Can You Plug a Window AC Unit Into an Extension Cord?

Installing your window air conditioner near a power outlet seems like a no-brainer, right? But what should you do if the outlet is far from the window you’re planning to use? Can you plug a window AC unit into an extension cord? Can the extension overheat and become a safety hazard?

You can plug your window air conditioner into a durable, high-gauge extension cord. However, an extension cord can be a tripping hazard and, in some cases, even cause a fire. Alternatives include changing the unit’s built-in cable or installing a new outlet closer to the AC unit.

Let’s look at the various things to keep in mind when connecting a window AC unit to an extension cord, how to pick the best cord, and some alternatives to using an extension cord.

Can You Use an Extension Cord With a Window Air Conditioner?

AC power plug and socket, wooden osb background

You can plug an extension cord into a window air conditioner, but it’s not necessarily the best option. Nevertheless, if you have to use one, be sure it’s the right kind.

Manufacturers advise against using an extension cord with an AC unit, and if it needs to be done, it should be a temporary solution. This is because cords are a hazard in a number of ways:

  • They can be a tripping hazard.
  • Extension cords can cause fires during summer because the receptacles and plugs can melt.
  • Extension cords can get hot when used continuously on AC units and especially if taped or covered under carpets.

Additionally, the use of cords may negate a manufacturer’s warranty, which could leave you with huge bills to pay if there are damages to people, property, or the unit itself.

If you have to use one nonetheless, consider these factors:

  • Weather: During the hot season, cords easily heat up, thus increasing the probability of fires.
  • Cord Thickness: Thicker cords are known to be better suited to handle a window AC.
  • Number of Outlets: A cord with multiple outlets is likely to be overloaded when other appliances are used, which can be a fire hazard.
  • Power Output: Window ACs consume a fair amount of power, so the cord needs to be able to handle that.
  • Cord Length: Go for an extension cord of optimal length so it won’t pose a tripping hazard.

What Kind of Extension Cord Do You Need for a Window AC?

Electric power extension cord

Even though you can plug an extension cord into a window air conditioner, you should always check with your AC unit manual first to make sure it’s safe.

  • Check Your Unit’s Power Consumption

You can easily find this information on the label of the AC. It’s typically between 900 and 1,500 watts. Just convert the watts to volts to figure out the right extension cord to get. Extension cords are normally grouped according to the amps they can carry. To do this, divide the watts by 120 volts.

  • Choose the Right Cord

Next, when you’re looking for the right extension cord for your window AC unit, it’s important to understand the different types of cords and what they’re used for.

Here you need to look at the gauge or thickness of the cable. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire in your extension cord will be.

If you’re running a large appliance like an air conditioner on an extension cord, go with a higher gauge (or thicker) option.

With the power consumption factor checked, it’s recommended to go for a 12-gauge cord like this 50-foot cord from Southwire (on Amazon) or this 25-foot option from Flexzilla (on Amazon).

  • Always Consider the Length

How far away is your AC from the outlet? The cable should be long enough to make the connection without too much tension but also not too long. If it’s much longer, secures it well by placing it away from pets, children, and paths.

Extension Cord Alternatives

If the power outlet is less than 3 meters, or 10 feet, from the AC unit, replacing the built-in cord with a longer one is also an option. It’s a fairly easy change to make; just be sure to do it before installing the unit. If you’re not comfortable changing the cord yourself, seek the services of a qualified electrician.  

Another option is to install a new power outlet closer to your AC unit. When installing a new outlet, ensure it has a 20 amp rating to avoid breaker tripping when the AC is switched on.