It is never advisable to use an extension cord to power up a portable AC and other air conditioners, unless the cord is necessary and heavy-duty.
Purchasing an air conditioner can be exciting, but not properly planning for your air conditioner can result in disappointment and even potential hazards such as fires if you neglect to consider powering up your unit properly and safely.
Air conditioners need a power source to work properly, but does this mean that the unit can simply be plugged into any electrical socket and can a portable air conditioner be plugged into an extension cord if another power source lacks?
Portable air conditioners and extension cords
Since air conditioners require a significant amount of power to start up and work, it is critical that you plug them into the right power sources as it can be extremely dangerous if you end up using the wrong power source.
Simply plugging the portable unit into any extension cord can, in the worst case scenario, lead to you burning your house if the cord cannot withstand the amount of power the unit requires.
Can a portable air conditioner be plugged into an extension cord?
To simply answer this question, no. It is not recommended that an extension cord be used to power your portable air conditioner, but if it is the right type of extension cord, then it can be used.
Generally, it is not advisable that you plug a portable air conditioner into an extension cord because air conditioning systems are heavy-duty appliances that require huge amounts of power to operate, power that an ordinary extension cannot always provide.
If you attempt to do this, you could risk the power source overheating, and a fire can erupt. The extension cord would be transmitting far more energy than it is meant to carry if it provides power to an AC unit, and the insulation will melt. Hence, this can be a serious safety hazard.
Being connected to a regular extension cord will also affect the performance of the unit because thinner extension cords have higher resistance and cause voltage drop. Air conditioners should never be exposed to low voltage fluctuations, as this can cause the motor to stall.
The safest option is to get an electrical technician to install a dedicated circuit specifically for your portable air conditioner, which can prevent issues and risks of short circuits and electrical fires, also because air conditioners typically have 110 to 120 volts and high amps.
The plug you use should be compatible with the unit. So, with all of this said, there are extension cords that are actually suited for large appliances such as portable AC units.
Heavy-duty extension cords for air conditioners
Heavy-duty extension cords are designed to safely transmit the electrical current that large appliances such as your portable air conditioner requires.
A good extension cord for powering a portable unit and other AC types will have an American Wire Gauge (AWG) of 12 or 14 and higher amp ratings that can sufficiently support the air conditioner.
It is also a good idea to take a picture of the sticker attached to your AC plug that lists the electrical units the appliance uses, and asking a knowledgeable employee at the hardware store to help you pick a suitable cord is also advisable.
What else should you look for in an extension cord?
The highest gauge, which will be the lowest number, is your best option, as well as a higher amperage, which you can calculate by dividing the watts by the voltage.
It is advisable that you get an extension cord with a higher amperage rating than the air conditioner’s amperage. Something else to pay attention to when you are choosing an extension cord for your portable air conditioner is the length of the cord.
The best cords are the shortest because they have less resistance.
When can you use an extension cord for your air conditioner?
If you can get an electrician to install a dedicated power circuit that you can connect your portable air conditioner to, then you will not need to resort to an extension cord.
An extension cord should be your absolute last resort if you have no other options. This could be in situations where people rent spaces and landlords do not allow tenants to install another dedicated circuit.
All in all, using an extension cord should be avoided if a safer alternative presents itself.