8 Things You Should Never Plug Into a Power Strip
Whether you live in a house, apartment, condo, mobile home, RV, or dorm room, having sufficient electrical outlets to handle all the accessories, appliances, and tools you need can be challenging. And that’s when knowing how to use a power strip device safely sure comes in handy.
While one of these devices can offer a reasonable solution for too few wall outlets, relying too much on typical household power strips is a mistake. Or to misuse one. Never plug these items into a power strip for safety.
You need ’em hot and ready to go. A power strip on the bathroom counter may seem like a godsend when you have only that one outlet.
Here’s the problem with that: Hairdryers, curling wands, and flat irons are required to produce heat, which means they pull large amounts of amperage to get them good and hot. Plugging into a power strip is just asking for trouble.
These types of hairdressing appliances must be plugged directly into a wall outlet, preferably with a GFCI breaker, to avoid danger should those tools accidentally be exposed to water.
Refrigerator and Freezer
These appliances pull too much current for a power strip because they continuously cycle on and off. That will quickly overload a power strip. Refrigerators and freezers must be plugged directly into a wall outlet dedicated to that single appliance. If you plug other appliances into that same outlet, provided it’s a duplex, you risk tripping a breaker.
Seems pretty lightweight to heat up water, right? Not so fast. Most coffee makers need a good deal of amperage to turn gloriously roasted coffee beans into a hot beverage—more than a power strip can guarantee to deliver. Make sure you plug the machine directly into a wall outlet.
Here’s the clue: It has exposed wires inside those slots that heat up read hot. It takes a lot of electrical current to fire up those wires, which can easily overload a power strip. So no. Do not plug your toaster into an extension cord or power strip. Ditto for your toaster oven.
I agree that this is counterintuitive because wouldn’t you think a slow cooker uses microscopic bits of power? In this case, it’s not the amount of amperage but the length of time requiring continuous power. A power strip cannot guarantee to deliver that kind of energy. Plug the slow cooker safely into a wall outlet before you set it and forget it.
It seems like a minor appliance, right? Wrong! All of its miraculous features like defrosting, heating, cooking, and reheating require a lot of energy—far more than a power strip can offer. Your microwave oven needs its own dedicated wall outlet, too.
Like refrigerators and freezers, portable heaters cycle on and off. When they switch on, they take a tremendous amount of current—more than a power strip is up to delivering consistently and safely. We’re talking about dangerously overheating the system, which could result in a fire. Space heaters must always be plugged into their own wall outlet.
Another Power Strip
Power strips do not play well together. While it might seem smart to plug one power strip into another as a way of multiplying the number of outlets available, it’s really dumb—super dangerous. It violates every fire safety code out there.
Quick Checklist of Do’s and Don’ts
Power strips are fine in moderation, and as long as you observe proper power strip safety. The folks at Kolb Electric offer us this handy Do and Don’t checklist so we can know when and how to use a power strip safely:
- Only use light-load appliances on power strips like computers, phones, lamps, clocks, etc.
- Purchase power strips with an internal circuit breaker. This is a very important safety measure designed to prevent property loss and risks of fire.
- Use power strips sparingly. They aren’t designed to maintain a load for extended periods of time and can overheat quickly if used too frequently.
- Never plug a power strip into another power strip (referred to in the industry as “daisy chaining”). Doing this is a great way to short out appliances, or drastically increase the risk of an electrical emergency.
- Avoid using power strips in damp or potentially wet areas. No kitchens, no utility rooms, and definitely no basements.
- Stop using a power strip if it feels hot. That isn’t supposed to happen!
- Never cover, staple, tack, or nail a power strip to anything. Covering can smother the strip, and provide ample flammable material in the event of failure. Stapling can harm the cords, making room for dangerous situations.
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Really helpful as usual Mary. Thanks.
Should heating pads be included?
No, I have never seen such a precaution. Heating pads run at 115w typically, which does not draw a lot of current.
The last two times we installed microwave ovens in a kitchen we were told that it had to have its own circuit, not just its own plug! Technically that applies to countertop type installations too!
Older homes don’t even have the now required 20amp circuits in the kitchen, usually two. Older being now about 50+ years old.
The newer sewing/embroidery machines aren’t supposed to be on an extension cord nor for that matter are irons. I remember as a child my Dad always changing the iron cords to be longer, within limits, because he insisted on no extension cords!
Red … I am not certain about your assumption regarding countertop microwaves, so readers please do your own independent research on that. For sure it should not be plugged into an extension cord
Thank you so much for this article!
My husband wanted to plug one power strip into another in our home and I said NO NO NO! I didn’t have any info on WHY it isn’t safe to do so, I just know that my own father taught me that years ago.
Another item to not plug in is a laser printer. Ask me how I know. 9.2 amps (how much the printer draws every time you need to print) on a 10 amp breaker just doesn’t work.
Can a TV be plugged into a power strip?
Can I plug in an extension cord to a power strip so I can use my floor fan plus plug in my phone charger?
No Lisa, you should never plug an extension cord or power strip into another power strip or extension cord. It’s simply not safe!
This sounds reasonable, John. Just make sure you are not plugging a heat-producing appliance into this power strip (toaster, toaster oven, etc.)
So probably nobody will ever read this but speech to text makes it quick enough to do it anyways. At my shop we have a second shop and the power to that is running off of a huge extension cord I don’t know what the size is it’s as thick as my thumb are thicker so probably like six gauge. The next plug is an 8-way power switch plugged into that is a 10 socket power strip by Belkin plugged into that is a one two three four a five socket strip with two USB ports and right now I’m plugging in another power strip it’s a smart strip because in this little shop out back there’s a microwave and an air conditioner and if the both of them run together the switch in the main shop will flip on the surge protector so I need to be able to reset that remotely I hope this will do the trick but anyway fire safety fire safety fire safety whatever these things don’t even get hot and I’m in Florida.
Thank you, Mary, for the helpful article, and thank you, Daniel, for the added information. Good to know!