While most small appliances can be plugged in to an extension cord with no problem, that isn’t the case with a refrigerator.
Refrigerators require a lot of energy to run, and thus using a regular extension cord to power it may pose as a fire hazard as the cord may not be able to handle its energy requirements. That is why I generally do not recommend plugging your refrigerator into an extension cord for safety reasons.
However, you can use an extension cord if (1) it is the right gauge, and (2) if it has a three-prong socket. With that said though, it is still better to stick on the safe side. In this article, I will explain the possible repercussions of using an extension cord for your fridge.
Why you shouldn’t plug a refrigerator into an extension cord
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.
You should remember too that refrigerators are always turned on 24/7, giving the extension cord no rest period. To ensure safety, you should plug your refrigerator in a grounded house socket.
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 can cause a voltage drop that will adversely affect the refrigerator..
This voltage drop will reduce the efficiency of the refrigerator’s compressor and will eventually damage it. 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 refrigerator’s parts and reduce its lifespan.
3. The wiring can be easily damaged
Since the wires are out in the open, it can be easily damaged compared to the permanent house wiring hidden in the walls. The wires can be torn (look out for the fridge’s wheels!), its sockets are prone to liquid spillage, it can also be damaged in some way if something heavy falls on it.
Things to consider when buying an extension cord for a refrigerator
It is always more advisable to use a permanent socket for your refrigerator – but we get it though, things are rarely ideal. Some of us may have no choice but to plug our refrigerator into an extension cord.
Here are some guidelines you need to know when buying an extension cord for a fridge. While it is not best practice to do so, it will make your house safer compared to using any old cord you see lying around.
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||#10||20A|
For safety, opt for the #10 extra heavy duty gauge for your refrigerator.
WARNING: If you have a no frost refrigerator, DON’T plug it into an extension cord as it may not be able to support the built-in heater used to melt the frost.
As said earlier, as the cord gets longer, its current carrying capacity gets lower. Choose a cord that is short enough to reduce the voltage drop, and long enough to give you some slack when you need to move the fridge a little for cleaning and maintenance.
3. Rated Wattage
Check the specs of the extension cord to see its rated wattage. Never go above this number, as if you overload it, it will start a fire.
You should also check your refrigerator’s rated wattage – you can see it in the rating label at the back of the fridge, just above the compressor. Alternatively, you can search for it in the manufacturer’s website.
The refrigerator comes with a three-prong grounded plug, hence you should also buy a grounded extension cord.
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 fridge – thereby electrocuting whoever touches the fridge.
You can plug most small appliances into extension cords, but for a refrigerator? Better hold off on that.Do your research first when buying an extension cord for your refrigerator. 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!
- HowStuffWorks.com Contributors. (2020, July 27). What is the difference between two- and three-pronged plugs? HowStuffWorks. https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/everyday-tech/question110.htm
- The Spruce. (n.d.). How to Choose the Right-Sized Electrical Wire. https://www.thespruce.com/matching-wire-size-to-circuit-amperage-1152865
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.