While just about any type of electrical extension cord will do when powering something simple like a lamp or a portable fan, using the wrong extension cord to power a major appliance like a refrigerator could lead to serious damage and might even pose a safety hazard. The best and safest option for powering a refrigerator is to plug it directly into a wall outlet. But sometimes this option is simply not available. If you must use an extension cord to power your refrigerator, choose a heavy-duty cord that is capable of handling the refrigerator's energy requirements without compromising safety.
Extension Cord Basics
Not all extension cords are created equal. When choosing the right extension cord for your refrigerator, you need to consider things like 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. 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.
Best Extension Cord for a Refrigerator
Using a grounded extension cord with a three-prong plug is always the best choice for major appliances including refrigerators. When it comes to amperage, check the owner's manual for your refrigerator to determine the amperage rating and then choose an extension cord with an equivalent rating. 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 makes the best choice for big power loads like a refrigerator.
The length of an extension cord is another important consideration, and shorter is usually best for appliances that require a lot of energy. Some manufacturers offer extension cords that are specially designed for their appliances.
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 increased risk of fire or electric shock. Never try to plug a three-pronged appliance into an un-grounded extension cord. If you plan to use one cord to power two appliances, don't forget to add up the electrical needs of both appliances to make sure that the cord can handle the combined load of power.