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Is It Safe To Plug A Surge Protector Into An Extension Cord?

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We get it – you never want to risk frying your most expensive devices because of a power surge, be they your phone, desktop computer or tablet. Those devices are connected to a surge protector, though, and you’re out of outlets on it. Is it safe to plug your surge protector into an extension cord or will it cause an electrical fire?

You can plug a surge protector into an extension cord if the two can withstand the same power load. However, you should only do this as a temporary solution, as extension cords and surge protectors are not recommended to be daisy-chained together in the long term. 

In this article, we’ll discuss a surge protector’s average load and what you can safely plug into a surge protector. Before you plug your surge protector into an extension cord or otherwise, make sure you read to the end! 

Is It OK To Use An Extension Cord With A Surge Protector?

Surge protectors and extension cords look a lot alike, but that doesn’t mean they serve the same purpose. 

A surge protector safeguards your electronics from a power spike.

These can occur during power outages, storms and lightning strikes, and they sometimes just happen randomly.

The use of extension cords, also referred to as power extenders, are for plugging in appliances or electrical devices where the original cord is too short to reach the closest electrical outlets.

They also come in handy when you have a single wall outlet, but you need extra outlet space temporarily.

So, can you plug a surge protector into an extension cord? 

As we talked about in the intro, you can – but ONLY if the extension cord can handle as much of a power load as the surge protector, or more. 

To determine that, you have to look at the extension cord gauge. The gauge is one way of measuring max amperage.

If you have a 16-gauge surge protector and a 16-gauge extension cord, then they should be okay to use together.

However, if you have a 16-gauge surge protector but only a 14-gauge extension cord, now you’re getting into dangerous territory. The extension cord cannot handle as much power (electrical load) as the surge protector, so what do you think happens?

That’s right, this improper use is a fire hazard! 

At the end of the day, even if both the surge protector and the extension cord have the same gauge and thus can handle identical loads, you’re really not supposed to plug one into the other.

This Indiana University Southeast PDF states that “extension cords and power strips are not to be used together.”

The reasons? You’re loosening the connection on the extension cord, for one. The extension cord is also being worn down in ways it’s not intended, and who knows what could happen at that point? The risk of of a house fire is again high. 

What Is Safe To Plug Into A Surge Protector?

Are you feeling a bit nervous now about plugging anything into your surge protector? Please don’t!

If you’re using the surge protector correctly, then it’s perfectly safe to use one in your home.

Here are the intended uses of a surge protector.

Lamps

Decorating a living room or bedroom with lamps really brightens up the space (quite literally) but finding enough outlets to plug in all your lamps can be difficult.

Your surge protector might seem like a tempting spot considering you will generally have at least one empty power outlet on the strip.

Go ahead and plug in a lamp or two. These fixtures are low-power enough that they won’t cause a power overload that could overwhelm the surge protector. 

Laptops or Computers

These tech devices seem to be what surge protectors are made for, right? It only takes one bad storm and your laptop sustaining permanent damage to expensive electronics for you to vow not to go without surge protection technology again.

Although you can’t prevent a storm from knocking out the power and thus turning off your computer, you know that with a surge protector, your computer will turn back on again.

We know that computers and other connected devices might seem like they’re high-power devices, it’s actually the opposite.

The average wattage of a laptop is between 20 and 50 watts, which is really quite moderate. Desktop computers require at least 60 watts and sometimes up to 250 watts, which is higher but still not bad. 

Smartphone and Tablet Chargers

Be honest, you probably have your phone charger plugged into your surge protector right now, don’t you? That’s okay because smartphones only need 3.68 watts of power to charge. When they reach a full charge, they use less power, or about 2.24 watts.

That amount of load isn’t going to push your surge protector over the limit, or at least, it shouldn’t.

Here’s What You Should Never Plug Into A Surge Protector

As handy as surge protectors are, there are many, many more electronic devices and items that you should not plug into them.

It boils down to this: if it’s a high-wattage item, it should not go into the surge protector outlet.

Here is the full list of items that should never be plugged into a surge protector:

Other surge protectors: We established that it’s sometimes okay to plug in a surge protector to an extension cord, at least for a short while. However, daisy chaining power between surge protectors is always a huge risk.

Hair tools: If you tame your tresses with hair-styling tools, plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter or GFCI breaker wall outlet rather than a normal power strip or a surge protector. From curling irons to flat irons, hair dryers, and blow dryers, these tools heat up and can overload the surge protector.

Kitchen appliances: large appliances or small ones – size hardly matters. The excessive amount of power draw on the items in your kitchen is too much for a power cord. Please plug in the following items into standard wall outlets:Slow cooker

  • Rice cookers
  • Toaster ovens
  • Blenders
  • Coffee makers
  • Microwave oven
  • Dishwashers
  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers

Sump pumps: If your sump pump is on, then conditions are likely wet. You need a GFCI outlet when using electronics around water. Never use surge protectors in wet areas.

Portable air conditioners or space heaters: This is yet another case of small appliances using a lot of power despite their size.

Although the power load isn’t bad when your portable air conditioner or heater isn’t on, as soon as it starts running, it saps a lot of power. These devices can trip your circuit breaker in a worst-case scenario. 

How Much Can You Plug Into A Surge Protector?

The standard surge protector has between six and eight outlets. Can you fill each of those outlets at the same time? 

No, you shouldn’t, even if all your devices are relatively low-power and are otherwise approved for use with a surge protector or power strip.

At most, you want to use two of the outlets at a time. Yes, that’s even if you have eight outlets available on your power strip. 

If you try to plug in too many items at once, you can easily cause the surge protector to overload. A fire could occur, as we’ve talked about, or you could blow a circuit breaker. 

Can I Plug 2 Surge Protectors Into One Outlet?

We know – you have one more question pertaining to surge protectors. We’ll bet you also kind of have a feeling that you already know what the answer will be, too… Can you plug two surge protectors into one outlet?

As you probably guessed that this isn’t a good idea.

If your surge protector is plugged into a wall receptacle with more than one outlet, you should only plug power strips into one of those two outlets. This is a good way to prevent huge power draws that can have catastrophic consequences.  

Now, that’s not to say that you can’t have two surge protectors in the same room.

For example, maybe in your living room or family room, you have a pricey desktop computer and some phone chargers, and you want everything plugged into the surge protector. You might also have a few lamps on this power strip as well.

If the living room or sitting room has a number of outlets, then you can plug a power strip into an outlet in one receptacle and the second strip into an outlet in the other receptacle.  

However, if you’re in a room that only happens to have one receptacle, then you can only have one surge protector in that room. You’ll have to plug in your other surge protector in an adjacent room. 

Conclusion

Surge protector safety is a paramount concern at home and at work. You should never plug one surge protector into another, and you shouldn’t connect a surge protector to an extension cord for very long either. The extension cord is not made for that kind of use.

Remember also to always use one surge protector per wall receptacle. Whether your surge protector has six outlets or eight, you can’t use more than two of the outlets at a time.

Although it’s a lot to remember, by following these rules, you can ensure your safety! 

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