Introduction: Dual-nation Power Strip

All frequent travelers know that if you are visiting a foreign country, it's a good idea to know ahead of time what kind of sockets the country you are visiting has, and what kind of adapter you'll need in order to plug-in or charge your electronic devices.

My wife and I have a home in Brazil, where the standard socket configuration is different from the U.S., using round plugs rather than the standard flat prongs on devices manufactured in (or more frequently now, for) the U.S. market.

I've installed dual pronged sockets in our home, which will accommodate both round (Brazilian) and flat (U.S.) pronged appliances and chargers, but have frequently run into a problem when trying to use multiple devices from both countries on the same power strip.

While it's possible to purchase power strips that will accept both plug configurations, these tend be very expensive, (more than US$20), compared to the relatively cheap power strips which can be purchased in the U.S. ($2 to $5 US dollars). So I decided to make my own, and here's how I did it.

If you frequently visit another country which uses a different type of plug then your home country, and you need to plug in devices with two different plug configurations, this Instructable may be helpful.

If you like this Instructable, please consider voting for it in the 'Hack It!' contest.

• Powerstrip

• Power drill
• Screw driver

Step 1: Open the Power Strip

If you need to be told to unplug the power strip before you take it apart and start messing with the guts, you should probably stop reading this right now;-)

My power strip was held together by four small screws on the underside, one on each corner. Take these out, and gently pry apart the plastic top bottom, so you can get at the electrical guts.

Step 2: Pry Apart Metal Strips

Once you get the plastic case open, you'll see that there are three metal strips inside; one for the ground, one for the positive and one for the negative. The ground strip is on the bottom, where the longer prong on a three pronged plug would touch. 

For the purpose of this project, we're only concerned about the metal strips on the left and right. Using a screwdriver, gently pry them out from the plastic case, and spread them apart, like wings. (Make sure you don't loosen any of the connected wires in the process).

Step 3: Drill New Socket

Now depending on what country you are trying to make a socket for, this will determine where you are going to drill. In the case of a Brazilian plug, the round prongs are just slightly wider than that flat prongs on a U.S. plug. This was very convenient for my purpose, because all I had to do is drill holes at the edges of the existing flat slots. I don't remember what size bit I used, but just match the bit to a plug.

Step 4: Bend Metal Strips

You'll see from the last step that this power strip is being adapted to take three U.S. plugs and three Brazilian plugs.

The last step before reassembling is to make sure that when you plug in the round pronged devices, that the prongs make contact with the metal strip. In order to do this, use a small wire cutter or similar device to cut a small bit of plastic from each side of each soon-to-be modified plug, to allow the inserted plugs to make contact.

(Unfortunately I didn't get a good photo of this process, but see the notes in the photo above).

Once you've cut notches in the plastic, replace the metal strips, and using a flat screwdriver, bend the metal metal slightly, so that it extends into the notches, and will make contact with your plug.

Plug in a device (without plugging in the powerstrip yet) to make sure both prongs make contact).

Now is a good time to test and make sure everything works. If so, reassemble the plastic case, and you're done!

Step 5: Finished

If you followed all the above steps correctly, you should now have a device that you can plug in three round pronged Brazilian devices, and three flat pronged U.S. devices, without a bunch of adapters piled up and hanging off your power strip.


MiguelA2 (author)2014-08-25

You do realize that you are almost literally playing with fire here, right? I mean, there is a REASON why the plugs are incompatible. The power systems are not always the same, in fact they are RARELY the same or even compatible. So sure, you can find SOME devices that accept a universal input, because many electronic things now have what are called Switched Mode Power Supplies that just convert AC to DC, and can be easily made to accept a wide range of input voltages and frequencies. But that is only SOME devices, and if you make a power strip that allows Susie Homemaker on a trip to the FIFA World Cup to plug her 115V 60Hz hair drier into a 230V 50Hz socket, and the blow torch that it becomes catches her hair on fire, your dreams of riches will go up in smoke with it. Even if you have an "adapter" that will make your plug fit into the socket you will fry your device or worse.

bellyr68 (author)2013-11-27

I bought a similar product made by Belkin, which has 2 USB outlets. But it plugs directly into the wall rather than being on a short cord, which isn't as helpful when your hotel room's outlet is in an inconvenient place. So...thank you for sharing. Great job! Visit website

charlieb000 (author)2013-11-17

change the plug on your power board to a male IEC (or mount a panel mount male IEC into the board if there is enough room and depth for it) and then in the country you are in, borrow or buy a computer power cable (their country's plug to an IEC female) and use. Does not convert voltage (need an autotransformer).

Winged Fist (author)charlieb0002013-11-17

It's not clear to me how this would resolve the issue of plugging devices with two different plug configurations into the same power strip?

jensenr30 (author)2012-09-27

very cool.
and practical even!

amandaghassaei (author)2012-08-31

great solution! does the connection work pretty reliably?


Thanks Amanda! Connection works great if you carefully measure and drill holes, which I did. One clarification; Brazilian sockets will only power Brazilian devices, even though US devices will fit, but this serves my purposes, allowing for three devices from each region.