comparison with a simple extension with surge protector, but it works well and I am sure saved us quite a lot of money :)

On a separate note, dealing with Solatek in Mombasa has always been easy and they repaired two of their products FOC in the last 5 years. Considering the number of protectors we have, unstable power and humidity at the coast 2 in 5 years is not a bad record!


Tijara Beach Hotel


Mtwapa, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Barcelona, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bamburi, Mtwapa
posts: 13,618
reviews: 51
5. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

We use a Solatek firdge surge protectors on our fridge / freezer and a Solartek on our tv / dvr but never had any problems with any of the devices (including laptops and netbook) plugged into the 4-ways we used before I brought out some Belkin surge protectors from the UK (one third the price of Solartek here). in fact I've just realised our washing machine and 'drinks' fridge and second tv / decoder are still only protected by 4-ways

Sheffield, United...
posts: 2,597
6. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

Firstly, stop using the converter, it's not needed, and may even be the cause of fluctuating charge. Your Macbook charger will be universal voltage typically 100-240v. (check the plate on the back of the charger, it would be MOST unusual these days for it not to be universal, it’s cheaper for manufacturers to make a universal charger, than to make a range of different voltages!), and thus will compensate for voltage fluctuations. Instead of the converter, you def need a surge protector, African power supplies are notorious for "dirty" waveform, with fluctuating voltages, and high voltage spikes, particularly when supplies are restored after a (often) power cut. If you go on safari and need to charge camera/laptop, a surge protector really is a must, as generator outputs are full of spikes.

Bungoma, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Kenya
posts: 2,530
reviews: 2
7. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

It depends how long you are here for. I use Sollatek voltage stabilisers. They have lasted for years, but are not as light as the protectors described above. I just have the small one for the laptop and printer. I can also see the input when the voltage is so low it won't work much else.

Laramie, Wyoming
posts: 13
reviews: 1
8. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

Thanks for all the advice; I definitely should ahve thought of a surge protector and picked one up at the Nakumatt (the Tecno brand version for personal electronics was 2790 Ksh).

Just for future reference for anyone else having this problem, though, I think it was actually a different issue. My plug adapter had both "high" and "low" switches, and I had been using the "low" one with my MacBook for fear of frying it. But it turns out the "low" setting only goes up to 50v, and my Macbook needs at least 110 (and most of the newer models will auto-detect and adjust for up to 240). So by running it on too low of a voltage, the motor was surging trying to get the power that it lacked. Hence the waxing/waning issue that I observed.

So I do think the surge protector was a good idea, but I wanted to outline where I went wrong (using and adapter with the converter on the wrong setting) in case anyone else runs into this issue.

Asante sana!

Colorado Springs...
posts: 16
9. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

Nice to see you figure out. I will definitely bookmark this since I will be heading to Nairobi on Feb 15th

10. Re: Laptops and voltage spikes

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Removed on: 9:35 am, May 03, 2013