A lamp is useless to you if the cord cannot reach the wall outlet. Fortunately, extension cords are easy to come by. But can you plug a lamp into an extension cord? Is the practice safe? This guide will tell you.
Yes, it is safe to plug a lamp into an extension cord. Lamps don’t use enough power to overload extension cords. I suggest you use 18-gauge extension cords.
But what about those stories you’ve heard where a fire started because someone plugged a lamp into an extension cord?
Those fires did not start because someone plugged a lamp into an extension cord. Lamps in extension cords can start fires for various reasons, including:
1). According to InterNACHI, night lights are fire hazards because they have a reputation for becoming extremely hot. They can start fires by touching flammable materials. The number of fires started by a night light that ignited a pillow or bedsheet is still small.
You’re looking at ten cases or less per year, which sounds insignificant. But what if you’re one of those ten cases reported annually? Some parents use bubble night lights that generate toxins when they break.
2). Lights can become electrocution hazards if you leave them in locations that expose the devices to water. For instance, some people forget their lamps on the porch overnight, forgetting the threat that rain poses.
3). Some people start fires because they tried to repair a broken light. Any layperson can replace a lamp’s bulb. You shouldn’t disassemble these devices. If you’re determined to do so, unplug the lamp from the extension cord.
4). Some homeowners forget their lamps in areas that expose the devices to direct sunlight. The UV rays will degrade the lamp’s plastic components.
5). On its own, a lamp cannot overload an extension cord. But what if you connect a lamp, refrigerator, and microwave to the same extension cord? The extension cord may explode if you attempt to run all three appliances simultaneously.
6). If plugging a lamp into an extension cord started a fire, the extension cord was probably frayed or damaged. In other words, it would have started a fire regardless of the appliance you connected. The lamp is not at fault.
How To Wire A Lamp To An Extension Cord?
The key to safely plugging a lamp into an extension cord without starting a fire is to take the following precautions:
- A lamp can share an extension cord with other appliances because it has a small electrical draw. But the total load of the devices shouldn’t exceed the extension cord’s amperage. If you have doubts about the extension cord’s ability to support multiple appliances, dedicate the extension cord to the lamp. Unplug all the other devices.
- Make sure the extension cord is adequately ventilated. Don’t hide the device under a carpet, mat, clothes, furniture, or any other obstacle that allows the heat to accumulate. Allow the cord to breathe. Otherwise, the heat will ignite the carpet.
- Don’t run the extension cord along a path with a lot of human traffic. The extensive human traffic will cause wear and tear. A worn-out cable is more likely to start a fire.
- Don’t surround the lamp with flammable material. Some lamps are too hot, especially if they use fluorescent bulbs. Give the lamp and its extension cord as much space as possible. Don’t place heaps of clothes on these devices.
- Don’t daisy-chain the extension cord. If the extension cord is too short to reach the wall outlet, get a longer extension cord. Don’t plug multiple extension cords and power strips into one another. This will increase the resistance, elevating the threat of a fire.
- Keep the area surrounding the extension cord clean, especially if you have an older extension cord boasting signs of wear and tear. The sparks can ignite the dust particles in the air.
- Underwriters’ laboratories expect an extension cord to last 15 years. But most homeowners are lucky if they can maintain the same extension cord for a year or two. CNET wants you to replace old extension cords. You don’t have to wait for that 15-year period to pass. You can replace the extension cords every few years, especially when they start manifesting symptoms of wear and tear. These devices are inexpensive. Don’t take chances on an extension cord you don’t trust.
- I want to use extension cords temporarily. Keeping a lamp plugged into an extension cord for years increases the chances of a fire. You are better off installing an outlet near the lamp.
Things To Consider While Wiring Lamp Into Extension Cord
What Is The Lamp’s Rating?
The lamp’s rating shouldn’t exceed the extension cord’s rating. Find the lamp’s rating and use an ampacity/wire size chart to identify a suitable gauge. The gauge can exceed the lamp’s rating, but it shouldn’t be smaller.
What Distance Do You Want To Cover?
An 18-gauge extension cord is more than adequate for a lamp. But that is only true for 25 feet. 18AWG can accommodate a lamp’s electrical needs over 100 feet. But a longer distance equates to a higher resistance, which, in turn, makes overheating more likely. You are better off jumping to 14AWG for 100 feet.
Where Did You Position The Lamp?
If you want to use the lamp in a location that requires GFCI protection, get an extension cord with inbuilt GFCI technology.
Indoor VS Outdoor
Don’t use indoor extension cords outside. If you want to use the lamp outside, get an outdoor extension cord with the strength to withstand exterior conditions.