General Question

Buttonstc's avatar

What is the most likely thing to happen if I must plug in the very short cord of a small electrical appliance into an extension cord or power strip rather than a wall outlet? What's the worst that could happen?

Asked by Buttonstc (27597points) September 28th, 2016

Yes, I know that the instructions say not to do this but they never really say why. The cord for the unit is really really short (only 3 ft.)

(I do know better than to use an old, frayed ext. cord and the unit will be on a dining table right up against a wall so that nobody can trip over the cord.)

Unfortunately, this house is notably deficient in electrical outlets (generally) with zero in the dining room.

Using the kitchen is just not an option for reasons too much to go into detail. Please don’t tell me to use the kitChen.

I’ve never done this in the past because I never had any urgent need to bypass the warnings.

The unit in question is a small rice cooker with a 5 cup capacity (when cooked, not dry)

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25 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

For some reason toasters have notoriously short cords and I’ve never received a reasonable excuse. The best I could come up with was that the cord was kept short to prevent the thing from falling into a sink of dish water and electrocuting the dishwasher. Nothing bad will happen as long as the gauge of the wiring in the extension cord is adequate to the load. Both the cord and the cooker should have a rating in amps somewhere on a label. In addition, if the cooker has a 3 prong plug (grounded) you want a grounded extension cord plugged into a grounded outlet.

Buttonstc's avatar

Fortunately, it’s not a 3 prong.

johnpowell's avatar

No real risk. I would do it.

A rice cooker does pull a lot of juice. But should be totally fine. I use mine with a extension cord. I wouldn’t worry.

I would say the warning is more of a cover your ass thing.

Buttonstc's avatar


And I’m assuming that your rice cooker is larger than this one so that’s good to know. Thanks for the info.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I agree. A cord that can handle your electric iron shoud suffice for the cooker, but your best bet is probably a power strip equipped with a circuit breaker.

Buttonstc's avatar

I looked on the cooker and it’s 250 Watts.

Is that a lot, comparatively speaking?

Buttonstc's avatar

Since I’m going to the grocery store tomorrow I’ll pick up a regular cord and then find a good power strip on Amazon. And it will likely be more economical.

So in less than a week, I’ll have the right kind of power strip.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Not that much power at all. Less than 3 old style 100 watt incandescent light bulbs. But then again, a lot depends on the wiring in your house. Get familiar with your fuse box or breaker box. Recognize that if you have a box of circuit breakers as opposed to fuses, you are probably ahead of the curve as far as wiring goes. That shortage of outlets in your house is not a good omen in regards to the likliehood of modern wiring adequate to our modern appliance happy lifestyle. But your fuse or breaker box should list the acceptable loads for every circuit in your house.

cazzie's avatar

As long as you aren’t pulling too much power from the one connection, (which should make the breakers click off, that’s their job) you’ll be fine. Also, don’t cover the extension cord with a rug. I’m not sure why they say this, but they can get hot.

This isn’t an appliance that is going to be on constantly like a heater in the winter. I think the biggest hazard might be someone tripping over the cord.

cazzie's avatar

As a comparison, my house is very much like yours. I have two plugs that are attached to the over the counter lighting in my kitchen. That’s it. Me and BBE replaced the entire unit when I bought the place because there was something obviously wrong with original fitting. When we disassembled it, the areas behind the plugs were darkened. Too much juice from one small plug. We changed the lighting from regular to LED and that brought down the demand exponentially. I even have MORE lighting in the area for less power demand. I have a microwave and water boiler I like to have plugged in there, but BBE suggested, to be on the safe side, I only use one at a time, so that is what I do. If it helps, this is the system we installed…

Lightlyseared's avatar

I’m thinking that with cooking appliances one of the reasons they advice you not to use an extension and put such a short cord on it is that it is more difficult for someone (let’s say a child) can pull the device off the worktop and onto themselves by accident covering them with boiling hot rice (or whatever).

SmashTheState's avatar

If you want to be safe, buy a heavy duty air conditioner extension cord.

LuckyGuy's avatar

250 watts is relatively low. Your outlet (if you live in the US) is designed to handle ~ 2000 watts. Extension cord are labelled with their capacity . Typically even the junkiest cords are good for 1500 watts.
What is the worst that can happen? The power to the device could be reduced a few percent. Don’t worry about it.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Agreed, don’t give it a second thought. About the worst thing you can do with a rice cooker is leave it on and blow the thermal fuse.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s the power strip that would bother me.

As others have said, you’re on relatively firm ground with a good quality extension cord rated to carry the load – and 250 Watts is fairly low, as appliances go. So a decent extension cord in good shape will take that, and your outlet should also be up to the load.

But when you add a power strip to the equation … you run the very real risk of overloading the outlet itself and the circuit that it’s on. Power strips invite “more attachments”. And since there’s going to be a rice cooker there, it’s going to be in a dining room, and food attracts people to rooms with chairs … people are going to want to plug into your power strip, and eventually someone will plug in something that adds too much load.

The risk that everyone knows about is “tripping a breaker” or “blowing a fuse” – and they think that’s a “risk”. No. Those are risk prevention devices. The actual risk is that with too much current going to the outlet, the house wiring itself can become overloaded, and heat up. That can cause fires. And fires inside walls frequently take down houses. The “actual risk” is that the circuit protection device – the fuse or circuit breaker – will NOT work, which will allow the overheating condition and then the fire. If the house is already old and the wiring somewhat dodgy, why take that risk?

So my advice would be, if you intend to do this anyway, is to use a heavy duty “appliance grade” extension cord (which only has a single outlet for a single plug, as @SmashTheState has noted above) and will permit the use of one device.

The other, far less common problem, is that a light-duty extension cord (or one that is worn or frayed), can itself suffer the overheating problem leading to a potential fire hazard. And that is also a real risk, but a much less common one these days.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@CWOTUS this is advice that nobody listens to but everyone should. Teaching people how to develop a power budget for their outlets and appliances should be taught in high school.

kritiper's avatar

The longer the wire, the more resistance to current flow. Same with smaller diameter wires. What could happen? The wire could overheat, melt off the insulation, and start a fire.

cazzie's avatar

I’ve lived in houses built in the 1700’s and retro fitted for electricity in the early days. I know how to budget my outlets. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with any properties like that now. The last property that was like that was my retail shop in Bakklandet. We couldn’t run the heaters in the winter AND make coffee at the same time. LOL.

SmashTheState's avatar

@cazzie I have the same situation here. I live in the basement of a building which is a hundred years old and used to be a factory. You’d think the power here would be more than ample, but the building was abandoned for a decade and the electrics are a nightmare of hundred years worth of additions built on top of additions. When I got a phone installed here, the technician got annoyed testing 100 years worth of tangled lines (there’s still ceramic phone connectors) trying to find a live line and simply cut into 1970s-era copper cable and spliced the external trunk line into it.

There’s a modern breaker box in the storefront, but the factory has a fusebox, and that’s where the furnace is located. It blows the fuses constantly, and the landlord sticks a penny in it when he can’t find the ancient oil fuses it uses. I can’t imagine how they ran all the machinery here when the factory was in use. I can’t use my computer, monitor, and base heater at the same time without blowing the circuit breaker, and I managed to destroy a whole outlet by trying to run two coffee urns at the same time out of it.

cazzie's avatar

@SmashTheState Sounds like a fire waiting to happen. Especially that penny-hack.

cazzie's avatar

Oh, and that shop in Bakklandet, I was running it with two other ladies, if anyone remembers. Trying to explain to them the capacity of the circuits etc… when they couldn’t even work out the difference between 4G, Wireless Internet and Blue Tooth… I was pissing up a hill. The landlord finally came to the rescue and replaced all the lightbulbs with LEDs because he was sick of the crazy high power bills they were racking up. Two months after I left the shop, the place folded, btw.

flo's avatar

If the instruction says not to do x, y, z, better to not do x, y, z.

Why don’t they make extention cords that can take care an issue like that anyway? Maybe they have? I don’t know.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I’ve got an extension cord that the cable can handle 30 Amps but the plugs are regular 15 Amps. Used it for coffee urns, 64 cups size.

JLeslie's avatar

I would check to see if the connection gets hot. I use an extension cord to charge my phone sometimes and where my phone’s boy part plugs into the extension cord’s girl part, it heats up pretty fast. I would not want that laying on synthetic carpet all day. Failing that, I wouldn’t worry about using an extension cord for most appliances.

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