Can I Plug a Refrigerator into an Extension Code?

During a power outage, one of your main concerns is ensuring your fridge stays running so as not to spoil your food. And to make this happen, you will automatically find yourself plugging the refrigerator into an extension cord for the generator.

While this may save your food in the short run, it will potentially damage your refrigerator in the long run. Keep reading to learn why it is not advisable to connect your fridge to an extension cord during a power blackout. And what you must do if you have no other choice.

Can you plug a fridge into an extension cord?

Yes, you can use an extension cord for your fridge but make sure that the extension cord has the capacity so that almost all of the cords cannot carry enough load and become heated up too much that they can even pose a fire hazard.

However, the choice of the wrong extension cord can result in a major problem of overheating that may cause the plastic to melt. This overheating can damage the appliance and increase the fire or electric shock risk.

Using an ungrounded extension cord for a three-pronged appliance is also dangerous. Moreover, if you are going to use an extension cord for two appliances simultaneously, never ignore the combined electrical needs of both appliances, as the cords with less capacity will not handle the combined load and can produce several risks. 

Note: If you have a no-frost refrigerator, DON’T plug it into an extension cord as it may not support the built-in heater used to melt the frost.

Why is it not advisable to use an extension cord with a refrigerator?

The biggest concern with using an extension cord to power a refrigerator is using the wrong cord, which can lead to overheating of the cord, damage to the appliance, and an increased risk of fire or electric shock.

Below are some reasons why it is not advisable to use an extension cord on your refrigerator; 

Fire hazard

Regular wall sockets usually contain thicker wires compared to extension cords. This drawback makes extension cords to be a failed solution and causes them to initiate a fire or explode, especially when used for appliances with high electrical power.

The fridge must be on all day, making the extension cords work throughout the day without rest. This extensive use is a potential fire hazard due to overheating.

Damage to the fridge

The thinner wires in an extension cord greatly resist the electric current passing through the wire. This resistance can also be aided with the additional copper wire length. The increased resistance due to these two factors causes voltage drop along the way of electric current passage through the wire.

The voltage drop can damage the working efficiency of a compressor attached to the fridge. This is based on Ohm’s law that lower voltage results in more current, and this increased current flow will produce more heat than can cause the burning of different parts of your fridge and can reduce its lifespan.

Damage to wiring

The extension cords are not covered with anything, and the wires are exposed to an open environment, as a result of which the wires can be damaged through tearing, scratches, liquid spillage, or heavy falls.

Note: high-power appliances are usually not recommended to be connected to an extension cord for permanent wiring due to the risk of fire or explosions. Therefore, you should be careful while dealing with electrical appliances and plug such appliances directly into a wall outlet.

Guidelines for buying a heavy-duty extension cord

When choosing the right extension cord for your refrigerator, you must consider plug type, amperage rating, wire gauge, and cord size. The plug type matters because plugs with three prongs are grounded, which means they are designed to minimize the risk of electric shock or fire. 

Follow these guidelines when buying an extension cord for your fridge;

  • Buy a heavy-duty extension cord for the refrigerator. Ensure the extension cord has short wires to minimize the current load. A short extension cord would effectively reduce voltage drop. A slightly longer cord wouldn’t do any harm. 
  • Buy a grounded extension cord, as fridges mostly have a three-prong grounded plug. The third pin is known as the grounding pin. It delivers the excess electricity to the ground – rendering it harmless. However, the excess electricity will go to the next best conductor if there is no grounding pin. The metal body of the fridge; thereby electrocuting whoever touches the fridge.
  • The amperage rating of the extension cord is critical. First, check the owner’s manual for your refrigerator to determine the amperage rating, and then choose an extension cord with an equivalent rating. 
  • Buy a heavy-duty gauge with thick wires. Extension cords with a lower gauge number—like 10 or 12 gauges—are considered heavy-duty cords because they have a higher capacity to deliver power. Since the 10-gauge cord is an extra heavy-duty extension, it is the best choice for big power loads like refrigerators.
  • Ensure the wattage rating of an extension cord should be compatible with that of the refrigerator’s wattage rating.

Note: The amperage rating refers to how many amps of current an extension cord is designed to handle. The wire gauge of an extension cord refers to the thickness of the copper wires that deliver power. The cord size influences the distance across which the power has to run.

How to connect your fridge to a generator

When running your generator during a power blackout, plug the pronged end of the extension cord into the generator’s power outlet. You can reach the refrigerator with the extension cord from the generator. Also, allow the generator to come to an operating speed by starting it before plugging the refrigerator.

It is perfectly safe to run a refrigerator on a generator as long as the generator has a higher watt allowance than the starting watt consumption of the refrigerator. The average starting watts of a fridge is between 800-1200 watts, so a generator with a 2000-watt capacity will be sufficient.