How to Use Extension Cords Safely

Extension cords seem like a practical solution to many problems. Many people use extension cords to direct power to Christmas tree lights in the winter. Owner of older homes may use extension cords to supply power to parts of the home that are lacking outlets. While extension cords are a useful tool, they can cause fires if used improperly. By following a few safety guidelines, homeowners can use extension cords safely.

Use for intended purposes

Extension cords come in a variety of lengths, uses and power thresholds. Most homeowners understand the hunt for the longest power cord in the house. However, choosing the right extension cord also requires confirming that the cord is intended for indoor or outdoor use. Extension cords marked for outdoor use have additional insulation to protect the wiring from the elements. It’s okay to use these ones indoors, but using indoors extension cords out of doors is not recommended. The indoors extension cord is more susceptible to being damaged by weather and other outdoor hazards. It’s safe to “outdoors” extension cords for outdoor use.

Homeowners should also check that their extension cords are rated for the device that is plugged into them. Many extension cords are used to run high power demand items, like hot tubs or air compressors. Not all extension cords can handle these devices. The capacity should be noted on a tag attached to the extension cord. If that was removed years ago, it’s probably a good idea to consign that extension cord to a low capacity device and purchase a new one with the right capacity for high power demand devices. A extension cord that is used beyond its rated capacity is like to overload. The wires will overheat and the extension cord will be warm to the touch. Too much heat can result in fires, so it’s important to check the rated capacity.

Extension cords are also intended to be used temporarily. A extension cord should not be a long-term solution for heating an outdoor hot tub. The cords degrade over time and should not be constantly in use. Extended use makes the extension cord more susceptible to damage, such as overloading. Homeowners should try to use extension cords only for temporary application, rather than as permanent fixtures.

Monitor Extension Cords

Extension cords should be periodically inspected for overload heating and damage. If a cord is hot to the touch while plugged in, it does not have enough capacity for the device. It should be replaced by an extension cord with a higher rated capacity. Cord damage, such as insulation wearing off or corroded plugs, is also a hazard that requires requirement. Any damage can increase the likelihood that a fire will occur.

Purchase High Quality Extension Cords

Quality extension cords are easy to find, but may be a little more expensive. Homeowners should look for extension cords that have been inspected by a recognized national testing laboratory. Some examples are Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) and CSA-International (CSA). In addition to the labeling, the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission recommends that the wiring in an extension cord is at least 16 AWG. This wire sizing label should be printed on the cord.

With a little knowledge, homeowners can use their extension cords properly and reduce the any risks of fire.

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