There are so many things you can do with an extension cord, from powering indoor and outdoor lights to extending the reach of your indoor outlets. But does that mean you can use an extension cord for anything? Can you plug a fridge into an extension cord? Not safely, no. And here’s why. Extension cords have a limited amount of voltage they can handle before they risk catching fire or tripping your circuit breaker. Both refrigerators and standard appliances such as lamps and fans are considered non-neutral loads because they have different electrical needs than neutral loads like lights and outlets. An extension cord can only support so much current before it overheats and becomes a fire risk. Overloading an extension cord with non-neutral loads is one way to do just that.
Can You Plug A Fridge Into An Extension Cord?
In general, you should not plug a fridge into an extension cord. This can lead to overheating, which can cause damage or even fires. There are some situations where you may want to use an extension cord with your fridge, though. For example, if your fridge is far from a wall outlet and there are no other options for placement, an extension cord may be the best way to connect the fridge to power.
Why You Can’t Plug A Fridge Into An Extension Cord?
A Fridge Is a Heavy Device
All appliances in your house don’t have the same weight. The weight of a device is important when it comes to using extension cords, especially if you’re plugging the device into a wall that’s not fully grounded. As a general rule of thumb, you should only plug lightweight appliances into an extension cord. Fridges, for example, weigh about 285 pounds, whereas a standard vacuum cleaner weighs only 20 pounds. If you try to plug a heavy appliance into an extension cord, it’s quite possible that the cord itself won’t be able to bear the weight and will end up pulling away from the outlet as the appliance tries to “pull itself on”. This could lead to a dangerous situation where the appliance gets partially plugged in while the rest of it remains ungrounded.
Fridges Require Continuous Power Supply
Not all appliances can be unplugged when not in use, and fridges are a classic example of this. They need to run all the time in order to maintain the right temperature inside, so plugging a fridge into a normal outlet and then unplugging it when you don’t need to cool something down would be an unsafe practice. On the other hand, plugging a fridge into an extension cord would be even more dangerous as the cord would be incapable of providing continuous power to the appliance. There are a couple of reasons why fridges need a continuous power supply, and they all have to do with operating the cooling system. The first reason is that the fridge’s control system might be built into the cord, as discussed in the next section. The second reason is that the compressor, which is responsible for cooling down the fridge, requires a constant current to start and operate.
Fridge Controls Are Built Into the Cord
Some appliances have specific safety features built into their cords. For example, some extension cords have an auto-off feature that turns the connected device off after a certain amount of time. This is a safety feature that prevents the appliance from overheating and causing a fire. Unfortunately, it also means that you can’t use the extension cord to power a fridge. Fridge controls are often built into the cord that connects the appliance to the wall outlet. This is done to prevent children from tampering with the controls on the appliance and accidentally changing the settings.
Fridge Motors Need Constant Current
The motor that is responsible for driving the compressor inside most fridges is the most important part of the cooling system. It needs a constant supply of electricity to keep rotating and sending cold air throughout the fridge. Without that constant current, the motor would quickly overheat and stop working altogether. The exact amount of current that a fridge motor needs in order to operate properly are a closely guarded secret, so you won’t find it in the electricity charts. However, you can rest assured that your fridge motor needs more current than an extension cord can provide. Most extension cords have 16 amp circuits. This means that the total amount of current that can travel through the cord at any given time is 16 amps. For comparison, the average fridge motor requires a current of about 10 amps.
Extension Cords Are Not Designed to Handle Fridge Weight
As mentioned above, extension cords are not designed to handle the weight of a heavy appliance. Most extension cords have a thin and flimsy construction, so it’s easy to imagine that they would snap under the weight of even a small fridge. Needless to say, it’s not a good idea to try plugging a heavy appliance like a refrigerator into an extension cord. Even if the cord doesn’t break and start sparking, the stress that the extra weight puts on the outlet and other components in the wall will eventually lead to a blown circuit breaker in your house.
How To Tell If An Extension Cord Is Overloaded?
- You can tell if an extension cord is overloaded by plugging it into a circuit tester. If the circuit tester lights up, the extension cord is overloaded. If it doesn’t light up, the circuit is fine.
- If it does light up, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean an extension cord is overloaded. It could also mean that the circuit breaker is overloaded. If your circuit breaker trips when you plug in an overloaded extension cord, then it’s not the cord that’s the problem.
- It’s the circuit itself. In this case, you’ll need to hire an electrician to fix the problem. If your circuit breaker doesn’t trip, then you can assume the extension cord is overloaded, and you’ll need to unplug it until you can replace it.
What To Do If You Need More Length?
- If you need more length, you can use an extension cord. But you’ll need to make sure it’s long enough for the amperage draw of the appliance you’re plugging in.
- If you’re not sure what the amperage draw is, check the product instructions or consult an online calculator.
- To determine the length of the cord you’ll need, multiply the distance from the plug to the outlet by the appropriate numbers above.
- You’ll want to select a cord long enough to avoid creating a trip hazard.
- It might seem that the longer the cord, the better, but that’s not really the case unless it’s long enough to reach a conveniently placed outlet.
What You Should Know About Buying Extension Cords?
- If you need an extension cord, you can buy a new one at any hardware or retail store. A rubber-coated, 16-gauge extension cord is a good choice for general household use, but there are other factors that can affect your choice.
- However, if you’re in a situation where you’re not sure what kind of extension cord to use, you should err on the side of caution and use a heavy-duty extension cord.
- A high-quality extension cord will have the appropriate wire gauge (thickness) for the intended amperage draw, a proper termination, and a jacket that is appropriate for the conditions where it will be used.
- The jacket will help protect the cord from abrasion, moisture, and outside contaminants that can affect performance.
An extension cord is meant to be used temporarily, and not as a permanent solution to power issues. If you need more power, hire an electrician to install a new circuit. If you do need to plug in an appliance temporarily, make sure you use the appropriate extension cord and take care to avoid creating a tripping hazard.