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7 Things You Should Never Plug Into a Power Strip

Whether you live in a house, apartment, condo, mobile home or dorm room, having enough electrical outlets to handle all of the accessories, appliances, and tools you need can be a challenge. And that’s when knowing how to use a power strip device safely sure comes in handy.

 

Power strip and Computer

While one of these devices can offer a reasonable solution for too few wall outlets, it’s a mistake to rely on power strips too much. Or to use one incorrectly. For safety’s sake, never plug these items into a power strip.

Hairdressing appliances

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 and preferably one with a GFCI breaker to avoid danger should those tools accidentally be exposed water.

Refrigerator and freezer

These appliances pull too much current for a power strip because they are continuously cycling on and off. That will quickly overload a power strip. Refrigerators and freezers need to be plugged directly into a wall outlet that is dedicated to that single appliance. If you plug other appliances into that same outlet, provided it’s a duplex, you run the risk of tripping a breaker.

Coffee maker

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.

Toaster

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.

Slow cooker

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.

Microwave oven

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.

Space heater

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.

 

Power strip and Heater

This is the reason you don’t plug space heaters into power strips! (Photo courtesy of Umatilla County Fire District No. 1)

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 and 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:

Do’s:

  • 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.

Don’ts

  • 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.

First published: 10-1-17; Revised & Updated 10-26-20

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  1. Daniel Waud says:

    Volts X Amps = Watts, and watts equal heat. Nothing that requires more than 100 watts should ever be plugged into a strip. LED lights, phone charges, laptop chargers can all sit on a strip. However, as you add a new device, you add the watts. So, 3 phone chargers at 10 watts each, laptop charger at 3 amps (approx. 36 watts), LED desk lamp at 12 watts, and that little mug warmer on your desk at 35 watts, all on at once (chargers pull current whether they are connected to charge or not) equals 113 watts. Probably OK, unless you plug in a wifi modem and a wifi router.
    Almost all devices have the watts or, often, the amps, stamped or printed on them, usually the same place as the model number and serial number. If it is a motorized device, such as a microwave or tool, the start up amperage is always considerable higher for about 2-5 seconds. If only amps are printed, take amps X 120 volts to get watts — 15A x 120v = 1800 watts.
    A microwave is usually 1000 to 1800 watts! This is as much as your burners on the stove. A hair dryer is 1000 to 1200 watts. A power saw can be as high as 1500 watts, 200-300 watts more than that to start it spinning.
    One thing, though, there are power strips designed for high wattage (amperage) equipment. These are found in the tool department of hardware stores. The rating is usually printed right on the package. However, it is assumed that only one of two tools will ever be on at the same time.

    Reply
  2. Susan says:

    Mary, GREAT to know, thanks. I have one ‘however,’ my friend’s refrigerator was fried in an electrical storm. The electrician said if she had had her frig plugged into a power surger, it may have saved the frig. Refrigerators come with a lot of electronics now, something to think about; thanks again for all your hard work on our behalf!

    Reply
  3. JOHN ROBERT WILLOUGHBY says:

    i live in an apt and want to put a small strip plug under my kitchen cabinets so i can use my mixers and small appliances not all together but as i need them. would this be acceptable? i have my toaster and microwave in there own receptacles. now what would be better a gfci or surge protector, (its going into a standard wall plug)

    Reply
    • Antony says:

      Also ensure that the Amps/Watts of your power strip is 15A (1800W) preferably as mixers can be 600 to 1200 watts. This would make your power strip a heavy duty one.

      Reply
  4. Alba says:

    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.

    Reply
  5. Gina says:

    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.

    Reply
  6. Will says:

    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.

    Reply
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