Can I Plug A Portable Air Conditioner Into An Extension Cord? (ONLY if…)

Portable air conditioners have become popular in the recent past because of their portability. However, sometimes, it isn’t possible to power them everywhere you carry them. That’s when you require an extension cord for your convenience. An extension cord makes it possible to power your portable air conditioner even when the wall outlet or receptacle is far away.

However, most homeowners worry whether an extension cord is safe to power a portable air conditioner because they do require a lot of current, which extension cords might fail to handle. If you too have been worrying about this issue lately, you have come to the right place.

In this guide, we would discuss whether or not using an extension cord for a portable air conditioner is safe and how to use an extension cord with a portable air conditioner safely.

Can I Plug A Portable Air Conditioner Into An Extension Cord?

Can I Plug A Portable Air Conditioner Into An Extension Cord

Yes, one can plug a portable air conditioner into an extension cord, if the cord is a heavy duty one. Before plugging the portable air conditioner, make sure the amperage rating of both the devices is equivalent. Otherwise, it’s dangerous.

Usually, portable air conditioner units require around 12 amps of current or 1300 watts of power, which a 12 gauge, heavy duty extension cord will be able to handle.  A heavy duty extension cord that can support upto 15 amps and supply 1875 watts of power would be ideal for a portable air conditioner.

If you choose any ordinary extension cord in this case, the cord is sure to get overheated, causing a major fire breakout. Therefore, homeowners must be extremely careful while picking a suitable extension cord for a portable air conditioner.

We have explained below how an ordinary extension cord can be dangerous and risky in this case. Continue reading to find out more.

What Happens If You Plug a Portable Air Conditioner Into An Extension Cord?

What Happens If You Plug a Portable Air Conditioner Into An Extension Cord
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An ordinary extension cord is sure to fail at handling such heavy flow of current that an air conditioner requires. Consequently, it will lead to one or more of the following disasters :

Overheating and electrical fires

Needless to say, portable air conditioners do require high amounts of power for proper functioning. A conventional extension cord would easily get overloaded  and overheated in no time, because they are thinner and therefore aren’t capable of supplying enough current. Continuous overheating and overloading in an ordinary extension cord can lead to electrical fires.

Malfunctioning of the air conditioner

Because ordinary extension cords are thin and lengthier, they offer more resistance. This means that the electrical appliance has to work harder to draw the required amount of power. If this continues for long, the internal components of the device will get damaged slowly.

With increasing resistance, the voltage drop also increases, both of which are equally responsible for the malfunctioning of the portable air conditioner. The motor of the AC will be severely affected. In fact, this is a possible reason for a fire breakout!

Is It Safe To Plug A Portable Air Conditioner Into An Extension Cord?

Is It Safe To Plug A Portable Air Conditioner Into An Extension Cord
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Yes, it’s safe to plug a portable air conditioner into an extension cord as long as the cord’s amperage rating matches with that of the portable air conditioner. In short, the extension cord must be able to supply and handle the maximum current that the portable air conditioner requires for proper functioning.

Needless to say, portable air conditioners have different power requirements. It depends on their cooling ability and efficiency. The latest models have a better cooling efficiency and therefore require more power. Usually, they draw around 1300 watts of power.

Now, these devices can draw more current from the source anytime. Therefore, it’s advised to opt for a heavy duty extension cord rated at 15 A or more so that the extension cord doesn’t get overloaded in case the air conditioner starts to draw more current suddenly.

Besides choosing a heavy duty extension cord whose amperage rating is equivalent or more than that of the portable air conditioner,there are various other safety measures that homeowners must be aware of. By following these safety tips, one can ensure safety of the appliance and the house in large.

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Safety Tips: Things To Know Before Plugging A portable air conditioner Into An Extension Cord

Now that you have understood what kind of extension cords to look at, there are other things you must know to ensure safe use of the device.

Firstly, you must remember that all extension cords aren’t the same. They vary in length, gauge or thickness, amperage rating and plug type. Using the wrong extension cord for a portable air conditioner increases chances of accidents like electrocution, fire hazard, etc.

Therefore, knowing the safety tips and following them while selecting and using the right extension cord is important.

Amperage rating

We have already mentioned that it’s safe to plug a portable air conditioner into an extension cord only when the amperage rating of both of them match. However, experts advise homeowners to keep room for tolerance.

In other words, they advise people to choose extension cords with a higher amperage rating than that of the portable air conditioner. For instance, if the portable air conditioner draws around 13 amps of current usually, it’s advised to buy an extension cord of 15A.

Otherwise, if you use an extension cord of 13 A and there’s a slight power spike, the extension cord would overload, causing meltdown or fire breakout.

Having a proper-length extension cord for your specific use case helps

Just like the amperage rating, the length of the cord also matters. Your extension cord’s length must be of the enough to connect the portable air conditioner with the wall outlet. Neither more nor less.

That is because with increasing length of the cord, the resistance also increases. And with increasing resistance, the heat generation increases. If the resistance is more, the air conditioner has to work harder to draw the necessary amount of current. Consequently the motor of the appliance gets damaged.

This is the reason why there’s an increased production of heat when the resistance is high. In the end your electricity bills increase. Thus we can see how a lengthier extension cord is useless in this case.

Properly connect the extension cord with the wall outlet

One must firmly connect the extension cord with the wall outlet as well as the portable air conditioner. You must be wondering why. That’s because a loose connection again increases resistance. To reduce resistance, a tight connection is needed.

When there’s a loose connection, the electric current has to overcome the resistive force. This means that current is forced through the touching points of the wall outlet and the extension cords. With time, there’s constant accumulation of heat.

In this case, it doesn’t even matter if you have an ordinary extension cord or a heavy duty one. If there’s constant accumulation of heat due to weak connection or any other reason, even an expensive extension cord can overload, melt and cause a fire hazard.

Make sure the extension cord is grounded

Portable air conditioners must be plugged into a power socket with a grounded wire. Therefore, pick  three prong extension cord that has the grounding  wire. It’s extremely important and ensures everyone’s safety.

Do you know why the grounding wire is so important? The function of that wire is to channel excess electricity back to the earth or the circuit breaker, so that it can trip and there will be a power cut off. This way the grounding wire prevents a potential electrocution or fire hazard.

Do not plug multiple devices

A lot of homeowners unknowingly connect multiple devices to the same extension cord at the same time. While you are powering your portable air conditioner do not make this mistake.

Even if it’s a heavy duty, grounded extension cord with a higher amperage rating, connecting multiple devices simultaneously is dangerous.

If your air conditioner draws 13 A and the other device draws as little as 3.5 A, and you are using a 15 A extension cord, the rated current capacity of the extension cord exceeds, which can cause overloading, overheating and a meltdown consequently. The plug can also catch fire.

Therefore, one should never make the mistake of running multiple devices using one extension cord simultaneously, especially when one of the devices needs a heavy amount of current.

Do not run the extension cord on the floor

Make sure the extension cord is kept at someplace safe, away from everyone’s reach. Do not run the cord under carpets or behind doors. With a lot of foot traffic, the cover of the cord can get damaged.

Using a damaged extension cord is dangerous again. If someone steps on a scratched cord or a worn out cord, one can receive shocks.

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The Bottom Line

Almost all manufacturers and experts advise people not to use an extension cord for a portable air conditioner. In fact, if you go through the manual of an air conditioner, you will see it written. In case the appliance is damaged, the manufacturer wouldn’t be responsible.

If you have no other option but to use an extension cord, always follow the safety tips we have mentioned above. Only buying a heavy duty extension cord of the right gauge and amperage rating isn’t enough. You must go an extra mile for everyone’s safety.