Refrigerators, microwave ovens, and dishwashers are heavy appliances that use significant amounts of power to function.
As a result, national and local electrical codes require dedicated circuits for these devices. On the other hand, regular extension cords can only handle the current flow of computers, televisions, etc.
Plugging a fridge into an extension cord
Regular extension cords can supply a small amount of energy from an electrical outlet to a device away from it. These cannot run the large amounts of power required for a refrigerator to function. Powering a fridge using an extension cord will probably result in electrical risks.
If you cannot place a high-power-consuming device close to an electrical outlet, you may think of using an extension cord.
However, not all extension cords can supply a high number of watts over a long distance and will likely fail. Additionally, the risk of electrical fires will increase due to overload.
Extension cords are only applicable for powering low-power-consuming devices such as laptops, televisions, etc. The long wires can only carry low amounts of electricity as too much will overheat and melt the cable.
Also, there are chances of short circuits, and you may observe electrical sparks added to the smell of burning plastic.
Therefore, you must not use an extension cord to power a refrigerator. Besides the usual power draw, refrigerators often have a power surge when it starts up.
Dedicated circuits can easily handle power surges, but extension cords will fail to carry a high amount of electricity and damage both the wires and the appliance.
Although there are multiple kinds of refrigerators available, we will discuss bar and mini-fridges and see if you can use an extension cord to power them.
Generally, mini-fridges require 90-150V but are highly effective in cooling the storage space. Mini fridges do not always consume the same amount of power as they run in cycles.
As the internal temperature rises, the system runs, and the internal temperatures decrease. Otherwise, the mini fridge stays in standby mode when it reaches the temperature set by the user.
It is possible to supply power to a mini fridge using an extension cord. However, you will have to use the high-duty ones for safety. Also, you can only use extension cords as a temporary solution.
Bar fridges are taller and more spacious than mini-fridges. You can see these refrigerators in shops with rows and rows of beverages of different kinds.
As they have more room, a large compressor has to be installed to cool the entire volume inside. So, it has more power usage than a mini fridge and has voltage ratings of 220-240V.
As a result, you must not use these with extension cords, as doing so will void the warranty and lead to appliance damage. Extension cords must not be used as temporary or permanent solutions for bar fridges.
If you have either of these refrigerators but cannot place them close to a power outlet, you should call a certified electrician and install an additional electrical outlet. Otherwise, do not use an extension cord.
Is it safe to use an extension cord with a refrigerator?
As mentioned earlier, extension cords are only reliable for powering small devices such as computers, televisions, etc., because these cannot tolerate a high amount of electricity flowing through the cable.
The wires of an extension cord are thinner than the wires used for electrical outlets for portability. So, the cables have a low amperage rating.
Therefore, it is not safe to run a refrigerator on an extension cord. Some manufacturers emphasize not using an extension cord in the manual because doing so will damage the compressor and other parts of the fridge and also voids the warranty of some companies.
So, it is neither safe nor encouraged to use an extension cable for powering high-power appliances such as refrigerators.
However, if it is urgent and you do not have any other way of connecting a refrigerator to the power outlet, you must use heavy-duty extension cords. These consist of thicker wires and can withstand high amounts of electricity flow.
Although the cable or insulation will not melt, it is advisable to use this method temporarily, and seek a permanent solution.
Can you use a 16 gauge extension cord for a refrigerator?
In the American Wire Gauge (AWG) system, higher gauge numbers mean fewer numbers of maximum amperes.
For instance, a 1-gauge wire can carry a maximum of 119 amperes but a 5-gauge wire can only carry 47 amperes at max. However, the resistance of the cables increases with an increase in gauge number.
A 16-gauge extension cord can only provide approximately 3.7 amperes of current. But a refrigerator uses a minimum of 10 amperes to function. So, you must not connect a fridge to a 16-gauge extension cord and use a 12 or 11-gauge instead.
If you are unsure what gauge extension cord will fit the requirements for your refrigerator, you can search for a label on its body that has the electrical requirements.
You can find the ratings of the different gauges of wires on the internet so try matching the amperage of the fridge with that of the extension cable and you will be good to go.
What happens when you use an extension cord for a refrigerator?
Experts advise against using an extension cord to supply power to a refrigerator. Here are the possible consequences you may face if you do so.
Damage to wirings:
Refrigerators consist of numerous components and delicate wiring. Also, the cable of the extension cord is not as protected as the ones located inside the walls.
If something heavy falls or the fridge wheels go over it the cable will tear. Moreover, liquid spillage on the socket can lead to short circuits and loud electrical sparks.
Extension cords consist of thin wires unlike the ones used in the power outlets. These make them prone to failure especially when the appliance or device connected has a higher wattage than the amount the cable can handle.
Also, refrigerators remain on for the whole day and every day, so there is no rest period. Prolong usage and overload of the extension cord can result in electrical fires.
Overheating and performance issues:
The electrical requirements of a refrigerator list the voltage and amperage ratings for the optimal operation of the product.
However, lower voltage or current will negatively affect the appliance and its components.
Extension cords can be responsible for damage to a device because the long and thin copper wires reduce the voltage and increase resistance in the power supply.
As a result, refrigerators connected to an extension cord will have a failing compressor and overheating issues.
Using an extension cord to power a fridge is not advisable because it may lead to fatal consequences and damage to the appliance.
What gauge extension cord do I need for a fridge? How to measure?
Follow the steps below to understand how to choose the most appropriate extension cord for your refrigerator.
Plug the extension cord:
Generally, refrigerator plugs have 3 prongs, which are live, neutral, and ground. So, use an extension cord that has 3 prongs including the ground.
Most of them do not have the third prong so the safety of the user is compromised. Therefore, to stay safe, use one that has 3 prongs.
The amperage ratings of the refrigerator and the maximum ampere the extension cord can handle must match.
Otherwise, the extension cable will fail to supply current and the wires will melt because of the heat generated from conducting electricity. To know how many amperes, watts, or volts your fridge uses, you can see the information label on its body.
Appropriate gauge wire:
Since refrigerators require around 10-15 amperes, you must use lower gauge number wires. For example, you can try using a 12-gauge extension cord to power your fridge.
However, if it feels too less for the power requirements of the refrigerator, you can opt for a 10-gauge extension cable instead.
Length of the extension cord:
The length of the extension cord also influences the amount of current and voltage flowing through the wire. The length of the wire is directly proportional to resistance.
Therefore, if you are using a long extension cord, the resistance in the wires will cause it to heat up and eventually melt the plastic insulation.
If you are buying or deciding which extension cord to use for your refrigerator, you can follow the steps to choose the most appropriate one.
Although many heavy-duty extension cords are available to power high-power-consuming appliances, it is not advisable to use them to supply electricity to those devices. However, you can use an extension cable as a temporary solution. But it will compromise the safety of the user and the appliance.