A power strip can be your best companion when you have a shortage of electrical outlets. However, this will depend on the amount of power at your disposal and the equipment you want to plug. Power strips are made to handle power equipment that draws little power. So, can you use a power strip with a portable generator? It depends on the voltage of the available power outlets on your generator.
Generators come with a wide range of outlets that have different current configurations. If your portable generator has a standard household outlet 120V and 15A, you can use a power strip into the generator. However, you cannot run your portable generator indoors.
You, therefore, have to find a way of connecting your indoor appliances to the power from your running generator. This is where power strips come in handy. Even so, your power strip should have outdoor ratings. You can as well use it for the outdoor generators.
How to Use Power Strips With Portable Generators
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Portable generators have different power wattages, which means they also have different power output outlets. The high wattage ones will have more varieties of power outlets with a variety of voltages and amps. Even so, it is easy to find models with a standard household outlet that have 120 volts and 15 or 20 amps.
While you can connect a power strip to a standard household outlet, you should be careful of the distance of the generator to your house. Whether you are running a portable inverter generator that runs on fuel or a traditional generator, they emit carbon monoxide.
CO is a toxic gas when inhaled; it’s, therefore, advisable that you place your running generator at least 20 feet away. Traditional large generators are worse because they are also noisy.
You don’t want to shout to your family members at home because of a noisy generator. Thus, you need an outdoor extension cord plugged into your generator but ensure that it can handle the wattage your generator produces.
Once your extension cord is plugged in and you’ve extended it into your house or tent, connect your power strip. Never connect a power strip to another power strip to double the outlets. The results can be disastrous.
For the safety of your appliances, you should only use power strips with surge protectors. Even though generators, especially inverter models, can deliver stable power, there are instances where there are power fluctuations. You should also learn how to make portable generator power clean.
Power fluctuations can damage your electronics, including TV, coffee makers, computers, phones, and tablets. Investing in a good surge protector is the best way to safeguard your appliances from power fluctuation risks. You can read more on what causes a portable generator to surge.
Types of Appliances to Avoid Plugging Into a Power Strip
1. Freezers and Refrigerators
Large electric equipment like freezers and refrigerators need a lot of power, periodically running on and off. Plugging such appliances into your power strip can easily overload it.
Instead, plug these appliances directly into wall sockets that have been designed purposely for powering such.
Plugging additional electronics on a ready outlet serving power-intensive appliances can trip the circuit.
2. Hot Plate sand Slow cookers
Plugging hot plates or slow cookers into your power strip is a wrong move. These appliances run on high power and for a longer duration than what a power strip can accommodate. Slow cookers are meant to run for long hours uninterruptedly. Instead, plug it directly into a wall outlet for the best results.
For a microwave to reheat and cook your food, it needs more power than what a power strip can handle. Therefore, it is advisable to operate it from a dedicated power outlet similar to a conventional oven.
4. Coffee makers and Toasters
A coffee maker requires a lot of energy to transform roasted coffee beans into your favorite beverage. Therefore, it is appropriate that you plug it directly into the power outlet instead of plugging it into your power strip.
On the other hand, Bread toasters have many wires inside that heat up to red-hot temperatures to toast your bread. The device draws a lot of current to achieve the red-hot temperatures that can cause a power strip to overheat and malfunction. Instead, plug your bread toaster directly into the wall outlet designated for hot plates and electric ovens.
5. Hair-care appliances
Most ladies have hairdryers, flat irons, and curling wands in their homes. These appliances consume a lot of power before they are ready for use; running them on a power strip is not recommendable. Ordinary wall outlets may also not be ideal for them cause the high power the appliances consume can also trip the circuit breaker. If possible, you should plug such devices into a GFCI outlet to eliminate the risk of exposing them to accidental water when used in a wet area.
6. Portable heater and AC units
Do you have a portable heater or AC unit? Such appliances are made for cycling on and off. When running, they consume a lot of power. Running them on a power strip can cause an overheating on your strip or trip the circuit breaker because of overloading. To avoid such, always plug these devices directly into a designated outlet.
7. Air Compressors and Sump Pumps
A portable air compressor is essential equipment for cleaning crevices and tight spaces in equipment or inflating your automobile tires. While this unit comes in handy, it has high starting power requirements, which can easily overload your power strip.
To keep your power strip safe, use a heavy-duty extension cord while running such power-intensive units.
Sump pumps are designed to work in wet environmental settings. To avoid the risks of electrocution, do not plug in your sump pump to a power strip. Instead, plug your pump in a GFCI outlet, if possible, one installed several feet above your basement floor.
More information is on this video
Difference Between an Outdoor and Indoor Extension Cable
If you don’t have adequate outlets in any of your power sources, you will need an extension or power cord.
Nevertheless, it’s not every power cord that will serve you sufficiently. For instance, if you have a generator, you’ll need an outdoor-rated power cord to connect it to your appliances.
And not an indoor power cord. Here are the key differences between an indoor and outdoor power or extension cable.
Outdoor extension cords have a PVC heat resistance insulation material. Because of the material, these cords can tolerate temperature fluctuations, sunlight, moisture, and wear and tear. In contrast, indoor extension cords have a light plastic coat that cannot tolerate harsh settings.
Higher gauge extension cables can transmit more current than the light gauge. Outdoor power cords have an extended length when compared to indoor power cords. The extended length allows you to use the cord over a long distance and still enjoy power from your source. Outdoor power cords have heavy gauges than indoor ones because of the high voltage the former transmits. The extended length covers a distance of where you may place your portable generator or where your power source is.
3. Plug type
In most cases, indoor power cords only have two prongs, while those designated for outdoor use come with three prongs. The third one acts as a grounding link to protect users from suffering electric shocks or a possible fire. A two prongs cable is only suitable for small appliances like TV, radios, or lamps. You can use your small appliances on a three prongs cable, but you cannot use large appliances on a double prongs cord. If you have both two and three prongs cables, do not combine them in a series connection.
4. Amperage That a Cord can Handle
Big electric equipment such as power tools and gardening tools need more amps to run efficiently than household equipment. Most household equipment requires less amperage; for instance, your desk-side clock may only require half amps to work. Outdoor power cords to handle high amperage. At the same time, indoor cables are meant for less.
5. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
It is a safety feature in your circuit. It shuts the circuit when it senses water, human body contact, or cloth in the circuit. This protects you or anyone operating power or the generator from electrocution. According to the National Electrical Code, you should connect all outdoor extension cords to a GFCI outlet because of the high current loads. However, indoor extension cords don’t necessarily have to be plugged in a GFCI outlet.
For the differences above, outdoor extension cords are ideal for plugging into your portable generator than indoor cables.
Easy Tips for Shopping for a Reliable Power Strip
- The number of outlets: You should know the number of appliances you will be plugging into the power strip. Choose a power strip that has as many outlets as possible.
- The cord length: How far will be your power source or outlet to where you need to plug in your appliances? Choose a power strip that is long enough for your needs.
- Which types of equipment will you plug into the power strip? Go for a power strip that will match your applications and environmental setting. If you are using vulnerable electronics on your power strip, consider going for one with a surge protector.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Many Watts Can a Power Strip Handle?
It depends on the voltage capacity of your power strip. To get the precise number of watts in a 15A power strip, multiply the voltage by amps. For instance, a 15A power strip in a 120V circuit means the power strip handles 1800 watts. However, if you’re on a 240V circuit, the same strip can handle 3600 watts.
2. What is the Difference Between a Power Strip and a Surge Protector?
A power strip is a power cord or an extension cable with various outlets in one end. Overloading a power strip can lead to its overheating, and in a worse scenario, it can cause a fire.
In contrast, a surge protector, on the other hand, is a device with internal circuitry that protects your appliances against power surge effects. In case of overloading, a surge protector trips the breaker to break the circuit. Therefore, it prevents the possibility of a fire hazard. For the best results, use a power strip with a surge protector.
3. Can I Plug my TV into a Power Strip?
Yes, it is safe to plug your TV into a power strip. However, if you think plugging your TV will limit you to plug in other appliances, you can plug your TV into a wall outlet. Other appliances that you can plug into a power strip are a portable fan, radio, video game systems, phones, among others.
4. Do Power Strips Have Surge Protectors?
Not all power strips come with surge protectors. Surge protectors resemble power strips, but they all don’t serve the same purpose.
A surge protector is there to protect your vulnerable electronics against the effects of power surges. On the other hand, power strips are similar to extension cords with no surge protection.
6. How can I Differentiate a Power Strip from a Surge Protector?
While these too may resemble, there is a way of differentiating them even from their packaging. Any surge protector must have a rating in Joules displaying the highest voltage it can handle in a power spike.
This information is found on the packaging box or on the backside of the product itself. If such information is missing, then it’s a mere power strip.
Can you use a power strip with a portable generator? This will depend on whether your generator has a standard household outlet with 120V and 15 A.
If yes, you can use a power strip. It is, however, essential to invest in a power strip that has a surge protector; this will safeguard your appliances from the effects of a power surge.
In addition, it’s not every household appliance can be plugged into a power strip outlet.
For example, you should not plug microwaves, refrigerators, cookers, and many other heavy-consuming electricity appliances into a power strip.