As the days are getting hotter and hotter, it is high time to prep your home for the summer. An absolute lifesaver is of course an air conditioner.
However, there is a bit of a conundrum that arises when purchasing an AC. Namely, you will need to find a socket you can plug it into.
While you may already know that you can plug a mini fridge into an extension cord, and that you can even plug a fridge into an extension cord too, do the same rules apply to the air conditioner? How much power does it need, and where is the best place to plug it into?
Can You Plug an AC Into an Extension Cord?
If you can, you should plug your AC into a wall socket. If you have to use an extension cord, make sure it is heavy duty, grounded, has as short a cord as possible, and that it has at least twice the amperes of your AC.
Air conditioners use a lot of power when they are starting up, and most extension cords aren’t able to provide it. This is why air conditioners come with such short and thick cords: they need a lot of electricity to run.
Extension cords that are of a lighter thickness, or gauge, can’t hope to compete. However, if you are able to use an extension cord that matches the wattage of your aircon, you can overcome the “no available wall socket” issue.
First, it needs to be short and stocky. The longer the cord, the higher the electrical resistance, which will cause a voltage drop along the line. This may be fine for some appliances, but an aircon will be susceptible to damage should the voltage fluctuate too much.
You should also note that most air conditioners do not have a built-in circuit breaker, which is why you should have one specifically for this appliance. This makes plugging an aircon into an extension cord the more challenging, as most of them do not come with circuit breakers.
So: in short, if you invest in an extension cord that has the right wattage, is short and stocky, and has a circuit breaker, you can plug your air conditioner into it no problem.
What Type of Extension Cord for Air Conditioner?
The extension cord you use for your air conditioner needs to have the right wattage and the right gauge, be as short as possible, and come with a built-in circuit breaker.
Note that you can’t use just about any extension cord with your AC. You will need to match it to the specific needs of your appliance.
Watts, Amperes, Volts
When you first turn an aircon on, it draws a lot of power. Most extension cords aren’t able to accommodate this demand. The one that you buy should support at least twice the amperes of your AC. Ideally, you want the lowest possible gauge (10 or 12), to ensure it comes with high enough amp ratings.
Here’s a bit of maths for you. The power your aircon uses is expressed in watts. To get its amperage, you need to divide the watts by the voltage (most likely either 120V or 240V). The extension cord should have double the amperage rating than the number you have just come up with.
If you choose a lower amperage extension cord, the air conditioner will overload it and start a fire. Or, you may trip the circuit breaker if there is one involved (and hopefully your extension cord comes with one).
You want to get an extension cord with the highest possible gauge, which will counter-intuitively mean you are looking for the lowest number.
Get at least a 12 AWG extension cord, but ideally, you are aiming for a 10 AWG one. It will be a bit more expensive, but it will certainly be the best choice.
The best extension cord for your AC is a short one. The longer the cord, the more electrical resistance it has, which will result in voltage drops that can damage your air conditioner.
Finally, you want an extension cord with three prongs. This is a grounded extension cord that will send all the excess current, if there ever is any, into the ground, as opposed to the next best conductor, which will be your AC. This will prevent electrocution.
What Gauge Extension Cord Do I Need for an Air Conditioner?
Ideally, you want a 10 gauge extension cord for your air conditioner. Alternatively, you can also use a 12 gauge one, but that is as high as you should go.
Air conditioners need a heavy duty extension cord, so a 10 gauge one will ensure there are plenty of amperes to go around.
How Long Can an AC Extension Cord Be?
Get the shortest possible extension cord for your AC. You will probably be able to find one that is 10 feet long (120V) or that is 6 feet long (240V).
Aim to buy as short an extension cord as you can reasonably place in your home. The longer the cord, the more voltage drops there will be, which can damage your AC.
Does an Air Conditioner Need to be on Its Own Circuit?
If you can, place your air conditioner on its own circuit. This is not an absolute requirement, but it will provide peace of mind and ensure everything is working efficiently and properly.
You can place an air conditioner on a circuit with another appliance, as long as the circuit provides enough power for both of them. Don’t put it on the same circuit with an appliance you use a lot or that is constantly in need of power, like your fridge.
Is It Safe to Plug an AC Into an Extension Cord?
As long as you choose the right extension cord, it is safe to plug an AC into it. Plugging it into the wrong kind of cord can cause a fire and damage the AC.
Your main concern is that your air conditioner will overheat and cause a fire. If you choose an extension cord that is too long or that does not provide the appropriate wattage, this is likelier to happen.
Extension cords will also affect the performance and health of your AC. The more electrical resistance in the cord, the more voltage drops there will be. They will stall your AC’s motor, and can lead to serious damage.
Safety Tips For Using an Extension Cord with an Air Conditioner
Only use an extension cord with your air conditioner when there is a wall socket a couple of feet away. Otherwise, the cord will be too long to provide quality electricity, and your AC won’t work properly.
You also want to ensure your extension cord is new, and that there are no visible marks on it. Regularly check it for damage, and replace it should you need to.
Don’t hide the cord under rugs of furniture, and make sure it is not a tripping hazard.
Wrapping It Up
While you can plug an air conditioner into an extension cord, your best and safest bet is to plug it into a wall socket. If this is not an option, aim to buy the lowest gauge, highest wattage grounded extension cord with a built-in circuit breaker.