As a homeowner, you probably have extension cords all over your house.
But even if you think you know how to use them safely, it’s worth taking another look at the appliances you’re plugging into them.
Because some of them actually shouldn’t be plugged into extension cords in the first place.
So here are 13 things that you should never have plugged into an extension cord:
Many people plug microwaves into extension cords. But you should only use a microwave with a power outlet.
Microwaves use a lot of power, and surges caused by them can damage the cord and make it dangerous to anyone who comes in contact with it.
It’s true that refrigerators use a lot of electricity, and they can’t work well if they’re on an extension cord. But this isn’t the only reason you shouldn’t plug your fridge into one.
Refridgerators are designed to be plugged directly into a wall outlet, not into extension cords. The National Electrical Code expressly prohibits using any type of appliance with an extension cord because it can cause a fire or electrocution hazard—and this includes refrigerators.
In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that “there is no safe way to use” these two together.
Electric Space Heaters
Space heaters are not designed for outdoor use, permanent use, or use with extension cords. In fact, they can cause fires, electrocution and injury if used improperly. Here’s why you should avoid plugging in space heaters:
- They’re not intended for large rooms or outdoor use.
- They’re not intended for permanent use (i.e., they’re meant to be used briefly during the cold months).
- They’re not intended for use with extension cords (the cords don’t have sufficient amperage capacity to handle the load).
Don’t plug your TV into an extension cord.
First, TVs use a lot of power. Second, they should be plugged directly into a surge protector or power strip before being plugged into an extension cord.
Why? Because the surge protector is designed to handle the voltage increase that can occur when you plug a power-hungry device (like a TV) into it.
An extension cord isn’t built to deal with that kind of stress.
It’s easy to ignore that little warning label on the back of your laptop, but you should never plug a laptop into an extension cord.
Laptops are designed with low wattage ratings and cannot handle the power surge that comes from plugging them in through an extension cord.
Overheating is also a major concern for laptops; if they’re plugged into an extension cord, they may overheat and damage their internal components.
The toaster is a staple of the kitchen, and not just because it’s fun to put bread in it. It’s also used for making toast, which is an important part of any breakfast.
The problem with plugging your toaster into an extension cord is that the toaster draws quite a bit of power. A two-slice or four slice model can draw up to 1,400 watts.
That’s enough electricity to light up a 100 watt bulb for 13 hours straight.
This high amount of power means that when a long extension cord is used with this type of appliance, there’s more potential for fires and other problems than there would be if you were using it directly from the wall outlet.
If you’re going to plug your hair dryer into an extension cord, make sure it’s got the right kind of plug. A three-pronged appliance means that there’s a ground line (the third prong) for safety purposes.
Hair dryers need this safety feature, so make sure you use it when you’re using an extension cord for a hair dryer.
When using an extension cord with a power strip, remember not to overload the outlet or the capacity of the cord.
Extension cords have limits on how much electrical current they can safely carry, and by adding additional loads through a series of connected plugs at once—even if those loads are relatively low demand items like phones and lamps—you might exceed those limits and cause sparks or fire hazards in your home or business.
Vacuums are another appliance that needs to be plugged directly into a power outlet, not an extension cord. They use a lot of power, so you don’t want them to be part of the chain of other things you’re plugging in.
A good rule of thumb is to only use an extension cord if it’s rated for your appliance.
Coffee makers are another common household item that should not be plugged into extension cords. Coffee makers use a lot of electricity, and they’re not designed to be used with extension cords.
If you have a coffee maker in your home, you shouldn’t plug it into an extension cord or a portable generator. You can use a power strip instead, but it’s best if you avoid the cord altogether.
In general, you should avoid putting any appliance or device into an extension cord that isn’t meant for it.
Air Conditioning Units
Air conditioners are not designed to be used with extension cords. This is because they are heavy and require more power than an extension cord can provide.
Extension cords are also not designed to handle the extra weight of a cumbersome air conditioner. If you try to use an air conditioner with a standard extension cord, it could damage the cord or even cause a fire.
Air conditioners should not be connected to power strips either, as this will result in electrical overloads that could lead to burning out circuits and fires.
Additionally, air conditioners should never be plugged into surge protectors—or any other kind of protection device like fuses or circuit breakers—because these devices can also cause short circuits leading to fires (as well as overheating).
Power tools are a big no-no on extension cords. The high voltage can cause the cord to become a shock hazard, and the electrical current will be too high for the wire gauge of the cord.
If you plug them into an extension cord, they can overload the cord and cause a fire. The best way to use these tools is to buy a heavy-duty extension cord that has enough capacity to handle the load or plug them into a power strip that has circuit breakers.
If you don’t want to risk blowing out your washer’s motor, don’t put it on an extension cord.
High-pressure washers can draw up to 10 amps of current, according to The Home Depot. If you’re using one outdoors, make sure there’s no chance of it coming in contact with any part of your home’s electrical system. If you’re using an extension cord outdoors, make sure it’s rated for outdoor use and won’t melt the motor or wiring.
Another risk with high-pressure washers is:
They have a very high water pressure that can damage the cord and cause electrocution risk if plugged directly into an electrical extension cord.
The best way to use a high-pressure washer is by using a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protected outdoor outlet with a 30 amp breaker and using a 30-foot long, 50 amp extension cord from that GFCI outlet to your high-pressure washer.
This will protect you from electrocution risk while using your high-pressure washer.
Lawn mowers are heavy, and they can easily pull the plug out of an extension cord if they’re not grounded properly. If you have a lawn mower that doesn’t have a grounded plug, you’ll need to install one before using it with an extension cord.
Use These Appliances Only with a Power Outlet
If you’re using a power outlet, that’s one thing. If you’re plugging into an extension cord to power it, however, the danger becomes much greater.
The cords can overheat and burn out if they aren’t designed for use with high-power appliances. The risk of electrocution is high when you plug an appliance into a cord that wasn’t meant for it.
Remember that these tips are intended to keep you and your family safe. The last thing we want is for you to suffer an injury while using your household appliances. Remember: when in doubt, ask an expert.
Read this blog about should you unplug extension cords when not in use?