Trying to beat the searing temperatures by using a window air conditioner powered by an extension cord can spark another of the afflictions currently plaguing the area — fire.


Trying to beat the searing temperatures by using a window air conditioner powered by an extension cord can spark another of the afflictions currently plaguing the area — fire.

Fire Marshal Clyde Ellis, Ardmore Fire Department, said within the past 30 days local firefighters have responded to three residential fires.  All three fires were caused by the same combination of exceptional heat and window air conditioners powered by extension cords.

“First off, window air conditioners are not meant to run off extension cords — that’s dangerous in itself and it’s never a good idea. What’s adding to something that’s already dangerous is the high temperatures, which is causing window air conditioners to not cycle properly. These units aren’t able to sufficiently bring the temperature inside the room down so the compressor continues to cycle instead of turning off at regular intervals. That continuous cycling causes heat to build up and eventually that causes the cord to burn out and a fire to start,” Ellis said.

Extension cords may seem to be a quick fix when someone installs a window air conditioner only to discover there is no electrical wall outlet close enough to plug in the unit’s power cord. Price quotes from area electricians about the average cost of having a wall outlet installed ranged from $85 to $350. While certainly the safer alternative, the installation costs may not be financially feasible.

For some, the question then becomes weighing the health risks associated with living in stifling heat against the risk of a potential fire. It’s a dilemma Ellis understands. And while he strongly recommends having a wall outlet professionally installed, he said there is a short term alternative that can provide a measure of safety.

“Don’t use a common household type extension cord. Use one made for commercial purposes — one with at least 10-gauge wire and use the shortest cord possible,” he said.

To ask questions concerning safely operating window air conditioners call Ellis at (580) 221-2550.