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Can You Plug A Surge Protector Into An Extension Cord?

Surge protectors happen to divert excess voltage away from connected devices and prevent them from being damaged. These sudden increases in voltage are tackled majorly with the help of surge protectors. Also, surge protectors and extension cords are electrical accessories used to provide additional outlets and extend the reach of electrical devices. 

Generally, It is not recommended as it can increase the risk of electrical hazards such as overloading and overheating. Surge protectors and extension cords should be plugged directly into a wall outlet to ensure proper electrical grounding and reduce the fire risk and damage to electrical devices.

Ensure the surge protector and extension cord are of good quality, legitimately rated, and can tolerate the power load. It is advisable to directly plug a surge protector into a wall outlet for optimal safety.

Extension cord

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Understanding Surge Protectors and Extension Cords

Surge protectors and extension cords are electrical accessories to provide more outlets and extend the range of electric devices.

Ever happened you lost your electrical appliance because of a voltage spike or any nasty weather conditions such as a thunderstorm? 

If not, then I guess you are already aware of surge protectors. 

These are the devices that protect your electrical device from an extreme spike in voltage or damageable surge. 

I was not lucky enough to realize this earlier, and one of my appliances was damaged while I was not using the surge protector.

It was due to a sudden increase of electrical current in the circuit during a thunderstorm one night. 

If a lightning strike, power outage or malfunction of an electric system occurs, these rapid voltage increases may occur. 

Surge protectors help avoid damaging the devices by dissipating excessive voltage from their connections.

On the other hand, extensions come in an elongated cable with many outlets, allowing devices to be operated from long distances or places where it isn’t easy to access electricity. 

They can extend the range of devices or appliances for a short period.

The Purpose and Function of Surge Protectors

In order to protect electronic equipment and appliances against voltage fluctuations or shocks, surge protectors shall be used. 

A surge in voltage due to various causes, such as lightning strikes, power cuts or electrical system problems, may occur. 

By overloading their circuits, these sudden increases in voltage may damage sensitive electronic equipment. 

The primary function of surge protectors is to remove excess power from connected devices, preventing them from reaching and damaging them. 

Surge protector works by employing a component of the metal oxide MOVOR technology or any such technology. 

If there’s a surge, the MOV will absorb all its excess voltage and redirect it as far as possible into the ground. 

This procedure maintains a stable, secure voltage level to protect the connected devices. 

Functions of Surge Protectors: 

  • Surge Protection Rating: The joule rating given to surge protectors indicates how much energy they can withstand from power surges. A surge protector can withstand greater energy if its joule rating is higher. For more protection, it is advised to select surge protectors with larger joule ratings.
  • Clamping: It has a clamping voltage or the point at which it begins to reroute extra power. A lower compression voltage is required because it has the effect of balancing voltages at low thresholds, ensuring higher device protection.
  • Response Time: The surge protector also displays its response time, which shows how rapidly it can react. The shorter response time will be advantageous because it will reduce the amount of time exposed to high-voltage surges.
  • Multiple outlets: Surge protectors frequently have multiple outlets, allowing for the simultaneous switching of multiple devices. For instance, this feature will be helpful in a space designated for entertainment or a home office with few outlets.
  • Indicator light: Surge protectors usually provide LED indicator lights that indicate if they’re adequately grounded and whether or not the protection is active. These lights are helpful to users in ensuring the proper operation of a surge protector.

The Purpose and Function of Extension Cords

Extension cables shall be used to extend the reach of electric devices by including supplementary outlets in places that are not near a desirable location. 

With extension cables, there is greater flexibility in setting up and using electrical equipment at your desired place. 

The main aim of an extension cable is to bridge the gap between your power supply and the electrical appliance.  

The transmission of electric current from the power source to devices and appliances is a primary function of extension cords. 

It is a long cable with a series of outlets or fittings at one end and a cable on another that connects to the power source. 

Users can connect several devices at an extension cable outlet, thereby increasing the number of devices used.

Critical aspects of extension cords include:

  • Length: Extension cords come in various lengths to delightfully place your electrical appliance near you. The length of extension cords makes it possible for the electrical appliance to reach the desired location. Choosing an extension cord that is suitable for the intended purpose and provides sufficient length is essential.
  • Gauge: Extension cords are overheated after a certain point of continuous use. That is why wires in extension cords must be thicker so as to have a lower gauge number and carry more electric current without overheating. Using an extension cord with an insufficient gauge for high-powered electrical transmissions can lead to voltage drops, overheating and potential hazards.
  • Outdoor vs indoor use: Extension cords are adapted for the specific environments in which they operate. The indoor ones are usually lighter and more flexible, suitable for use in buildings. In order to cope with the impact of weather conditions, moisture or ultraviolet radiation, external extension cords have been fitted with additional insulation and reliable materials. In order to ensure safety, the correct type of extension cord depends on the environmental conditions in which it will be installed.
  • Amp Rating: An amp rating indicates how much current it can safely carry for each extension cord. Failure to meet the amp rating may lead to overheating, which could result in a fire or damage to connected devices. The Amp rating of an extension cord must be matched with the power requirements of these devices.
  • Safety aspects: It is necessary to comply with safety guidelines when using extension cords. Avoiding overloading of the extension line by connecting it to devices which exceed its capacity is one of the main considerations, as well as checking that the extension cord has been uncoiled in order to ensure there is no overheating and does not run into carpets or doors where damage may occur.

Understanding Electrical Load and Overloading Risks

Surge protector

Understanding electrical load and the risks of overloading is vital to ensure the safe operation of electrical systems and prevent electrical hazards. Let’s explore these concepts:

Electrical load

The amount of power or electricity used by equipment or appliances connecting to the electric grid. 

It’s measured in watts per kilowatt hour or watts per kilowatt hour. 

It is crucial to remember that each device has a different power requirement contributing to the overall electrical load of the system. 

Two types of energy loads can be classified:

Resistive loads: Devices capable of converting electricity into heat or light that do not exhibit perceptible energy fluctuations. Examples are incandescent lights, electric heaters and toasters.

Reactive load: A reactive load is an electrical load that consumes reactive power from an electrical system without necessarily converting it into useful work. You can also see examples of equipment with compressors, such as motors, air conditioners and refrigerators. 

Overloading Risks 

Overloading occurs when the total electrical load exceeds the electrical system’s capacity or a specific circuit. 

Overheating: When an electrical system is overloaded, the wires, switches, and outlets can overheat due to the excessive current flowing through them. Overheating can damage insulation because melting or burning of components and increase the risk of electrical fires.

Dimming Lights or Voltage Drops: In an overloaded circuit, the voltage supplied to devices may drop, resulting in dimming lights or reduced performance of appliances. This can lead to equipment malfunction and can affect the lifespan of sensitive electronic devices.

Fire Hazards: Overloaded electrical systems pose a significant fire risk. Overheating wires can ignite nearby combustible materials or cause electrical arcs and sparks, leading to fires.

Potential Hazards of Plugging Surge Protector into an Extension Cord

Several possible dangers and risks are associated with the attachment of a surge protector to an extension cord. 

One should remain highly cautious before plugging it into an extension cord. 

Some of the most common potential hazards are listed below:

Overloading of extension cord 

Surge protectors are usually made to deal with a certain amount of electrical load. 

You might have exceeded the capacity of a surge protector and an extension cord if you inserted one into your cable to extend it, connecting several power devices. 

If that occurs, it may result in overheating and possible electrical fire.

Also read: Can You Plug An Ac Into An Extension Cord? (+Mistakes To Avoid)

Drop-in voltage

Extension cords are designed to carry electrical current over a certain distance. 

Adding a surge protector to this equation may increase the total length of an electrical path. 

We can reduce the voltage drop by increasing the length of an extension cord. 

If that voltage drop is not corrected, devices connected to it may operate at lower voltages than intended, which might result in electrical dysfunction of the electrical appliances.

Adequate grounding or neutralization

Surge protectors usually have a ground pin connecting to the electrical outlet’s ground wire. 

When you try to bargain in buying cheap extension cords, you may lose the grounding power of the particular pin. 

Therefore, it is not proper to anchor them. 

The efficiency of surge protection may be decreased, and the risk of electrical shocks or damage due to power surges increased by connecting the surge protector with an extension cord that has not been properly grounded.

Cable management

If an extension cord is combined with a surge protector, it may result in additional cable clutter, which could increase the risk of misbalancing your feet on wires. 

The combined length of the surge protector and extension cord may need to be managed and properly secured, which could result in an accident or damage. 

Manufacturer Guidelines and Safety Recommendations

Manufacturer advise and safety guidelines may vary depending on the unique models of surge protectors and extension cords. 

It is essential to adhere to the manufacturer’s directions for safe and effective product use. 

These are some recommendations and manufacturer guidelines that you must follow:

  • Read the instruction manuals for both extension cords and surge protectors: Be attentive, in particular, to how you interpret or comprehend their directions based on your observational skills. The manuals for certain products frequently contain safety data, directions, and specifications.
  • Ratings and capacity for matches: Make that surge protectors and extension cords are rated to support the electrical load you intend to connect. If you want to ensure the electrical appliance’s functionality, check the electrical appliances’ ratings and capacity along with the power supplies.
  • Use heavy-duty cords: If you require a protector or extension cord, choose one suited to support the load you want to use it for. Typically thicker and able to withstand stronger currents without overheating are heavy-duty wires.
  • Take care of damage: The surge protector and extension cable should be frequently inspected if you see any signs of damage, such as bent or damaged wires, cracks, or loose connections. If there is any damage, stop using it and replace the faulty parts.
  • Cable length: Keeping an extension cord with a surge protector as short as possible is preferable to limit voltage drop and potential dangers. It is typical to advise using the smallest cord that yet satisfies your demands.
  • Follow the recommendations for use: Adhere to any specific usage advice provided by the manufacturer. For instance, there may be limitations on the kind of devices or appliances which are connected to a surge protector.

Alternatives and Best Practices for Surge Protector Usage

Switch spark

When it comes to surge protector usage, there are some alternatives and best practices to ensure electrical safety, some of which are mentioned below:

Use specialized outlets

When required, put your electronic equipment directly into electrical outlets that are grounded. 

With this, you no longer need any requirement for a surge protector or an extension cord. 

Install more outlets

If you constantly require more outlets in a specific location, chalk out your plan beforehand to be clear about the number of outlets required in that particular area. 

Instead of relying on extension cords or surge protectors, this method is more reliable and long-lasting.

Power strips with integrated surge protection

Use a power strip with an integrated surge protector instead of inserting a surge protector into an extension cable. 

These power strips provide surge protection to numerous devices and are made to be plugged straight into an electrical socket. 

To handle the electrical load of your gadgets, confirm that the power strip has the necessary rating.

Replace your surge protectors regularly if they show any symptoms of wear or damage

Replace the surge protector if you discover wear and tear cords, loose connections, or any other problems. 

Surge protectors should be replaced every few years because they lose some of their effectiveness over time.

When there are thunderstorms during rainy seasons, unplug your electronics and surge protectors

This is especially important during strong thunderstorms or when they won’t be used for a while. 

An additional layer of protection against power surges brought on by lightning strikes or other electrical disturbances may be offered by doing this.

Use specific circuits

Whenever possible, it is advisable to have a single circuit connection between High Power appliances such as air conditioners and fridges and the power supply. 

This reduces the risk of overloading surge protection devices or circuits, which may lead to electrical problems.

Also read: Do I Need A Surge Protector For My Generator? (Which One+When To Use)

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, protective shields and extension cords are indispensable equipment for providing further outlets as well as protecting devices from voltage spikes and surges. They can be useful and efficient tools when applied in the right way and safely. The purpose and functions of these devices, as well as their potential risks for electric safety, should therefore be understood. 

It’s important to know why and how surge protectors work. They’re diverting excess energy out of connected equipment and protecting it from damage. Surge protection devices have a variety of features which make them effective in protecting electronic equipment, e.g. the ability to withstand high voltage surges, charging speed, response times, multiple outlets and indicator lights. 

You are generally permitted to use these electronic accessories for safe and effective protection of your devices and prevention of hazards through knowledge of the purpose, operation and safety considerations associated with surge protectors and extension cables according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

What can you not plug into a surge protector?

Appliances like refrigerators, Portable heaters, or sizeable electrical draw appliances should not be plugged into the power strip but into a dedicated electrical wall outlet.

How long do surge protectors last?

It depends on the built and make, but generally, they can last up to 3 to 5 years.

Reference: Surge protector Wikipedia