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I’m setting up a bidet in America that has a three-pronged plug rated at 120V. Currently I’m using an extension cord (rated at 125V) which plugs directly into the bathroom’s GFCI outlet, but I want to use an adapter for more sockets and wire organization.

My question: is it safe to use an extension cord that plugs into the adapter (either with or without surge protection) that plugs into a GFCI outlet?

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  • Extension cords are only for temporary use. You are expected to add extra circuits if you need to use an extension. Being safe depends on too much information, gauge of extension, what is added to the extension, how much abuse the extension is expected. A hair dryer or a heater on a 16 gauge extension is probably not a good idea.
    – crip659
    Dec 27, 2022 at 23:32
  • Use a GFCI (as you already stated) Use only UL or ETL listed extension cords, adapters, etc. then you should be OK
    – Traveler
    Dec 28, 2022 at 0:14

3 Answers 3

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From a pure "is it safe" standpoint, as long as you:

  • Use a GFCI (as you already stated)
  • Use only UL or ETL listed extension cords, adapters, etc.
  • Use only extension cords, adapters, etc. that are fully rated for the current being used

then you should be OK. Except. But first:

  • UL or ETL listed - anything electrical you buy in a regular bricks 'n mortar retail store in the US should be UL or ETL listed. But it doesn't hurt to double-check. However, anything purchased mail-order - Amazon, eBay, etc., and even some bricks 'n mortar companies that let 3rd-parties sell stuff through them (sometimes very clearly, sometimes not) must be checked very carefully. UL or ETL listing provides basic assurance that the product, as designed, can handle the rated voltage and current when used as instructed. Without that listing, it may be fine or it (literally) burn up the first time you try to use it.
  • Rated for current - This is absolutely critical! Your bathroom receptacles are rated for 15A or 20A. Never (in the US) for less than 15A. There are extension cords rated for 15A or 20A. There are also extension cords rated for 13A, 10A or as little as 7A! The 7A that I found (which really surprised me) is a long cord (200') so there the reason is voltage drop, and that isn't a concern for the 10' cord you might use in the bathroom. But even a 10A cord is a problem if you plug in a space heater (12A continuous) or hair dryer (15A). Pretty much everything in the US less than 15A uses the exact same plugs and connectors, so it is trivially easy to string things together and end up with a very dangerous weak link.

And now we get to that one word, except:

There are a few very common problems with extension cords and adapters when used for more than just temporary situations:

  • Overcurrent - If you have a 20A circuit and run 20A through a 10A or 13A extension cord, the breaker will never trip but the cord will melt and catch on fire if it is used with high current long enough. You may promise yourself you'll never do that. But someone else will decide to plug in a space heater when the furnace is on the fritz and disaster strikes. After all, the plug fits so it must be OK!
  • Overload due to multiple devices - With a standard duplex receptacle, it takes real work to overload a 20A circuit, especially since most devices use at most 12A continuous, by design. But with adapters and extension cords it becomes very easy to throw too much stuff on one circuit - bidet + heated towel rack + space heater + hair dryer, etc.
  • Loose connections - A device plugged directly in to a receptacle has only one point of "plug/cord" failure. Add an extension cord and an adapter and now you have three. Any of which can get loose and cause high-resistance (heat -> melt -> fire) or arcing (fire). And the problem isn't always obvious, particularly since the receptacle may be many feet away from the actual device (thanks to the extension cord).
  • Tripping hazards - Big problem for extension cords. And yes, that's also why most appliances (big exception: vacuum cleaners - but most people don't leave them plugged in when they're not using them) have anywhere from a 2 foot cord (many kitchen appliances) to a 6 foot cord (lamps, computers, etc.).

There is a difference between power strips, which typically provide at least nominal surge protection, all on/off convenience, don't get moved around much, and when used as generally designed (computer + monitor + printer + a bunch of little power packs for router, network switch, speakers, calculator, etc.) don't get used anywhere near 15A, and which also have relatively short cords, and extension cords, which by their nature are long (25' or more is extremely common).

Extension cords have their place - but for temporary things, not permanent installation in a bathroom.

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The GFCI will continue to work and protect appliances connected through a power bar, extension cord, or a "duplex to six plug" adapter etc...

Power bars and multi-plug adapters may be used for permanent connections, as long as you don't run the wire through a wall or otherwise prevent heat dissipation.

However, extension cords are only permitted for temporary use of portable devices, e.g. seasonal use, for a particular temporary job etc., and so by code they cannot be used for a permanent connection.

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Outlet doublers, yeah... ok.

Extension cord in a wet area? No. Just no.

Extension cord for a fixed appliance? No. NEC says no.

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