Extension cords are a handy solution to many home and workplace electrical needs, but they can become a dangerous fire hazard if you do not use them correctly. To use extension cords safely at home or at work, follow these simple tips:
Choose the right cord for the job.
There are different types of cords that should be used depending on your intended use. If you plan to work outdoors, look for a cord that is rated for outdoor use and has a thick outer cover made of rubber, plastic, or vinyl. Using indoor extension cords outside can lead to overheating. Depending on your job and environment, you may also want to look for a cord that is specially rated for oils, chemicals, or extreme temperatures.
If you plan to connect multiple devices to the cord at the same time, add up the current requirements for each device. Energy requirements are typically listed on the device itself or in the instruction manual. The power requirements for some devices are listed in watts, rather than amps. A simple formula to convert the rating is: amps = watts / 110. If an extension cord doesn't include a maximum amperage rating, you can figure out its capacity by looking at its American Wire Gauge (AWG) rating. The lower the AWG, the higher the cord's capacity to deliver power.
Check cords before use.
Along with choosing the correct cord for your job, you will need to regularly inspect and maintain your extension cords. Check your cords for wear and tear, deterioration, and any type of damage. Be careful when handling damaged cords – just touching a single exposed strand can give you an electric shock or burn. You can prevent damage to your extension cords by properly removing them from outlets – do not pull the extension cord out by the actual cord when removing it from the outlet. If you see any type of damage on the cord, you will need to dispose of it and replace it.
Review cord placement.
Extension cords should only be used in areas that are not normally walked over. Placing cords in high traffic areas can lead to trips and falls, and cords that are walked on will degrade faster. Extension cords should be run along baseboards or walls or threaded behind furniture or equipment so that they are out of the way. If your cord is not long enough to reach between the outlet and your device, do not use a second cord and connect them. If you connect two extension cords together, you will reduce the operating voltage and efficiency of the tools and appliances you will be using and you could even cause motor damage.
Other essential tips for safe use include:
– Do not substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.
– A heavy reliance on cords is an indication that you have too few outlets to address your needs. Have additional outlets installed where you need them.
– Never use three-prong plugs with outlets that only have two slots for the plug. Do not cut off the ground pin to force a fit. This defeats the purpose of a three-prong plug and could lead to an electrical shock.
– Buy only cords approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), ETL-SEMKO (ETL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Extension cords are a simple and commonly used electrical solution for the home and workplace, but they can be very dangerous if used incorrectly. Before connecting a cord to a device, be sure you have selected an appropriate cord, check that it's in good working order, and make sure that it's safely placed.