As space heaters become an increasingly popular solution for warming homes and offices during the cold winter months, many users are concerned about the safety of using extension cords and power strips with these devices.
When not used correctly, combining space heaters with extension cords or power strips can pose significant risks, such as electrical issues, fire hazards, and damage to property.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the potential dangers associated with using space heaters alongside extension cords and power strips.
Wattage Capacity for Extension Cords and Power Strips
|Device||Factors Affecting Wattage Capacity||Calculation||Example||Safety Considerations|
|Extension Cord||Wire gauge (thickness) and cord length||Watts = Amps x Volts||14-gauge, 15A cord: 15A x 120V = 1800W||Choose an extension cord with appropriate wattage capacity for the space heater to avoid overloading, which can lead to fires or electrical issues.|
|Power Strip||Amp rating and voltage of the electrical system||Watts = Amps x Volts||5-amp power strip: 5A x 120V = 600W||- Choose a power strip with appropriate wattage capacity for the devices you plan to use. |
- However, using a power strip with a space heater is generally not recommended due to the high current draw of most space heaters, which can lead to overheating and increased fire risk.
Space heaters vary in wattage, with most models ranging between 750 and 1500 watts.
It is essential to choose an extension cord with the appropriate wattage capacity for your specific space heater to avoid overloading the cord, which can lead to potential hazards such as fires or electrical malfunctions.
However, it’s important to note that using a power strip with a space heater is generally not recommended due to the high current draw of most space heaters, which can lead to overheating and increased fire risk.
How to Safely Use an Extension Cord with a Space Heater
To ensure safe operation of a space heater when using an extension cord, it’s crucial to follow best practices and adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Here are some key steps to safely using an extension cord with a space heater:
Choose the Right Extension Cord
- Heavy-duty extension cords: Opt for a heavy-duty extension cord that can handle the high current draw and wattage of your space heater. These cords typically have a higher amp rating and are designed for use with high-power devices.
- Guidelines for using regular extension cords with portable space heaters: If using a regular extension cord, ensure that it has the appropriate wattage capacity for your heater. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for both the space heater and the cord to confirm compatibility.
- Examining the risks associated with using cheap extension cords: Cheap or low-quality extension cords can pose a safety risk, as they may not be able to handle the power requirements of your space heater, leading to overheating or fire hazards. Invest in a high-quality cord to ensure safety.
Proper Placement and Management
Visibility: Keep the extension cord visible and free from obstructions, such as rugs or furniture, that could cause overheating.
Avoid tripping hazards: Don’t run the cord under doors or across high-traffic areas to prevent tripping hazards and potential damage to the cord or space heater.
Space Heater Wattage and Cord Length Considerations
Wattage capacity: Be aware that the maximum wattage capacity of an extension cord decreases as the cord’s length increases. Choose an extension cord with the appropriate length and capacity for your space heater to ensure safety.
Tips for Determining the Safety of an Extension Cord
- Inspect the cord: Regularly inspect the extension cord for signs of damage, such as fraying or exposed wires, and replace it immediately if any issues are found.
- Certification: Make sure the cord is certified by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), to ensure its quality and safety.
Extension Cord Risks with Space Heaters
Overloading and circuit breaker issues: Using an inappropriate extension cord with a space heater can cause the cord to overheat or the circuit breaker to trip, leading to electrical malfunctions or even fires.
Fire hazards: Damaged, low-quality, or overloaded extension cords can pose a fire risk when used with space heaters. Ensure the cord is in good condition, has the proper capacity, and is not covered or obstructed.
Damage to extension cord and space heater: Using the wrong type of extension cord or power strip with a space heater can result in damage to both devices, potentially reducing their lifespan or causing them to malfunction. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe use.
Power Strip Considerations with Space Heaters
- Risks and considerations: Using power strips with space heaters is generally not recommended due to the high current draw of most heaters, which can lead to overheating and increased fire risk.
- Why you shouldn’t use space heaters with power strips: Power strips are typically not designed to handle the high wattage requirements of space heaters, which can cause the strip to overheat, potentially resulting in a fire.
Choosing the Right Gauge Extension Cord for a Space Heater
The most common gauges for extension cords are 16, 14, and 12. A 16-gauge extension cord is suitable for devices with a wattage of up to 1,625 watts, while a 14-gauge extension cord can handle up to 2,250 watts. A 12-gauge extension cord is recommended for devices with a wattage of up to 3,450 watts.
To determine the correct gauge for your space heater, you can use the following formula: Amps = Watts / Volts. For example, if your space heater has a wattage of 1,500 watts and uses 120 volts, the amperage is 12.5 amps. You should choose an extension cord with a gauge that can handle at least 12.5 amps.
It is also important to consider the length of the extension cord. The longer the cord, the more resistance it will have, which can cause voltage drop and reduce the efficiency of your space heater. To avoid this, choose an extension cord that is the shortest length possible and can handle the amperage of your space heater.
For a space heater with a wattage of up to 1,625 watts and a length of up to 25 feet, a 16-gauge extension cord is sufficient. For a space heater with a wattage of up to 2,250 watts and a length of up to 50 feet, a 14-gauge extension cord is recommended. For space heaters with a wattage of up to 3,450 watts and a length of up to 100 feet, a 12-gauge extension cord is necessary.
Here are some more guidelines for selecting an appropriate extension cord for a space heater:
- Rating: Ensure the extension cord is rated for the appropriate amperage and wattage, which should be equal to or greater than your space heater’s requirements.
- Outdoor use: If you plan to use the space heater outdoors or in damp conditions, select an extension cord designed for outdoor use. These cords are typically labeled “SJTW” or “SOW” and have a durable, weather-resistant jacket.
- Plug type: Opt for an extension cord with a three-prong plug, as most space heaters require a grounded connection.
- Safety certifications: Look for extension cords that are UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Intertek) listed, which means they have been tested for safety and compliance with industry standards.
Tips for Using Extension Cords with Space Heaters
Using an extension cord with a space heater requires some extra caution to ensure safety and efficiency. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Choose a grounded extension cord with a three-prong plug.
- Avoid overloading circuits by using only one space heater per circuit.
- Do not plug multiple extension cords together to reach your space heater.
- Regularly inspect your extension cord for any damage, such as frayed wires or exposed conductors.
- Store your extension cord properly to prevent damage and reduce the risk of tripping hazards.
Can You Plug A Space Heater Into A Surge Protector?
A surge protector is an electrical device designed to protect your electronics from power surges.
Power surges can happen when there is a sudden increase in the electrical current flowing through your home’s wiring.
This can be caused by lightning strikes, power outages, or even the turning on and off of high-powered devices in your home.
When a power surge occurs, it can damage your electronics and appliances by overloading them with too much electricity.
A surge protector is designed to divert the excess voltage away from your devices and protect them from damage.
If you plug a space heater with a wattage higher than what the surge protector is rated for, the surge protector may not be able to handle the electrical load and could overheat or fail. This can create a dangerous situation and could cause a fire.
Can You Plug a Space Heater into a Power Strip with a Surge Protector?
A power strip is similar to a surge protector, but it doesn’t have the same level of protection. A power strip is designed to provide extra outlets for your devices, but it doesn’t offer the same level of protection against power surges as a surge protector.
Therefore, it’s not recommended to plug a space heater into a power strip with a surge protector.
This is because space heaters require a lot of power to operate, and a power strip may not be able to handle the electrical load.
Additionally, the heating element in a space heater generates a lot of heat, which can cause the power strip to overheat and potentially catch fire.
Can I Plug a 1500W Heater into a Surge Protector?
A 1500W space heater is a common wattage for many space heaters. When it comes to plugging a 1500W space heater into a surge protector, it’s important to choose a surge protector with a wattage rating that is equal to or greater than 1500W.
It’s also important to check the surge protector’s amperage rating. The amperage rating should be equal to or greater than the amperage of the space heater.
This information can usually be found on the space heater’s label or in the user manual.
Can a Power Surge Damage a Heater?
Yes, a power surge can damage a space heater. When a power surge occurs, it can overload the heating element in the space heater, causing it to fail or malfunction. This can result in a dangerous situation, including the risk of fire.