So, I posted this in the lava lamps subreddit a few weeks back and was asked to post it here. I need to update it as some comments in regards to my transformers has slightly changed.
reddit post link: https://www.reddit.com/r/Lavalamps/comments/izo6ai/okay_so_you_are_...
UPDATED: 27 Sep 20 - This post is for buyers living in North America or any country using 110-130vac. I will admit that I am new to buying lava lamps. But have fallen in love with them and plan on purchasing more. I read through the last several years of posts learning what I could from previous owners on how to go about buying Mathmos lamps, powering them, etc. I have completed several shipments of lamps from the UK.
This is my experience and I thought I would put together a thread with all of the information I have in one thread. If it gets too long, I might break it up into several posts. Cost will keep most people from buying Mathmos. For this thread I am going to use two examples of lamps. The Astro and Neo. All costs are approximate as exchange rates change daily and shipping costs can also change.
1. Setup an account with a forwarding service like Forward2Me.com. I am currently using F2M and have no experience with any of the other forwarding service companies. Once you setup your account, they will provide you with a shipping address in the UK which you can use with any business in the UK. I have not had any issues with F2M so far. I recommend them.
Foward2Me - https://www.forward2me.com/
2. Purchase the lamps you desire and have them shipped to your UK mailing address.
3. Once the shipment arrives at F2M, it only takes Mathmos 2 business days to get it there, you will receive an email from F2M letting you know you have a package in your inbox. You will then login to your account, update the value and schedule the shipment. Pay for the shipment to include insurance, if you desire.
UPDATE: Should you have more than one package at F2M, they can for a few pounds, repack/combine the multiple packages into one in order to save on shipping. If F2M thinks the packaging for a package is not satisfactory, they may place it on hold until you contact them about it. They will then suggest it be repackaged in order for it to not be damaged while being shipped. If you need to contact F2M, I recommend using the send a message feature on their site vs sending an email. I get a faster response using the message feature vs email. One other item to note that I read on the F2M site is the following statement...”The maximum monetary value of a single shipment that can be imported into the USA tax and duty-free is $800.” Since I read that statement, I keep my shipments total value below $800 to be on the safe side.
4. F2M will ship them out the next business day. I use DHL for all of my shipments and they get to my doorstep in 2 days. F2M will offer 2-3 different shipping companies that you can choose from with different prices and delivery times. I choose DHL because they have a major hub in a major city near me and happen to be the most affordable.
NOTE-You can buy Mathmos lamps from the Amazon UK website in the Mathmos store. They can be a little lower in price from time to time. But I do not know what shipping costs as I have yet to purchase any lamps using Amazon UK. The selection is also smaller. You can also Buy Mathmos lamps from their EU storefront at https://www.mathmoseurope.eu/.
UPDATE-Mathmos store on Amazon UK
Now for the details...
I am using the current exchange rate of £1.00 Pound sterling equals $1.27 US Dollar.
Astro or Neo £79.00 or $100.33
VAT = 20% or roughly $20.00 on the Astro/Neo
So that is $120.00 just for the lamp. Mathmos shipping is free and 2 day shipping.
F2M shipping cost for one lamp is approximately £36.00 or $45.00 to the central United States using DHL.
F2M Insurance is £20.00 or $25.00. Additional charge if you chose insurance.
Now, 6 lamps from Mathmos costs roughly £100.00 or $127.00. Or $21.00 per lamp vs $45.00. Always better to bundle purchases as it saves you on shipping costs. NOTE-Mathmos largest standard box holds six lamps.
How do you power those 240vac lamps? You have several options.
1. I purchase International Voltage Converters from Grainger.com. $30 for a 100VA converter. $45 for a 200VA converter. Beware of converters made in China. Read the reviews before you buy. They can catch fire, short out, etc. The Grainger converters have a single universal outlet. I recommend the ones from Grainger. No issues so far.
2. Buy a Universal Power strip if using more than one lamp. I personally use Krieger and buy them from Amazon for $20.00. You can plug in 6 lamps with it. I recommend the Krieger. I have had no issue with mine. Walmart also s
3. If you are buying a NEO lamp, no converter or power strip is required. They work from 100-240vac with the appropriate plug. All you need is one of these from BestBuy or Walmart. $10.00 and it plugs into your existing outlets. You may already have an old one that is not being used. Check out old electronic items you may have lying around (i.e. DVD players, CD players, radios, etc.).
4. You can mod the lamps so that they use different bulbs (i.e. 110vac) and US plugs. But I have never done this with mine, so I will not provide any directions. Search on the web for instructions.
Blubs - If you keep your lamps original running 240vac, then you will need extra bulbs from Europe. I am still investigating purchasing bulbs. Mathmos is not cheap. But they are guaranteed to work with your lamps and they are planning on selling 10 packs soon for a better price. WARNING-the Astro lamps can come with either the GU10 bulb or SES E14 screw in bulb. You will NOT know which one the lamp comes with until you receive the lamp. I own Astros with both because they are shipping both types at the time of this post. I have purchased some GU10 bulbs from Amazon UK and although they are the same specifications, they are slightly different and do not provide as much heat because of these differences. The lamps run a little slower using the Amazon UK bulbs. UPDATE- I am still experimenting with them to see if I can increase their heat reflection towards the bottle.
Updated with address: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00378KPDE/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin...
Power Converters - Make sure you add up the wattage of the lamps you are planning on connecting to the converter. Then use my updated calculations below. I have deleted my previous recommendations. These calculations are based on the transformers I bought from Grainger. Other manufacturers specifications may lead to different results. Better or worse. I would expect a cheaper made transformer will lead to lower voltages at the same percentages. Never allow your lamps total wattage multiplied times 1.25 (125%) to exceed the total wattage your transformer.
UPDATE: I have been experimenting with the 2 transformers that I own (200 watt and 300 watt) and have come to the following conclusions:
Assumption-Mathmos lamps are most likely designed to run optimally at 230vac. Makes sense for most European countries. Designed speed, movement, life span and run time. Mathmos states the average lifespan of their lamps is 2000 hours using a 6 hour run time.
My transformers are 240vac with 0 load. At approximately 50% (+/- 5%) load on the transformer the voltage will be approximately 230vac. At approximately 75% load (+/- 5%) the voltage will be approximately 220vac. Example is 200watt transformer- 230vac at 100 watt load and 220vac at 150 watt Load. 300watt transformer- 230vac at 150watt load and 220vac at 225 watts.
240vac=faster than designed speed and movement, with a shorter lifespan and run time - hotter bulb
230vac=designed speed and movement, with an expected lifespan and run time - expected bulb temperature
220vac=slower than designed speed and movement, and a longer lifespan and run time - cooler bulb
Mathmos recommends a room temperature between 69-75F. And the voltage is designed for 220-240vac. These narrow ranges affect the temperature of the bulb along with the other lamps characteristics.
One reason I mention this is that two of my lamps (Astrobaby & Telstar) run really slow at 220vac. So much so that i have decided that they need 230vac or greater in order to run like my Astro’s at 220vac.
So you can now pick the transformer based on what you desire out of your lamps. Also remember to ensure your transformer has room to breath and keep cool. A hot transformer may lead to lower voltages and risk of fire.
So what am I doing with mine...I am running my lamps as close to 230vac as possible by measuring the output voltage of each transformer with a multimeter with the lamps running.
If you want the ultimate setup, buy some version of a WIFI enabled electrical outlet like the following:
$30.00 and it is controlled with an app on your phone. Turn them on or off whether at home or somewhere else. Setup a time schedule for them to run. You can even setup an Auto Shutoff time in hours (i.e. after 6 hours they turn off automatically). This will save your lamps from becoming overheated. Now you can go to bed with them on and they will shutoff automatically. Never overrun your lamps again.
That is it for now. I will add more if I think of anything else or learn more about bulbs.
I plan on purchasing more Neo's in the near future and have an iO on order.
What do I own from Mathmos: At present I own 8-Astro‘s, 4-Neo‘s, 2-Pods, 1-Astro Baby & 1-Telstar.