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So, you just bought an air conditioner to keep a room cooler during hot Savannah summers. But you encountered a common problem. The unit’s cord doesn’t reach the nearest outlet.
Can you run an air conditioner on an extension cord? If you choose to use one, you’ll need to take a variety of cord specifications into account. AC units require heavy-duty extension cords to work effectively and safely.
At Georgia Air, we recommend contacting us to have new outlets installed. A professionally installed outlet will safely and efficiently power your unit. However, we understand that you might need immediate relief from the summer heat.
As Savannah’s air conditioning repair service, we provided a brief guide on how to select the right extension cord and some safety measures to consider. You can’t use just any extension cord on the shelf or in storage. Read on to find out how to make the safest selection.
Can You Run an Air Conditioner on an Extension Cord?
The short answer to this question is yes. You can run an air conditioner on an extension cord. But air conditioners use a lot of power to function.
Choosing the wrong type of cord could cause a house fire. You need power cords that transfer the necessary electric current without overheating or overworking the AC’s motor. Below, we list the specifications your new cord should meet.
First, you should find out your unit’s power efficiency. This depends on the size of your unit. You can typically find this information in your owner’s manual.
What does power efficiency mean? This term generally refers to input. A percent of the power input makes the unit produce output. The leftover percent gets lost throughout the function.
For example, your unit has a power efficiency of 70%. That means that 70% of the power it draws from the input will transfer to its output. The remaining 30% goes toward factors like friction and travel.
Your extension cord should work well with your unit’s power efficiency. That way, less power gets lost throughout the process.
If your manual doesn’t specify power efficiency, you can also determine your unit’s power needs by finding its amperage. The term watt refers to the amount of power your AC uses.
Find the required wattage. Then, divide the number of watts by the expressed voltage. This will show how many amps your unit needs.
Any extension cords you use should have amp ratings that match the minimum amperage. You should also find the amp ratings of any circuits you plan to use. If your circuits become overloaded, your circuit breaker will trip.
How much electricity can your new cord transfer? The wire gauge helps you determine this. As a general rule, you should select a cord with double the required amps of your AC.
Higher numbers indicate a lower gauge. Therefore, a 16AWG can’t safely manage a 10AWG’s gauge level. We recommend a 12-gauge wire for most types of units, unless otherwise specified in your manual.
However, your unit may have a higher gauge requirement, depending on its size. If you have the budget, spring for a 10-gauge extension wire. This helps ensure your home’s safety while your unit operates.
The extension cord’s length plays an integral role in your safety. A longer cord increases resistance. Therefore, your unit works harder and uses more power throughout its operating cycle.
Choose the shortest extension cord available. If you need a longer cord, increase the cord’s gauge to accommodate the resistance. Doing so prevents dangers like electrocution or electric fires. It also prevents your power bills from increasing as much.
Finally, choose a plug with three prongs instead of two. Plugs with three prongs have a grounding point. They send any excess power straight to the ground.
Plugs with two prongs do not provide that safety measure. If your unit malfunctions, a two-prong cord can cause the following problems:
- Electrocution from power surges
- AC unit damage
- Electrical fires
Since three-prong cords have a grounding point, excess electricity won’t disperse and cause damage to surrounding areas.
When to Use an Extension Cord
Can you run an air conditioner on an extension cord? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. For the safety of your family and home, you should only use an extension cord with your AC unit under the right circumstances.
You should only use an extension cord temporarily and as a last resort. Before you purchase one, contact our reputable technicians at Georgia Air. We might find a better solution that protects your home such as:
- Replacing the original power cord. In some cases, we’ll add a longer cord to your unit. Many homeowners prefer this non-invasive option due to the simple, quick work involved.
- Outlet installation. We’ll install a new electrical outlet closer to your unit. You can conveniently and safely plug the unit into the wall.
- Portable units. You can easily move these units around as needed. They make a great option for people who need to cool one room at a time. They also don’t require any new equipment.
However, some homeowners need instant cooling comfort during the summer. In rare cases, they can’t accommodate any of these alternatives. So, an extension cord offers the only solution.
Make sure your extension cord meets the following requirements:
- Plug with three prongs
- Shortest length possible
- Meets current capacity and amperage
- 12-gauge wire or lower
Take notes about your unit’s specifications after carefully reading your manual. To ensure safety and efficiency, tailor your extension cord’s specs to meet your unit’s particular needs.
If you have no other choice besides using an extension with your AC unit, familiarize yourself with common dangers associated with their use. Implement methods to avoid these dangers. Even extension cords that meet all your requirements present fire hazards. You can avoid these by checking for common indicators.
When using your air conditioning unit, lightly touch the following components occasionally:
- The unit
- The wall around the outlet
- The cord
If any of these components feel warm to your touch, power down your AC unit and call us to inspect the problem.
Many people will continue operating an appliance if the area feels slightly warm. But even small temperature spikes can indicate too much resistance or too much electricity. While you may not notice any immediate dangers, constant use will increase your risks.
Overheating components can melt the insulation, spark wires, and expose dangerous parts. It can also indicate that your AC unit is working harder than expected to keep your home cool. Overworking an AC can cause it to break down prematurely.
Drop in Voltage
Even after purchasing the best extension cord for your unit, you might notice its performance quality decreases. Since your unit must work against electrical resistance to pull power, it may cause a voltage drop. Voltage drops can suspend the unit’s motor performance.
A stalling motor puts more stress on your unit over time. With each cyclical start and stop, your unit’s components wear out more quickly. This cycle forces the unit to pull more power to function.
Other Safety Tips
Your AC unit has a short cord for a reason. A shorter cord ensures optimal power input, efficient function, and safety throughout the appliance’s operation. Only use short extension cords to eliminate hazards.
Regularly check your extension cord for damage. You might notice burn marks, melting plastic or rubber, or exposed wires. If you see such damage, purchase a new cord immediately. Damaged cords increase the risk of fires, electrocution, and malfunctions.
Many homeowners hide their extension cords under furniture or rugs. We don’t recommend you do this. Even the best extension cords can overheat when the heat doesn’t disperse into the air.
Keeping your cord completely visible prevents overheating and tripping hazards. While a visible extension cord may look unsightly, hiding it increases the odds that people will step on it. Foot traffic damages the cord’s integrity by bending wires and damaging the surrounding rubber insulation.
You can also reduce damage by attaching the cord to the wall with tape. Your cord remains visible and out of the way.
Plug the extension cord directly into a wall outlet. Don’t use more cords or power strips to increase length. Adding more cords reduces the voltage while increasing resistance.
Choose Georgia Air for Safer AC Usage
Can you run an air conditioner on an extension cord? Although you can use one, we recommend finding a different solution. While extension cords offer a convenient option, their risks often outweigh their benefits.
At Georgia Air, we’ll help you find the safest, most efficient way to keep your home cool in Savannah, GA. We provide expert services for optimal performance from your heating and cooling appliances. We also answer questions like “should HVACs run all the time?” on our blog.
By choosing us, you put your safety and comfort first. Call us at (912) 513-3741 for satisfaction-guaranteed AC services.