Mini-fridges are extremely capable appliances that provide a lot of cooling for the little space they take up, but how much power do they need? Is it safe to run them on an extension cord?
You can technically plug a mini fridge into an extension cord. However, it’s essential to choose a heavy-duty cable that can support the fridge’s power needs, which is best used as a temporary solution. An underpowered extension cord can overheat, melt the insulation, and start a fire.
Read on to learn more about the power needs of a mini-fridge, why you shouldn’t use an extension cord as a permanent power solution, and what kind of cable you should buy if you do need to use one temporarily.
Appliance Power Basics
Most home appliances run on electricity. A current runs from the outlet, into the device, and back into the outlet. How fast the current moves depends on the strength of the voltage. The higher the voltage, the faster the current moves through this circuit.
Some appliances, like a toaster, purposefully slow the current down. By restricting the current, some of the energy from the process escapes as heat. In a toaster, this slowing and heating happens in the coils on the inside of the toaster. This is how a toaster converts electricity into the ability to crisp bread.
If the power cord on a device cannot withstand the voltage that the appliance will create, then the slowing and heating process will happen in the cable itself. All appliances should be sold with a suitable power cord to meet the needs of the machine. It’s when you add an extra step to the powering process that you run into trouble.
To ensure your extension cord does not heat up and cause a fire, you need to utilize a cord that can withstand the needs of your mini-fridge.
Mini-Fridge Power Requirements
Mini-fridges are usually rated between 90V and 150V. They run in cycles, meaning that they are not always actively cooling while they are constantly on. Once the fridge’s inside has reached the desired temperature, the refrigerator will turn to standby mode. As you open and close the fridge, the cool air will escape, and the internal temperature will rise.
The fridge will kick into gear to cool the storage once more, and as it does so, it will draw high power. This high-end power usage is what needs to be considered when plugging your mini-fridge into an extension cord.
Using Extension Cords With Mini Fridges
There are many things to consider before you use an extension cord with your mini-fridge.
The Longer the Cord, the Harder the Fridge Has to Work
A mini-fridge plugged into a 2-foot extension cord won’t have to work as hard as one plugged into a 10-foot cable. The longer the line is, the more resistance is put on the electricity traveling through it. The mini-fridge will then have to work harder to draw the energy it needs to operate correctly.
It’s almost guaranteed that with the use of any extension cord, your mini-fridge won’t be as useful as it struggles to access the power it requires.
Your Extension Cord Needs to Be Grounded
Some plugs have three metal prongs, and some have two. The bottom round piece is ground prong. This is vital in the safe use of large-appliances, as the ground prong delivers excess electricity to a non-conductive location where it can safely be dispersed.
The ground wire is crucial in all metal-cased appliances. If a wire were to come loose in the appliance’s internal body, the external metal could become electrically charged. When you use the tool next time, you would receive a dangerous, and perhaps even deadly, shock.
The same thing can happen if you plug your grounded mini-fridge into a two-prong extension cord. Not only could the mini-fridge become charged, but the live ground prong would be bared and on display.
Plastic-cased appliances are not conductive, and that is why power cords themselves are encased in plastic.
You Need a Low-Gauge Extension Cord
The gauge of a wire is the measurement of the thickness of the cord. This girth determines the level of electrical current that the wire will be able to handle. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the cord is, and the better equipped it is to handle high power surges.
For appliances like a mini-fridge, a 14 gauge or lower extension cord is the best option. Some of these cords are appliance-rated, like the POWTECH Heavy-duty 9 FT Major Appliance Extension Cord. This extension cord comes in 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 20, and 25-foot varieties. The product boasts heavy-duty insulation and is rated for power usage up to 1875 MAX Watts,15 Amps, and 125V.
These cords are often found on construction sites where the need to safely power tools and lights and withstand cold and hot temperatures. With that being said, these strong cords are still not meant to be used as a solution for a power supply. Whenever possible, plug all appliances directly into the outlet to minimize the risk of electrocution and fire.
How to Use a Mini Fridge With an Extension Cord
If you must use an extension cord with your mini-fridge, then remember the following criteria:
- It would be best if you used a grounded extension cord for a grounded mini-fridge
- Your cable should be at least 14 gauge or lower
- Stick with as short of an extension cord as will still complete the job
- This should be used as a temporary solution, not a permanent feature
- The more you open and close your fridge, the harder it will have to work to cool
You can plug your mini-fridge into your extension cord. It is not recommended, mainly for the fire hazard that ill-equipped cords pose. If a line cannot handle the power of the mini-fridge, the cable could heat up, melt away the plastic and start an electrical fire.