While you can plug most small appliances in to an extension cord with no issues, you should thing twice before do so for a washing machine.
Using an extension cord for semi-automatic washing machines and spin dryers are generally safe as they do not draw much power. However, the same cannot be said for power-hungry fully automatic models with built-in heaters, whose huge power draw cannot be withstood by ordinary extensions cords. Moreover, the sockets of the extension cord may get splashed with water which can cause electrocution and short-circuits. This is why I would generally not recommend it.
In this article, I will further discuss why you shouldn’t plug a washing machine into an extension cord. But fret not — I will also give you some of the guidelines to follow when choosing an extension cord for your washing machine.
- Why you shouldn’t plug a washing machine into an extension cord
- What are the precautions when using an extension cord for a washer or dryer
- Things to consider when buying an extension cord for your washing machine
Why you shouldn’t plug a washing machine into an extension cord
For washing machines, it can be debatable as their power draw is relatively small compared to the previously mentioned appliances (that is, of course, if the washing machine does not have a heater – more on that later).
Which is true — in general, a washing machine does have a significantly less amperage compared to other appliances, which means that there is less chance for the extension cord to overheat and catch fire.
However, there are a lot more things that can go wrong when your washer is plugged in to an extension cord. In fact, most manufacturers explicitly tell you not to. Here are the reasons why this is a bad idea:
1. Fire hazard
Extension cords have a thinner wiring compared to regular house sockets. This makes them susceptible to failing and causing a fire especially if the appliances plugged into it are have a wattage that is higher than what the extension cord is rated for.
To ensure safety, you should plug your washing machine to a grounded electrical outlet. While there certainly is some wiggle room when it comes to using extension cords for semi-automatic washing machines and spin dryers, always plug your fully automatic washer and electric dryer in a grounded electrical outlet.
2. Performance and overheating issues
When it comes to wiring, the thinner it goes, the more it offers electrical resistance. It’s counterintuitive, but that’s how it is. Also, the additional length of copper wire has more electrical resistance. These two factors cause a voltage drop along the way.
This voltage drop will reduce the efficiency of the washing machine’s motor which can damage it over time.
Also, according to Ohm’s law, voltage and amperes are inversely proportional – the lower the voltage, the higher the amperage. The more amps flowing, the more heat is produced. This heat can burnout your washing machine’s motor and may reduce its lifespan.
3. Water splashing
The laundry area is almost always wet, which is why caution is needed when using an extension cord as water can get into the sockets, causing electrocution, severe injury, and death.
What are the precautions when using an extension cord for a washer or dryer
As we’ve said earlier, there should be no problem when the extension cord is for a semi-automatic washer or a spin dryer as their power requirements are not that high.
In fact, my household has used an extension cord for a washing and a spin dryer in the past with no problems. But it wasn’t from luck: to prevent water from splashing the sockets of the extension, we did the following precautions:
- We used a thick extension cord (more on this later)
- The extension cord was hung on the wall to prevent it from getting wet
- We made sure that only one appliance was plugged into the extension cord at any time
The one thing we should have done but didn’t is to use an outdoor extension cord as our laundry area is located outside. We’ve made a few rearrangements in our laundry area since so there is no need to use an extension cord for our washing machine now.
Things to consider when buying an extension cord for your washing machine
If you have no other choice but to use an extension cord, then the best course of action is to buy the correct kind to ensure your safety. Here are a few guidelines on what to kind of extension cord to buy:
The gauge refers to the thickness of the wire. It’s standard unit of measurement is AWG (American Wire Gauge). Rather counter-intuitively, the lower the AWG number, the higher the gauge.
|Extra Heavy Duty
For safety, opt for the #12 heavy duty gauge for your washing machine.
WARNING: Again, if your unit has a built-in heater, DON’T plug it into an extension cord, even if it is an Extra Heavy Duty one. Safety first!
As said earlier, as the cord gets longer, its current carrying capacity gets lower. Hence, why buying a short and stocky extension cord is a good idea as it lessens the severity of the voltage drop that may happen to your washer.
3. Rated Wattage
Check the specifications of the extension cord and the washing machine to see both of their rated wattages. If the wattage of the washing machine exceeds that of the extension cord, the cord may fail and cause a fire.
If unsure, you can check the washing machine’s rated wattage in the rating label placed at the back of the washing machine. For front-loading models, the rating label may be on the inside of the door. Alternatively, you can search for it in the manufacturer’s website.
4. Plug type
Some washing machines come with a three-prong grounded plug. The third pin is known as the grounding pin. Do not remove this as this is for your own safety; in case of a malfunction in the electronics, the grounding pin delivers the excess electricity to the ground – rendering it harmless.
If the grounding pin was taken off, then the excess electricity will go to the next best conductor – the big metal body of the washing machine – thereby electrocuting whoever touches the washer.
This is why you should buy a grounded extension cord, and if possible, buy an outdoor extension cord or a waterproof one to protect it from splashing water.
You can plug most small appliances into extension cords, but that may not be case for some washing machines. Do your research first when buying an extension cord for your washer. Not all cords are created equal; some can be more harmful than helpful.
This is why we always recommend to position your refrigerator where an electrical socket is nearby. Safety first!
Miguel Mores worked for 5 years as a member of the product management team for a home appliance company in the Philippines. He started 101appliance to answer the most common customer questions that he has encountered during his time in the industry. He now works in the digital marketing field and manages a small online bookstore on the side.