Here is a how-to guide on how to choose the right extension cord, and what to look for if you are going to run a refrigerator off an extension cord.
There are a wide variety of extension cords on the market, in fact, they are commonly used in most households for a variety of purposes so you will almost certainly already have several. To make sure you are using extension cords safely take a look at our guide and improve your understanding of how they work.
Extension cords vary by ‘gauge’ or ‘AWG’.
The ‘gauge’ or ‘AWG’ denotes the thickness of wires carried within the extension cord (American Wire Gauge) rather than the thickness of the extension cord itself. You will find this written somewhere on the cord itself, or on the reel or packet.
The ‘gauge’ can vary anywhere between 18 and 10, counter-intuitively 10 is thicker than 18. 10 – 14 gauge can run the larger appliances (such as your refrigerator) and is referred to as ‘medium’ or ‘heavyweight’. 14 – 18 are ‘light-weight’ extension cables and are used for appliances or tools that do not require draw as much ‘juice’ to run.
The larger the appliance or tool that you are seeking to power the lower gauge needed to support the draw of current necessary. When you look at extension leads this is a universal level that you can trust, many cords will state not only which gauge they are, but what they are considered suitable for.
Consider the amperage.
If you check your refrigerator manual you will be able to see what amperage you need for it to run, and you can ensure that the extension lead meets your needs – a general rule would say that for a refrigerator you are looking for a minimum of 15 amperes for safety reasons and this should be your starting point.
Extension cords offer a range of plug options.
Some cords terminate in one plug – quite literally one wall socket to one appliance, these are true extension cords rather than ‘splitters’.
Some cords offer a power strip rather than a single socket like this one linky so taking the power provided by one socket and giving you the opportunity to ‘split’ that supply and run more than one appliance from the supply. This isn’t something you will want to do if you are running a refrigerator.
You need to ensure the extension you are using is of the three pinned plug type. These are grounded – that is the purpose of the additional pin, therefore reducing fire or electric shock risk, it is not suitable to run an extension from a two pinned plug like this linky as the cable will not be grounded and with such a large appliance the risk is too great.
Extension cords come in a variety of lengths.
From extension reels to cords of only a meter or so there are choices to be made about how long you will need the cord to be. Make sure that you have accurately measured the distance before making your purchase, more on this later. A long distance can cause a voltage drop in an extension cord if you are looking to power a refrigerator within your property this is not likely to be a long enough distance for this to be an issue, but shorter is better.
If you are looking to power a small item, say a fan, then you don’t need to worry too much about the extension cord that you choose to do the job, most extension cables on the market will be more than sufficient for the job.
When considering powering a refrigerator through an extension lead though you need to make sure that you have bought something suitable similar to this linky to be safe.
It is common sense that the safest, and best option, is to have your refrigerator plugged directly into the wall. If you really need to run an extension cord though think about the following:
Use a ‘heavy duty’ extension cable – this denotes those that are within the 10 – 14 gauge range. They will support the refrigerator for you, anything less than this is not suitable.
Choose a single, three pinned socket version. Do not use an adaptor, if you need to change the socket then get an electrician in and change the socket (it may be easier just to get him to run a new cable whilst he is there).
Measure the distance that you wish to run the cord – how far the refrigerator is from the socket – and buy a suitable length cord. You do not want to leave a cord coiled, this is a recognised fire risk, it needs to be laid out, but not long enough to be a trip hazard. You may wish to add the length to enable you to ‘string’ it along a work surface or similar rather than at floor level.
Consider where you will run the cord – you do not want it to be kinked or shut into doorways at any point – the cable is designed to run in a straight line enabling you to plus something in that is in the same room.
It is not considered suitable to use an extension cord as a permanent solution for any appliance, much less a refrigerator – extension leads should only be considered for temporary installations, say if you have to have the kitchen remodeled and need to accommodate the refrigerator elsewhere in the meantime.
If you are relocating the refrigerator on a permanent basis or have purchased a second unit for the garage or outdoor space, then getting a permanent plug wired in is the best solution.
This is the sort of extension lead that we would recommend, temporarily, for a refrigerator:
3 foot – Heavy Duty Grey extension cable
6 foot – POWTECH Heavy Duty cable
100 foot – Outdoor/Indoor contractor grade extension lead