Galvin Power is reader-supported. When you buy via our links, we may earn a commission at no cost to you. Learn more

Can You Plug a Microwave Into an Extension Cord?

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

can you plug a microwave into an extension cord

There’s no shortage to the number of appliances, fixtures, tools, and gadgets that we can plug into extension cords. However, there’s always a catch. In this case, the said electronic devices almost always belong to the low-power draw category. That leaves us with the question: Does a microwave belong to it?

Obviously not. Does that mean, no, is the ready answer to “Can you plug a microwave into an extension cord?”

Truth is, yes, you can use an extension cord with a microwave. Do not rely on it permanently or buy a heavier-duty cord made specifically for appliances.

What Extension Cords Work Best With Microwaves?


I wish to make it known from the get-go that the U.S. Fire Department dissuades using a microwave plugged into an extension cord. Still, it’s not like it’s illegal, and many people, Reddit users or otherwise, have discussed the topic and attested to doing it.

The key is only to regard this setup as a temporary solution since that’s what section 400.8 of the NEC recommends.

Have you got that note? Let’s get down to business, then.

1. What you should not use

When determining the correct extension cord for microwave, a good first step is to cross out what you can’t use.

In most cases, these include the standard, low-gauge extension cords that you usually use with small appliances and tools like lamps, drill saws, printers, etc.

Anything that only accommodates less power-hungry devices (think 18-gauge cords or less) shouldn’t even be considered. As such, you need to cross out any other kind of extension cord whose exact ratings you aren’t sure of.

Not that I have anything against dollar stores, but you may want to steer clear of the (mostly shady) products offered there – or any other store similar to them, for that matter.

2. What you should use

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s easier to draw a clearer picture of what a heavy-duty extension cord is:

Normally, they’ll be readily labeled as an “appliance power cord” and “major appliance power cord” in stores like Lowes and Amazon.

As for the wire gauge, go for at least a 12 gauge extension cord – no less! This is enough for 1000 watt microwave products because the cords can handle up to 20A in short distances that don’t go past 50 feet.

  • A buying tip: When figuring out what gauge extension cord I should use, I always appreciate brands that reveal the gauge (e.g. 14/3, 12/3, etc.) and the exact amp rating unlike those that only attach vague, general figures like “15A” or “20A”.

I mean, who really knows how thick (or thin) the wires inside them are if their manufacturers don’t even bother to reveal the cord’s gauge?

Reasons You Shouldn’t Plug a Microwave Into an Extension Cord


Here’s why the U.S. Fire Department tends to be on its toes when people ask whether a microwave be plugged into an extension cord:

  • The current draw of appliances is rarely static. This makes high-powered ones like microwaves tricky to plug into extension cords that can only manage limited current ranges.

The fluctutaing power and current may cause a surge, which the extension cord may not be able to handle. This could damage the cord enough to render it useless, trip the breaker, or even lead to a fire.

  • Every time you run a microwave on an extension cord, you’re basically going against basic electrical safety guidelines and, in turn, putting yourself, your family, and your property at risk.
  • It’s just an overall sub-optimal setup compared to a microwave with a dedicated outlet.

What to Consider if You Want to Plug a Microwave Into an Extension Cord


  • Keep the running length short. The ideal setup is less than 25 feet and not more than 50 feet to take care of voltage drop and resistance.
  • Not all extension cord manufacturers tend to be transparent and honest about the amount of copper they put into their cords and how they’re rated. In short, it could be that a 12-gauge NM cable and a 12-gauge extension cord may not have exactly the same size wires.

This is why you have to be extra cautious when weighing your options and planning the length of time the microwave will stay plugged into the cord.

  • Every time you plug a microwave into a power strip that’s shared by other appliances, make sure you never run any other device while it’s in operation. And, yes, this applies even to heavy-duty extension cords.
  • Always check for signs of damage on the cord before using it!

Frequently Asked Questions

What size extension cord do I need to run a microwave?

If you want a microwave be plugged into a power strip, always match their respective ratings. Know both the gauge and the amp rating of the microwave, to be completely sure.

Of course, you should also be aware of the microwave’s exact requirements. As mentioned before, a 12-gauge is a good, safe option. You can even go lower to 14 gauge, but you have to be 100% sure that it’s suitable for your microwave’s output.

Can you plug a microwave into any outlet?

No, you have to make sure that it’s 120V or 240V first and plug it into an outlet that’s similar (assuming it’s not 120/240). For most regular microwaves you buy off the shelf, 120 is the voltage rating.

You also have to match the amp ratings, but most US home outlets are rated for 15A or 20A already, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Lastly, the outlet should fit a 3-pronged plug.


To recap the answer to “Can you plug a microwave into an extension cord?”, yes, it’s allowed since there’s no strict rule in the NEC that forbids it. But fire safety concerns remain an issue, so it’s not recommended altogether or at the least should only be a temporary solution.

Be sure to use only the most appropriate extension cord for your microwave oven based on the points I shared here.

5/5 - (2 votes)