When your refrigerator doesn’t quite reach the outlet, there’s no need to give up. You can use an extension cord as long as it has the right gauge. We’re going to learn all about what this looks like in the next few paragraphs. At the bottom, we’ll introduce our Top Pick for you with a convenient link to follow.
Related: Is It Safe To Plug A Microwave Into An Extension Cord?
What Gauge Extension Cord Do I Need for A Refrigerator?
The short answer is that you need an extension cord that is rated with a 50% higher current and fuse rating than what your refrigerator needs, is well-insulated, a short length, and around 14-gauge wire thickness.
Let’s learn more.
Before moving on it’s important to understand the safety implications of an undersized extension cord. Picking the wrong extension cord will lead to the wires getting overheated and starting a fire. The problem occurs because the wire can’t handle the current that’s being forced through it, so it creates a lot of heat to try to deal with the extra energy. Over time and in different conditions, this can lead to a house fire.
Using an undersized cord will also force the fridge to work harder since it won’t get enough power. This can lead to your appliance burning out and breaking.
Define Wire Gauge
The gauge of a wire is how thick it is. The lower a gauge is, the thicker the wire’s diameter is. Thicker diameter wires can take more current without overheating. For example, stepping from a 14-gauge cord from a 12-gauge cord will result in a higher rated current.
Keep in mind that the gauge isn’t talking about how thick the extension cord itself is. This is referring to the wires inside of the insulation of the cord. With that being said, in most cases you’ll notice that higher gauge extension cords are overall thinner than thicker gauges.
The Length of the Cord Matters
Longer extension cords will be able to handle less. The best-case scenario is a short, thick extension cord. Your condition will have a fixed distance that you need to go, so all you can do is play with the gauge of the cord that you use.
What Makes a Refrigerator Special?
Your refrigerator is always going to be running. Failure to achieve the right temperatures leads to your food spoiling and leads to a lot of headaches.
Additionally, refrigerators require a lot of power. You should have a tag somewhere on your fridge that says how many amps it needs. Heavy appliances always require more amps than smaller appliances in your kitchen.
Your toaster doesn’t have as strict requirements as your fridge does, for example.
Don’t Forget the Ground
Your refrigerator is going to require a three-prong outlet because it has a ground built into it. Don’t ever use an extension cord that only has two prongs. This can lead to a huge problem in the future.
Low-Profile Plugs are Ideal
If your refrigerator is going to be butted against a wall, you need to make sure that the plug has room to fit in the outlet. Standard plugs will require a few inches to be plugged in. Using a low-profile plug is ideal in this situation.
A low-profile plug has a 90-degree turn right before the prongs of the plug. This allows the plug to take less space and the cord to run along the wall to your fridge.
Will a Multi-Socket Option Work?
No, we highly recommend that you stick with a single-socket option. Fridges have huge transient loads. In an attempt to avoid overloading the cord and outlet, you should stick with a single-socket option.
Picking a multi-socket extension cord might lead to intermittent disconnection which will result in food spoiling. It’s something that not a lot of people think about, but it’s worth remembering.
Not Enough Outlet Plugs for your Kitchen
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a solution because you don’t have enough outlets in the kitchen, you should avoid using an extension cord. Try using a socket multiplier. This is essentially a brick with multiple inputs and a plug that goes into your wall outlet. It eliminates the risk of overpowering an extension cord (as long as the socket multiplier is correctly rated).
This will allow you to plug in multiple things to the same wall outlet. Imagine a power strip without the cord leading to the plug.
What Gauge Extension Cord Should You Use?
In most kitchens, we would suggest a 14-gauge extension cord. As long as your fridge requires less than 15 amps and the distance is less than 9 feet, the math points to a 14-gauge cord.
In situations with a higher required amperage and further distance, you will have to go for heavier gauge wire like a 12-gauge or 10-gauge option.
Our Top Pick
With everything that you just learned, you’re ready to see our Top Pick. We always recommend the Stanley 31536 extension cord. It uses 14-gauge wire, it has a ground, and it’s only 9 feet long. This lets it handle up to 15 amps which should work for most modern refrigerators. It also handles 125V which should be acceptable for your home. The three-prong plug is at a 90 degree turn to make it more convenient. The insulation is strong and it’s heavy-duty.
Most importantly, it’s UL certified for conditions that you’ll probably put it in. At the end of the day, other options just can’t stand up to Stanley’s extension cord.
Keep in mind, this option won’t work in cases where your fridge is more than 9 feet away from the outlet.