Appliances that consume a lot of energy become dangerous fire hazards when you plug them into a power strip.
When the two plugs in a wall outlet simply aren’t enough to power the lights and gadgets we need to run our lives, most of us turn to power strips to fulfill our demands for electricity. But while it’s okay to use these gadgets to charge smartphones or power an entertainment setup, there are some power-hungry devices you should never plug into a power strip. Appliances that use high wattage, such as air conditioners, space heaters, and toasters, can cause power strips to overheat, which creates a fire hazard. You should also never use an indoor power strip where there’s a chance they could get wet, such as kitchens or laundry rooms.
Wherever you’re using a power strip, pay careful attention to its maximum wattage (found on the device’s label) and make sure the devices you plug into it don’t exceed that amount. Most power strips are 15 amp, which means they can handle up to 1,800 watts. If that isn’t powerful enough for your needs, seek out a heavy-duty 20-amp power strip, which can handle loads of up to 2,400 watts.
Large appliances like refrigerators require a lot of power and frequently cycle on and off, which can easily overload a power strip. These devices should be plugged directly into a wall outlet that’s dedicated solely to powering the appliance. If you try to plug additional appliances into the same outlet, you risk tripping the circuit.
3. Coffee Makers
You may not think that your morning cup of joe requires that much energy to brew, but most coffee makers need quite a bit of amperage to turn those roasted beans into a hot beverage. Plug your coffee maker directly into the outlet or you run the risk of waking up to a half-brewed pot of coffee.
If you’ve ever peered into a toaster to remove a particularly stubborn piece of broken crust, you know that the inside is basically a bunch of wires that heat up to red-hot temperatures to toast the bread. The current draw that those wires require can easily cause a power strip to overheat. This same issue affects toaster ovens, electric skillets, and waffle makers.
5. Slow Cookers
You might think you’re one clever cook when you plug your slow cooker into a power strip to free up outlet space for other countertop appliances, but you’d be wrong. These cooking appliances require more juice over a longer period of time than a power strip can handle. And because the appeal of a slow cooker is that it can operate without supervision, you definitely want to make sure it is safely plugged into a wall outlet to minimize any hazardous outcomes.
6. Hair-Care Appliances
It takes a tremendous amount of electricity to power your hair dryers, curling wands, and flat irons. To prevent the circuit breaker from tripping, any hairdressing accessory that operates with heat should be plugged directly into a wall outlet—preferably a GFCI outlet to avoid the danger of accidental water exposure, a common bathroom hazard.
7. Air Conditioners
Like heaters, portable air conditioners are designed to cycle on and off, and they draw a large amount of current when they switch on. This activity can overload a power strip and either trip the circuit breaker or cause dangerous overheating. For that reason, these appliances should always be plugged into a dedicated outlet.
8. Sump Pumps
A sump pump is often the last defense for a dry basement in the event of flooding. Because most power strips are not designed to be used in damp or wet conditions, they’re unsuitable for use with a sump pump. Instead, plug a sump pump into a GFCI outlet, preferably one installed a few feet above the floor, in case your basement space floods.
9. Air Compressors
Portable air compressors are handy household helpers for ambitious DIYers, but they draw a huge amount of energy on start-up. Rather than overloading a power strip, use a heavy-duty extension cord to get the maximum use and benefit from your air tools.
10. Another Power Strip
Power strips are not meant to be used in conjunction with another power strip. In fact, plugging multiple power strips together, which is known as “daisy-chaining,” violates most fire safety codes and can quickly overload your electrical system. For the same reason, avoid the use of extension cords with power strips. If you find yourself short of outlets, try unplugging one device before you plug another one in, or cut the cord and find power-free alternatives to your household gadgets.
Just because an appliance is small, doesn’t mean it’s safe to plug into a power strip. Many blenders, including those made by Ninja and Vitamix, use powerful motors for chopping up tougher foods. As a result, they can use up to 1500 watts, putting them on par with space heaters, toasters, and air conditioners in terms of wattage used. Since the purpose of a blender is to liquify foods, there’s also the danger of getting liquid on the power strip, which could cause it to short circuit. Always plug a blender directly into a kitchen GFCI outlet.
12. Washing Machine
Most washing machines use a max of up to 1400 watts, putting it dangerously close to the max load of most power strips. Washing machines are usually left unattended while they wash your clothes and can take up to an hour or more to complete a cycle, ample time for it to overheat a power strip. Instead of using a power strip, plug that washing machine directly into its intended wall outlet.
13. Portable Heaters
Most portable heaters use 1,500 watts of energy on their high settings and, when plugged into power strips, are especially dangerous because they often run for extended periods of time. While portable heaters have built-in safeties that shut the unit off if it begins to overheat, it won’t prevent the power strip from overheating and potentially causing a fire.
14. Power Tools
You can safely use a power strip for power tools in your workshop, but not any old power strip will do. Make sure you use a 220-volt power strip that’s equipped with grounded outlets. This type of power strip should also use heavier 14-gauge wire between the strip and the plug, which can carry a greater load without heating up. Using a higher-rated right power strip is especially important if you’re using electric tools that consume higher wattages, such as table saws, circular saws, and chop saws.
15. Gaming Equipment
While it’s okay to use a power strip for your gaming system, you need to pay attention to how many components you’re plugging into the power strip. While your gaming computer may only draw about 500 watts, you’ll also need to plug in a monitor, speakers, lamps, and other accessories. Tally up how much you’re plugging in by consulting the stickers on each of these devices, and make sure the total is less than the power strip’s wattage rating. Since you’ll want to protect these sensitive devices from power surges, go with a power strip that functions as a surge protector.