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Tumble Dryers and Extension Leads | Do They Match?

Installing a dryer unit is enough of a project by itself, but when you add in having to situate it near an outlet, things get more complicated. In some situations, it may be more convenient to connect the dryer to an outlet through an extension cord, but it is important to note the safety hazards in this situation.

Below, I go over why dryers need so much energy as well as the dangers of using an extension lead with a fully-electric dryer. Extension cords may still be used, though, as long as the tips below are followed. It is important to note that gas and compact electric dryers will not have the same risks.

Electric dryers pull lots of electricity and are dangerous to use with extension leads. If using an extension, the cable must be short, thick, equipped with GFCI, rated for the dryer’s voltage, and only used for the dryer. Gas and compact electric dryers use less energy and are safer to use with extensions.

Dryers Pull a Lot of Energy

Any heat-producing appliances, from hair dryers to water heaters and tumble dryers, use a lot of power.

tumble dryer

Dryers often use between 1,800 and 5,000 watts of energy, but this can depend on the type of dryer. On average, a dryer uses about 3,000 watts of energy in a single hour.

Let’s say you’re using your 3,000-watt dryer for about two hours and for about 20 days out of the month. The amount of energy you are using in this example is about 6,000 watts. This is the same as 6 kilowatt-hours. 

If the price per kWh is 18 cents, this daily use equates to about $1.08 a day. For 20 days out of the month for a whole year, your total ends up being $259.20. 

Compared to a ceiling fan, which uses about 100 watts, and a microwave that uses about 1200 watts, dryers are one of the most electrically expensive appliances in the home. 

This is mostly because they are heat-generating devices. Generating heat is an electrically expensive process. This means that other heat-generating devices, such as furnaces and ovens are similarly expensive. 

But in addition to heat production, dryers must power a motor as well as a fan.

Depending on the type of dryer you have, the risk of using an extension lead varies. With a gas dryer, electricity is still needed but in lesser amounts. This means that using an extension lead for a gas dryer is less dangerous, although not completely harmless. 

With a fully electric dryer, using an extension lead is especially dangerous because of the high amounts of electrical current traveling through the extension lead from the specialized 240V outlet. 

Because of the high amounts of electricity that must be provided for a dryer to function, it is not advisable to use an extension lead with a dryer. 

Most extension cords are far too long and/or thin for safe usage with a dryer. The lack of these qualities can easily lead to the extension leads tripping and/or overheating. This leads to the plastic casing melting and, potentially, an electrical fire. 

electrical fire
extension leads

Electrical fires are more tricky than fires from another source. Using water to extinguish the fire will not work, instead, it will make the fire spread more This is because water conducts electricity. Any stream of water between you and the fire could cause you to be electrocuted. 

To put these fires out, you would either have to limit the source of oxygen, use baking soda, or use a fire extinguisher that is designated for Class C fires. 

All of these dangerous scenarios aside, it is certainly possible to use an extension lead with your tumble dryer, the dryer will still function. To avoid great damage to your home, though, extension leads should be avoided. 

Tips if You Have to Use an Extension

Use Heavy-Duty Extension Cords

If your dryer is too far away from an appropriate outlet and cannot be moved closer to one, it is possible to use an extension cord. However, for your safety, it must be suited to having a high amount of electricity flow through it. 

Heavy-Duty Extension Cords

One of the specifications for an extension cord that will most likely overheat is the wire being too thin. If the cord is thicker, there is less chance that it will overheat since it will be able to handle more wattage running through it.

A heavy-duty extension cord is one that is thicker than most extension cords. The thickness of the wiring corresponds to its gauge. A higher gauge means thinner wiring and a lower gauge means thicker wiring. 

A 10-12-gauge extension cord is considered to be heavy-duty while a 16-gauge would be a fairly thin cord that could only handle smaller wattages. 

I recommend the LifeSupplyUSA 10 ft Heavy Duty Extension Cord (amazon link) for its very high ratings as well as its heavy-duty 10-gauge wiring. 

Another great product is the Watts Wire 10 ft Heavy Duty Extension Cord (amazon link) for its high ratings, durability, as well as its heavy-duty 12-gauge wiring. 

Shorter Cords Are Also Better

You may have noticed that, although extension cords can be up 100 feet long, I chose those that were only 10 feet long, which is certainly on the lower side of the spectrum. 

There is a specific reason for this. The reason lies in the specifications for an unsafe extension lead connection. One specification was thickness but the other was length. The longer an extension cord is, the more likely it is that the wire will not be able to handle the electrical load and may overheat. 

This is because longer extension cords have more resistance than shorter ones. Think of it this way, running for a mile is much more tiring than running half of a mile. The longer the route of the current, the more work the current has to do to get to its destination. 

To reduce the danger of using an extension cord for your tumble dryer, it is wise to use a low-gauge wire that is as short as it can be. Place your dryer as close as possible to the nearest outlet and measure the distance from the dryer’s cord. 

The length of this cord must be long enough so that the cord can reach but short enough to prevent overheating.

This can also save you money in the long run since shorter extension cords tend to be cheaper.

Lead Must Connect Dryer to 240V Receptacle

If you have a fully electric dryer, your dryer must be plugged into a 240-volt receptacle. This is because, as said before, a dryer is an appliance that requires a lot of electricity. A 240V outlet is made for large appliances such as dryers.

Connecting your dryer to a 240-volt receptacle would mean that your dryer is getting the electricity it needs at a faster rate. If it was instead plugged into a normal 120V outlet, the current would have to travel much faster for the dryer to be fully functional.

With a faster-moving current, the wire is exposed to a lot more traffic, which puts a strain on it. This strain can lead to the wire overheating and possible electrical fires. 

Extension Used for Dryer Alone

Besides the length and thickness of the extension leads as well as the voltage of the outlet being used, the usage of the extension can also affect how safe the extension lead is. 

It is fairly well-known that an extension lead that has all of its outlets being used is more likely to overheat and possibly cause a fire. This is for similar reasons as a receptacle having too low of a voltage. 

used one extension wire

With more and more appliances depending on electricity from the same extension lead, the lead must experience more and more electrical traffic. More traffic means more strain on the individual lead, which can lead to overheating and electrical fires. 

In addition, none of the appliances will receive proper voltage and will suffer consequently.

Using an extension lead for a dryer is electrically demanding enough. It is unwise to use the same lead that is being used by a dryer for other appliances. This is simply too much demanded electricity and too little supply. 

Extension cords are often fairly inexpensive, to begin with. Thus, it will benefit you, in the long run, to purchase a separate extension cord for these other appliances since electrical fires can be avoided.

Make a Different Plan if the Lead Starts Tripping

All of the tips covered above can significantly reduce the chance of an electrical fire occurring because of an extension lead being used by your dryer. One way to almost completely eliminate the possibility of an electrical fire is to utilize a GFCI. 

A GFCI is a ground fault circuit interrupter. When a GFCI detects an imbalance of current through your wiring, which would indicate a short, it cuts off all power to the extension cord. Since shorts lead to overheating of wires, this would prevent fires at the source. 

GFCIs are often used in the kitchen and bathroom and are relatively inexpensive add-ons to normal extension cords. 

However, if your extension keeps on tripping, then there is something wrong and you should stop using it.

Gas or Compact Electric Dryers Better Matched

As mentioned earlier, gas dryers use significantly less electricity than fully electric ones because electricity is not used to operate the most power-intensive feature of the dryer: the heating element. As a result of this, several of the circumstances mentioned above might not lead to overheating of an extension cord. This also applies to compact electric dryers since they require less electricity.

A cord that is rather thin and long may not short out when being connected to a gas or compact electric dryer because the traffic compared to a full-size electric dryer is much more manageable. 

It is likely that a 120V receptacle for a gas dryer, or perhaps a compact electric one, would be enough to power the dryer without overheating the extension cord. A 240V one might not be needed. 

If the cord is heavy-duty, other appliances could be connected to this extension lead without the lead overheating and causing a fire. 

Since, in all of the situations detailed above, the fire risk for a gas dryer or compact electric dryer is much lower than for a fully-electric dryer, a GFCI might not be needed. It doesn’t hurt to have one, though, since a homeowner is always better safe than sorry. 

Overall, a gas or compact electric dryer is much less likely to experience overheating in the extension cord it uses. Because of this, the tips gone over above do not have to be used and a normal extension cord may be enough for electrical safety.


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