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I'm living in old apartment and my roommate has fed electric cords through heating vent from living room into bathroom. I see this as a double hazard and illegal. The heating vent exits on wall behind toilet, about 3 inches off floor. He installed power bar on side of sink. He says it is safe because of power bar and the cords behind toilet will not cause fire because of the heat in vent will dry any condensation that might cause electric fire. But wouldn't using an active vent be dangerous, as well as being near water? I know very little about any of this but, doubt any amount of safety or grounding will make this safe. Would anyone know how to make this situation safer? Or give me some peace of mind so I can sleep. Thank you everyone very much for responses. This roommate is a contractor and is educated through college for home renovations. I cannot convince him to remove and will move out soon. I was told I was overreacting and do not understand how it works...so I appreciate the confirmation that it is dumb and dangerous.

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GFCI protected outlets exist in bathrooms for your protection, and it is explicitly against code to run wire through HVAC systems. You are creating a dangerous situation that at the very least your roommate could end up getting you evicted if your landlord would find out. Do not do this. –  maple_shaft Dec 10 '12 at 12:33
What? No outlets in the living room? Or is he just too cheap to buy longer extension cords? –  bcworkz Dec 11 '12 at 5:40
"This roommate is a contractor and is educated through college for home renovations." That certainly helps explain why it's so hard to find competent contractors. –  jamietre Dec 11 '12 at 11:13
Suggest to your roommate that you have a county/state electrical inspector come out and look at his work. He should have no problem with that, if it's so perfectly safe. –  The Evil Greebo Dec 11 '12 at 18:27

5 Answers 5

Any electrical socket in a bathroom must have GFCI protection. You're damp, you touch something with a ground fault, feel a slight tickle and wake up wearing a halo and wings. Of all places to hack together power supplies, a bathroom is absolutely the worst place to do this. Mystical theories about the heater protecting the strip from dampness don't remove the shock hazard.

Fire hazard is not your problem here

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I agree, this is the worst idea he could come up with. You tell him that you use the bathroom too and to get those things out of there as you don't want to end up as a Darwin Award. –  GdD Dec 10 '12 at 11:12

I don't know your location, but in the USA, it is strictly forbidden to run any electrical wiring through heating vents or any air handling plenum. The reason for this is that you now have a combustible material in the plenum, that can spread a fire between rooms and into wall cavities. As previously mentioned, any AC electrical outlets in a bathroom MUST be GFIC protected. If you do not have electrical outlets with GFI protection in your bathroom, take it up with your landlord and ask that a safe source of electricity be installed. Meanwhile, get that extension cord/plug strip out of there.

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More importantly, PVC insulation which is what's used on most electrical wiring creates a deadly smoke. You do not want that in your HVAC ducting. Not sure if it's still code, but in commercial settings, all low power data cables that were routed through air intakes had to be plenum rated with teflon/tefzel non-flammable insulation. Mains power? Never! –  Fiasco Labs Dec 10 '12 at 16:04

Move out. You are not compatible and this will only be the first thing that gets between you. That guy is not going to change his behavior based on advice you got on the Internet. He probably drives with one hand, too.

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Hey, I drive with one hand. If it makes you feel any better, though, I ride a bicycle with two hands. –  oscilatingcretin Dec 12 '12 at 16:51
I fly airplanes with one hand... Done pretty well on bicycles with no hands while the girls were watchin'. –  Fiasco Labs Dec 15 '12 at 5:29

It's not safe and not good practice to run anything through heat vents. Why can't he use the electricity in the bathroom?

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There probably isn't any useable outlets in the bathroom - a lot of older houses simply don't have any. My bathroom has plugs built into the light fixture, but that's a big pain. I just deal with it, myself. –  Michael Kohne Dec 11 '12 at 12:28
What makes it not safe? Why isn't it good practice? –  Tester101 Dec 11 '12 at 20:39

You can reduce the risk of electric shock due to a ground fault (e.g. caused by moisture) using one of these GFCI plugs. Since it sounds like the extension cord starts in the living room, you would use it at the outlet there. It will protect anything downstream the same way a GFCI outlet would. However, this is not a fantastic solution and doesn't solve the issue of the HVAC vent.

Obviously the best solution is to remove the power strip and/or find another place to live.

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