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I live in the U.S. in a townhome (not free standing) built in 2012.

I want to put a laser printer in the laundry room and use the outlet currently occupied by the washing machine. It's a designated circuit for the washer; the double-pole breaker in the box is 30A. -- I'm sorry, I have no idea where I got the idea it was a big breaker like that, I must have been looking at the dishwasher breaker and got it confused.

The washing machine circuit is 20A, single pole.

The sticker on the washer says it's 10A 120V 60Hz.

The laser printer says it's 110-120V, 50/60Hz and 9A.

It's a standard U.S. 3-prong outlet with a little notch off the left prong (which is not used by the washer).

So, can I just use a standard outlet splitter or do I need to consider the power draw or some other effects?

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    30A double pole breakers are usually for electric dryers - are you sure you have the right breaker? – kponz Sep 20 '17 at 7:18
  • Can you find which breaker turns the washing machine outlet off? (Use a plug-in radio or suchnot) – ThreePhaseEel Sep 20 '17 at 11:45
  • Does the receptacle look like this: cooperindustries.com/content/dam/public/wiringdevices/products/…? If not, can you take a picture of the receptacle as well as the plug on the washer? – mmathis Sep 20 '17 at 14:22
  • It could also be a multi wire branch circuit but with a standard 120v outlet it should not have more than a 20a breaker. – Ed Beal Sep 20 '17 at 14:40
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    I think I asked the question way too late at night. I just edited the question. It's not a 240V/30A it's a standard 120V/20A. Sorry y'all. – Mark O Sep 21 '17 at 13:38
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Washing machines require dedicated circuits. This code excerpt implies that the only receptacle available for a washing machine should be the one that the appliance itself is plugged into.

210.10(C)(2) Laundry Branch Circuits. In addition to the number of branch circuits required by other parts of this section, at least one additional 20-ampere branch circuit shall be provided to supply the laundry receptacle outlet(s) required by 210.52(F). This circuit shall have no other outlets.

Source: 2008 NEC, the latest version I have, but I know this requirement has not changed meaningfully since then.

In general, any high-powered AC motor or electrical heating element (washing machine, refrigerator, garbage disposal, dishwasher, microwave, etc.) should be on a dedicated circuit. These tend to draw a lot of amps, and AC motors spike above their typical current draw when starting because they have to charge some pretty big capacitors. For example, an AC motor that draws 12 amps might spike at 18 amps when starting. If you already have a load on that circuit, you may trip a breaker (maybe not - they do not necessarily trip because of a momentary spike - and the circumstances that cause them to trip is a little more complex. Best not to tempt fate).

The correct thing to do here is one of the following:

  • Use a different circuit that is available in that location.
  • Run another circuit for the printer. As laser printers can also cause a current spike and I have actually seen them (personal experience) cause lights to fade momentarily, a dedicated circuit for one is not a bad idea, even if it is not required.
  • Plug into another circuit elsewhere in the house, possibly using an extension cord to move the printer where you want it as Iggy suggests. I recommend using a heavy-duty extension cord capable of carrying whatever current the printer requires over the full length of the extension cord. Too often I see people use dinky little extension cords that work fine for lamps, but will overheat under high loads such as with laser printers, power tools, yard equipment, etc. If the extension cord is exposed at all, you also want it to be durable to avoid damage. Personally, I only buy heavy-duty outdoor-rated extension cords capable of carrying 15 or 20 amps, even for indoor uses.
  • Thank you, Snowman. For now I guess we will just unplug the washing machine and use that receptacle for the printer, whenever we want to print something. – Mark O Sep 21 '17 at 13:52
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Don't, is the correct way. If that 30-amp breaker is indeed it's power, then it's branched off one of the dryer's legs. I'm told this is legal and proper and an exception by electricians, it's none of those things in my book.

If you were talking about an Inkjet Printer, then I wouldn't see any potential risk. But, a Laser Printer may decide it's time to mix the toner while the laundry's going and you could end up with more than just a tripped breaker.

You should use another outlet with an Appliance or Heavy Duty extension cord stapled to the ceiling, shoved into the floor corner or out of any traffic path. Correct and best would be, to put in/have put in a new GFCI outlet (likely required) or 2 or 3...it may be very minor cost to do more there...future kitchen remodel could force this room into becoming the temporary kitchen.

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    Extension cord stapled to the ceiling? Flexible Cords, "Uses not permitted: (1) As a substitute for the fixed wiring of a structure... (4) Where attached to building surfaces", unless specifically permitted by 400.7. NEC (2014):400.8. Also, "Temporary wiring" generally allows only limited use of extension cords, e.g., while constructing the permanent circuits as needed, or 90 days or for emergencies. NEC 590.3. – Upnorth Sep 21 '17 at 5:23
  • Alright, I'll be nicer, though no-one does nor is required to update their building to current codes whenever they change. This is a Portable Appliance we're talking about. Therefore, wouldn't this fall under 400.7.A.3 and be permitted, as stated? Maybe I didn't look carefully enough, but there's no mention/reference to 590.3 in Section 400. – Iggy Sep 21 '17 at 20:34
  • I see nothing in 400.7.A.3 that authorizes attachment of the cord to the building surface. Sure, we all use flexible cords for portable appliances. Based upon the existence of 400.8.4 Exception (for busway drops), wouldn't one presume there are no other exceptions? As for "no mention" of 590.3 in 400, see 400.2: "Flexible cords and flexible cables shall comply with this article and with the applicable provisions of other articles of this Code". I don't think my comment said anything about "updating their building". How would that be relevant? – Upnorth Sep 22 '17 at 15:37
  • Gross misinterpretations of my answer, yourself and the code...you're taking after someone I know. 400.8..."Unless specifically permitted by 400.7", see that and read it again, 400.8..."Unless specifically permitted by 400.7". And then, you bounce to accepted temporary measures for replacement or new installation of non-flexible wiring. Telling us, that non-flexible wiring is the only possibility for anyone and everyone...making Article 400 altogether illegal. You better not have your computer on a "power-strip" (extension cord). I hope my answer's clear now. – Iggy Sep 22 '17 at 20:13
  • A power strip is not an extension cord. – Upnorth Sep 24 '17 at 23:56
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If I were you, I'd invest in a Uninterruptible Power Supply(UPS) here. The washer might put a serious drain on the outlet and drop the power momentarily. A UPS will protect against both surges and undervolts. There's nothing more annoying than an interrupted print job.

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