We’ve all had to deal with cords that aren’t long enough for the appliances around the house. If you’re tired of moving your TV, resituating your refrigerate, or stretching the cables of your computer, then you might’ve researched extension cords. Unfortunately, there are countless hazardous situations that have occurred when using them improperly.
Appliance extension cords are safe if you choose the proper amperage and wattage. You can’t plug in too many appliances or the cord will get overloaded. You can calculate the limit by adding the total watts and amps of every item plugged into the cord. Also, don’t forget to get a cord with a fuse.
Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information about the safety of using appliance extension cords:
- Numerous hazards that people have encountered
- How you can use extension cords correctly
- What should avoid when using an extension cord for your appliances
Extension Cord Safety Hazards
It’s no secret that people have caused sparks, shocks, and fires from misusing extension cords. Although it might seem like a good idea to plug everything into one unit, there are many factors that you have to consider beforehand.
Here’s a list of hazards that could occur if you don’t use extension cords correctly:
- If the wattage of your items is more than the total wattage of the cord, you’ll cause an overload. Fortunately, extension cables with fuses will trip, preventing electrical surges. However, if there’s no fuse in the cord, you’ll end up overheating the cable, causing sparks and fire.
- Unapproved extension cords could cause a variety of issues. Some of them lie about the wattage total, whereas others don’t have secure components. According to Indiana University, loose plugs can cause a process known as electrical arcing. In short, it causes electricity to jump from the outlet to the plug, causing a fire.
- Small cracks or holes in the cord could be a hazard. The rubber surrounding the copper wire inside of the cable protects it from exterior damage. When it’s exposed, it can shock anyone or anything that touches it. You might experience fires, sparks, and severely dangerous surges.
- Plugging an extension cord into a loose outlet is always an issue. Much like the process mentioned above, it’ll cause electrical arcing. If it becomes too loose, it can shock anyone nearby. It can also fry the outlet, tripping the breakers in your house or burning the inside of the cable.
If you’re worried about choosing the wrong extension cord, review the table below.
|Extension Cord Length||Amperage||Thickness (Gauge)|
|25 feet||11 amps||14 AWG|
|50 feet||13 amps||12 AWG|
|100 feet||15 amps||10 AWG|
(Source: NY Times)
Despite the fact that the table shows 11, 13, and 15 amps, the New York Times recommends that you use a 15-amp cable for any application. You’ll be able to use 11 and 13-amp cords, but 15 amps will ensure that you can use it with any indoor or outdoor appliances.
How to Use Extension Cords Properly with Your Appliances
Proper use of extension cords will allow you to prevent safety hazards. There are all sorts of tactics that you should follow. Thankfully, none of them are time-consuming, but they can cost a bit more since you want to get a high-quality cord. Keep in mind that, though it might be pricey, it can save your home.
Try these suggestions:
- The CPSC recommends unplugging any cables that get too hot. Even if it’s a bit too warm to the touch, it’s better to stay safe than sorry. Overheating is a sign that the electricity isn’t able to pass through the cord at an efficient rate. The leftover electricity raises the temperature.
- Check the wattage, amperage, length, and gauge of the cable. You can follow the aforementioned table to ensure that you’re not going overboard. These four factors are the most important bits of information to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a new extension cable for your appliances.
- Plug the cable into the wall, ensuring that it fits snugly. If there’s a bit of a wiggle, then there’s an issue. It could cause arcing. Three-prong cables work the best since they have the tightest hold. Similarly, make sure that the appliance’s cable fits tightly into the extension cord without any wiggle room.
- Run the cord over any obstacles. Ideally, there shouldn’t be anything between the cable and the appliance. A straight shot is the best course of action since it prevents overheating. Rugs, yoga mats, and low-sitting TV stands can cause the cables to get too hot since there’s nowhere for the heat to escape.
- ESFi reminds us to review the cable’s design. There should be a code that shows what it’s intended for. For example, W stands for Outdoor Usage, whereas O stands for Oil-Resistant. There are many other ratings, so keep an eye out so you don’t choose the wrong extension cord.
Using extension cords should be safe and convenient. As long as you follow the tips found throughout this guide, you won’t have to worry about any safety hazards. In the next section, you’ll learn about three common mistakes that people encounter while using extension cords with their appliances.
For a quick safety video, review this clip by Pro Tool Reviews on YouTube:
When we’re talking about electrical outlets, it’s inevitable that someone’s going to make a mistake. Fortunately for you, you don’t have to be the person who causes a fire or gets shocked. There are all sorts of causes for concern, but you don’t have to worry about any of them if you’re able to avoid these issues.
Here are three of the most common mistakes that people make when using appliance extension cords:
Using Indoor Cords Outside
State Farm states that some of their most common house fire claims are a result of people using indoor cords outside. While it might seem harmless, extension cords that aren’t rated for outdoor use aren’t protected. They could cause sparks and electrical overloads.
Making a Series of Cables
Another problem is that people attach multiple extension cords. When you do this, it alters the load capacity. You’ll end up reducing the current (causing none of the appliances to work) or overload the cable (causing it to overheat). Either scenario is dangerous and a waste of time and money.
Overloading the Extension Cord
Perhaps the most common electrical mistake that people make when plugging their appliances into an extension cable is overloading the cord. They want to use their fridge, microwave, TV, and computer at the same time. Unfortunately, there aren’t many extension cables in the world that can handle such a high current.
Check the total load capacity of the extension cable and compare it to the combined total of every appliance being plugged into it. Leave a little bit of wiggle room in the total (50 to 100 extra watts is a good safe space, though some people reduce it to 10 watts).
Appliance extension cords can be as safe as anything else in your home. Proper care and knowledge can keep you and your home protected from electrical shocks and fires. Remember to use safety-rated products to prevent unwanted injuries.
Here’s a quick recap of the post:
- The cable thickness should be bigger for longer extension cables.
- Consider choosing 15 amps for all cords to ensure that it can handle the charge.
- Hot extension cords are a result of poor electrical conversion efficiency.
- Loose cables can cause electrical arcing and shocks.
- Never run your extension cables underneath carpets or other obstacles.
- ESFi – Extension Cord Safety Tips
- State Farm – Extension cord safety: what to do and what to avoid
- Indiana University – Power Cord and Strip Outlet Safety
- CPSC – Household Extension Cords Can Cause Fires
- Pro Tool Reviews – Extension Cord Size Chart – Understanding Wire Gauge and Amps
- NY Times – How to Pick the Best Extension Cord at the Hardware Store