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New Electric Appliance? Think About Your Outlets First.

Picture this: You just bought a shiny new electric washer, dryer, oven, or other large appliance. You’re gently uncovering your new purchase from its crispy wrappings and are ready to turn it on for the first time, when you run into a problem. The cord is too short. The outlet is not the right shape. Or the appliance is drawing too much power. Today we’ll take a look at moving or updating an electric receptacle to accommodate a new appliance.

Problem #1: The appliance power cord is too short.

This is a classic issue. Your new appliance may be smaller or placed in a different location and thus the new power cord just won’t reach the old outlet. Especially during a renovation, the last thing you want to do is rearrange the entire room just so your appliance can reach the outlet. In this situation, your options are limited. To minimize the risk of electrical fires, you should never consistently use an extension cord to run a heavy-duty appliance. You’ll need to contact an experienced electrician in order to run a new circuit and add a new outlet to the desired location. We do not recommend DIY wiring—this is a job for the pros. Don’t run the risk of a damaging electrical shock that could injure you or ruin your new appliance. In most cases this is a relatively quick and mid-cost project.

Problem #2: The appliance has 4 prongs; your outlet has 3.

This is an issue of grounding—the third and fourth prongs reduce the risk of electric shock in a power surge. The electricity is ‘grounded’ and redirected harmlessly into the earth instead of your home. Dryers are the most frequent culprit here. In general, homes built before the year 2000 utilize 3-prong dryer outlets. After that time, new homes have been built with 4-prong outlets for additional safety. The good news is that you can reuse an older 3-prong cord on your new dryer as long as the plug remains in good working condition. You can follow these instructions to make the change, or contact a licensed electrician for help.

Problem #3: The appliance requires a larger voltage.

Small appliances like toasters and coffee makers don’t require as much power as a refrigerator or washing machine. If your appliance is overdrawing the outlet, it may cause a tripped fuse or frequent shut-off, and is not safe to operate and will not pass inspection. In general, 120V / 20 Amp outlets are for lower-end small items like that toaster. 120V–240V / 30–60 Amp outlets can support larger appliances, even up to a refrigerator. 250V outlets are best for high-demand appliances like stoves, dryers, and air conditioners. Notably, gas dryers typically require a smaller 120V circuit, while electric dryers need 240V circuits. Many people encounter this issue when making the switch from gas to electric. Again, this is a job for a professional electrician who can help evaluate your needs and make the necessary modifications to the outlet.

Of course, the moral of this story is that it's best to choose your new appliance with your space in mind! Consider the type and position of outlet you’ll need before you buy. If and when you do need to modify a circuit, contact the Butler Electric team for prompt and detailed assistance.


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