Fans and extension cord/power strip safety
July 3, 2021 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Is it safe to plug 2 fans into a 16-gauge extension cord/power strip?

You Are Not My Electrician, I know. I have 2 fans: a Vornado 460 "whole room" fan (63 watts) and a Comfort Zone CZ319WT window fan (no wattage info on the manufacturer's page, but other sites say 45.9 or 56.4 watts). Is it safe to plug them both into a GE 15-foot, 2-outlet, 2-prong, 16-gauge extension cord/power strip (1625W)? Basic math says it's fine because they're just over 200 watts total. But the manual for the Comfort Zone CZ319WT says to use a minimum 14-gauge/1875 watt cord. In a perfect world, I'd just buy a 14-gauge cord, but all of the reputable cords I can find are 3-prong and I only have a 2-prong outlet in that room.
posted by Woodroar to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Best answer: I'd say yes. Just don't plug anything else into that cord.
posted by wotsac at 7:34 PM on July 3, 2021

Best answer: 200W at 120 VAC is less than 2A. I don't have my NEC handy rn but my conservative rule of thumb for 16AWG conductors when designing control panels was a 10A limit for a 16AWG conductor. Actual ampacity depends on the temperature that the insulation can handle, length of conductor, the number of conductors in the conduit, etc, etc. Long story short, 16AWG should handle 200W just fine.
posted by dudemanlives at 7:42 PM on July 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As long as the fans don't require a grounding connection - and if they have two-prong plugs, they don't - it's safe to use a cheater plug to convert your outlet to allow the three-pronged extension cord to be plugged in. Just understand that the circuit is not actually grounded and you can't plug in anything that requires the grounding plug.
posted by Hatashran at 8:25 PM on July 3, 2021

Best answer: If you're doing the cheater plug method above, go ahead and take 10 seconds to write "NO GROUND" on a strip of masking tape to put on the power strip, and maybe tape over the remaining plugs, perhaps adding an X over each one. This process will become a visual reminder to yourself of why you put the tape on, and should hopefully give pause to someone else who was thinking of plugging their combination-toaster-oven/hair-dryer/tesla-coil into that same power strip.

If you don't use the cheater plug, tape over the remaining available sockets anyway. It's just enough of an obstacle to give your brain time to kick in before you plug in your own tesla coil.

Cheap safety reminder is cheap!
posted by Sunburnt at 9:57 PM on July 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Basic math says it's fine

Trust basic math.
posted by flabdablet at 12:15 AM on July 4, 2021

Best answer: The warning in the Comfort Zone manual may be there because of the startup current (with a large helping of safety margin to stomp out even the slightest chance of a damage claim), not its working current.

The working current for the three fans combined is way below the rated current for the cord, so no problem there; startup current for each of the fans can very briefly be about double their working current, so even that won't cause a problem when you have the three of them plugged in to the power strip and switched on already, then plugging the extension cord in to a socket.
posted by Stoneshop at 8:03 AM on July 4, 2021

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