Extension Cord Safety: What Are the Important Dos and Don’ts

Extension Cord Safety:

For an average homeowner, extension cords are the quick answer for many of their electrical woes. And why wouldn’t that be? Extension cords are the quick fix for the inadequate placement of outlets. They can come in really handy while placing a TV or a music system fifteen feet away from the nearest source of power. 

Stretching the reach of the electrical current through the portable wires is convenient when you use them properly. But improper use of extension cords is a recipe for disaster. It can overheat and catch fire faster than you think. So, before you buy new extension cords, consider the dos and don’ts of using them.

The Dos:

1. Buy Cords That Are Tested and Approved

You should only buy cords that an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL), has tested and approved. You will find a UL stamp on the product tag, which means the cords are tested for safety hazards.

Good quality extension cords, regardless of whether it is a 30 amp extension cord or more, will always undergo careful inspection by experts.

2. Every Extension Cord Is Not Made Equal

It would help if you matched the gauge and length of the cord to your electrical needs. Cords come in multiple lengths, and they have the ‘gauge’ or size marked on them. American Wire Gauge (AWG) System gets applied in this gauge system of measurement for cords. Keep in mind: the smaller the AWG number, the larger the wire. 

For instance, a twelve-gauge wire is more extensive and can power larger wattage appliances than a fourteen gauge wire. Generally, the owner’s manual or box of the electrical device will have details about the kind of gauge you will need for safely delivering the correct amperage. So, if you purchase a power drill, take a look at the owner’s manual to gauge the cord you need.

Extension Cord Safety:

3. Keep Cords Away From Doors and Walls

It is never good to run extension cords through ceilings or walls because they overheat and create a major fire hazard.

You might also damage the insulation of a cord by running it through doorways. The cords might get pinched in windows and doors or any heavy furniture. Such damaged cords create fire hazards and pose a significant risk of electrical shock.

4. Inspect the Extension Cord Before You Use It

It would be excellent if you also inspect cords for damage before using them. You never know what can happen to an extension cord that has been in storage for several months. Something sharp and heavy might have pierced the cord, or critters might have chewed at them. 

Even brand new ones might be defective. Check for loose connections, bare or loose wires, frayed or cracked sockets.

5. Select an Extension Cord with a 3-Prong Plug

So, one prong is hot, and the second is neutral. That third prong in an extension cord offers a pathway to the ground wire. 

It cuts down the danger of fire hazards and electrical shocks by giving power surges a safe path to dissipate. To ensure that it is safe, you should always plug extension cords in an adequately grounded 3-slot receptacle/outlet. 

The Don’ts:

1. Don’t Mount Extension Cords with Staples or Nails.

You might think of using staples or nails to secure an extension cord from becoming loose and unplugged. However, staples and nails are the last things you should use for this purpose. 

These tools can puncture the rubber protective layer of the cord, letting electricity travel outside the wire and causing electrocution. Whether it is an outdoor or indoor extension cord does not matter; nails should not go anywhere near it.

Extension Cord Safety:

2. Don’t Use Indoor Extension Cords Outdoors

Indoor and outdoor extension cords are not the same thing, and you cannot use them interchangeably. The main difference between outdoor and indoor extension cords is the insulation used to make them. 

Indoor extension cords do not come with the same protective insulation and materials. Outdoor cords have durable insulation that protects them against temperature changes and moisture. An extension cord that is not for outdoor use can quickly get damaged and susceptible to the elements.

3. Don’t Force the Plugin A Wrong Outlet.

It would help if you never tried to force 3-prong plugs into 2-prong outlets by removing the ground pin or the third prong. When extension cords come with three prongs, one of them acts as the grounder.

You’re risking severe electrocution by forcing the extension cord to go into a 2-prong outlet where it does not fit. The devices on the other end will need a grounder. Electricity will jump to its nearest source, i.e., you, rather than going down the wire. It can cause serious health injury.

4. Don’t Overload the Extension Cord.

Make sure that the extension cord supports your electrical devices. It would be best if you never overload your extension cord. These cords have a particular electrical load that they can handle. 

When you push them past this limit, you risk damaging the devices and creating power surges. Keep in mind that overheating of the extension cords is a significant fire hazard. And you are even connecting appliances that use more watts than a cord can handle, thus damaging the extension cord.

5. Don’t Plug Extension Cords In Other Extension Cords.

Extension cords can go their distance. When you chain them together, you reduce the electrical current and gauge. So, you will often find that your devices are not getting enough power, which defeats the need for an extension cord. It is wise to install a new outlet or use longer extension cables.

Wrapping Up

Proper use of extension cords not only prolongs its life but also keeps the safety hazards at bay. And now you know the ten commandments of safe use of extension cords. It is time to choose the extension cords to ease out the electrical woes of your home.