Best outlet to safely plug in an Airconditioner.

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  #1  
Old 03-30-15, 01:28 PM
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Question Best outlet to safely plug in an Airconditioner.

My studio apt in 130yo NYC tenement building, has a total of 20 amps, and 3 electrical outlets. 2 of these outlets are right next to each other (1 foot apart), while one is on the other side of the apartment. 50% of my electrical usage goes through the two outlets near each other, and about 10% goes through the 3rd isolated outlet.

Is it fire hazardous to plug my Air conditioner into one of the 2 outlets that are close by, and already has a lot of stuff plugged into them, including my fridge, rather than extending the cord to the 3rd outlet that's more separate? Does it make a difference, considering all the outlets share the same circuit breaker anyway?

None of the outlets are near the window, so I use a high performance three prong extension cord. into the other 2 prongs of this extension cord I would have my TV and cable plunged in as well. Or if this is dumb, I could run two separate extension cords, one for AC and one for TV.

The reason I want to plug the AC into one of the two outlets, is because it would hide the cord. It would be plugged into the lesser used of these two outlets.
 
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Old 03-30-15, 01:53 PM
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I'm sure you'll get some responses about code (modern/current code)... There is little about your situation that's proper so we'll have to settle for "hopefully good enough".

I would try using one of the two outlets closer to the window. Have the fridge plugged into one outlet and the AC plugged into the other. Then while you are there turn on the AC and run it for an hour and see if the breaker trips. Also feel the outlet to see if it's getting hot.

I took my FLIR thermal camera with me on a trip to NYC because we were visiting a friend with a situation similar to yours in an old building in Midtown East. With the thermal camera we did find several potentially dangerous conditions. Old outlets and one switch controlling an outlet where the connection with the wiring was weak an/or corroded and the wires and their connection to the outlet & switch were getting very hot. Like you she had lots of stuff and the place simply wasn't wired to handle all the modern things needing power. After the outlets were replaced and given good firm and clean connections they were cool and safe.
 
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Old 03-30-15, 01:57 PM
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If all you have is 20 amps, what is the draw of the air conditioner? I believe you will be maxed out with it alone. Anything else, like lights or a TV or microwave will overload the circuit. The refrigerator will definitely overload it. Just because they are not next to each other, doesn't change the draw from the circuit breaker/fuse.
 
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Old 03-30-15, 06:11 PM
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Sorry, I've used the AC for 15 years, so it works fine with everything I have within the 20 amps. What I'm doing now is refurnishing the place so I would like to run the cords differently. Before I had the AC on the single outlet, with nothing else plugged in. Now I got a computer plugged into that outlet, and want to move the AC to the outlet next to the other outlet. If the outlets are only 1 foot apart, should I still consider these as 1 outlet heatwise? If I have the fridge plugged into one, and the AC+TV plugged into the other one, is that still too much for one location? I think in order to create the two outlets they simply hooked one outlet up to the other one inside the wall. I mean, they're right next to each other, so I'm just assuming..
 
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Old 03-30-15, 08:13 PM
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If you only have 20 amp service via one fuse/breaker it won't matter where you plug things in as they are all under the same over current protection. Not disputing you, but I doubt you only have a single 20 amp circuit. Too large a load.
 
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Old 03-31-15, 05:22 PM
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Thank you Chandler. I think it might even only be 15 amps. It's only a 250sf studio apartment. The AC is only 6 amps.
 
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Old 04-01-15, 05:18 AM
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Most circuits are run in series. The wire from the circuit breaker goes to one side of the first outlet. Then wires attach to the other side of the outlet to run on to the next and on down the line. So, the first outlet usually sees the full current of everything downstream. So, it's generally better to place the heavier load on the first outlets in the line. Still that wire and connections from the breaker to the first outlet has to carry the full load of everything on the circuit so it's most critical.
 
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Old 04-01-15, 06:19 AM
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Most circuits are run in series.
OT; nitpicking.
Please don't use the word "series" in this context. "Series" is a buzz word for a different electrical circuit configuration, such as that in Christmas tree lights.

In a series (lighting) circuit the current goes through the first lamp, then through the second lamp, and so on, then through the last lamp and then back to the source. If all the lamps are the same then the voltage each gets is the supply voltage divided by the number of lamps.

Household outlet boxes are wired in "parallel." (Each receptacle, appliance, etc. has both hot and neutral from the panel where the current does not go through another light, appliance, etc. first.)

"Daisy chain" seems to be a better term for the routing of the wiring or cables from one outlet box to the next, although experts have been known to vehemently argue about usage of that term too, typically in a high ceilinged Victorian styled library over tea and cookies.

The dilemma at hand is whether to plug the air conditioner into the nearest receptacle or to use an extension cord to reach a different receptacle. Since the AC unit draws just 6 amps, an extension cord is not necessarily a problem. Probably the only critical issue is not plugging both the AC unit and the refrigerator into the same receptacle, where the receptacle slots have to take the combined load of both. A loose fit of the plug in the receptacle means a greater chance of a loose connection which in turn means a greater chance of overheating.

Could you plug some of the other stuff into an extension cord to reach the more distant receptacle? Perhaps 4 to 5 amps worth?
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 04-01-15 at 06:45 AM.
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Old 04-03-15, 04:43 PM
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Thank you all for this. Would using surge protectors be helpful in preventing fires at all? Because the circuit breaker is in the basement and I'm on the 5th floor I have no idea which outlet comes first in line.
 
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Old 04-03-15, 05:43 PM
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No, I don't think a surge suppressor would help. I think you being smart and aware is your best protection and since you are at least asking the question you are obviously aware that it could be an issue. I would occasionally lay the back of a finger on the face plate of each outlet and on the plug of high drain items like the fridge and AC to see if it feels warm. That and be aware for odd smells on hot summer days when the AC and fridge are running non-stop. Basically just be aware to know what your place is like normally so you know when something is unusual.

---
Oh, and I'm not mentioning series again and I've learned something.
 
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