Households in the Cumming and Bluffton areas rely on extension cords to power their electrical devices and get more energy where outlets are lacking. Many households use extension cords for year-round outdoor entertaining, taking advantage of our region’s mild winters. While extension cords serve a purpose, they must always be used with caution. When used improperly, an extension cord can easily pose risks to people and property through electrical shocks, electrical burns and electrical fires. Follow these tips to ensure extension cord usage in your home doesn’t put your household in danger.
How to Select the Right Extension Cords
Not all extension cords are the same. Here are some points to consider when using an extension cord.
Only buy extension cords that have undergone testing at an independent testing laboratory. Before making a purchase, check for the following symbols:
- Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
- Intertek (ETL)
- Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
You’ll find these symbols on the extension cord’s packaging and on the label attached to the cord.
Don’t purchase extension cords that have odd lettering or misprinted labels. These are signs that the extension cord has not been tested by one of the three independent testing laboratories. The best way for Cumming and Bluffton area residents to know they’re buying a quality, tested cord is to head to a home improvement or hardware store in their local area. Never buy extension cords online from third-party sellers or unknown websites.
Also, only use three-prong plugs or cords with polarized plugs. If the plug doesn’t have three slots, don’t use an adapter.
Indoor Versus Outdoor Extension Cords
Using an indoor extension cord to plug in a string of lights for a deck party might seem harmless, but it’s not. Indoor extension cords aren’t designed to withstand the outdoor elements and aren’t as rugged as outdoor extension cords. An indoor extension cord used outside could trip a circuit or even spark a fire.
When selecting an outdoor extension cord, check the packaging to make sure it’s safe for outdoor use. Extension cords rated “S” are acceptable for general indoor use, while cords rated “W’ are appropriate for outdoor use.
Extension cord usage outside should always be limited to ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. GFCI outlets protect people from becoming shocked or electrocuted if moisture is detected. As of 1975, the National Electric Code (NEC) has required that all newly installed outdoor outlets be GFCI outlets. However, there are plenty of properties in our area that were built before this rule took effect. If you’re not sure whether you have GFCI outdoor outlets, call an electrician at Arc Angel Electric to inspect your outlets for you.
Consider the Wattage
Another feature that must be considered is the wattage. For example, a television might have a higher wattage than a lamp, and an electric leaf blower might have a higher wattage than a utility light. Using an extension cord with a wattage that doesn’t match the device’s needs is taking a huge risk.
How do you know the correct cord rating? Check the cord’s packing for the cord’s gauge. The smaller the gauge number, the more electrical current the cord is designed to handle. For example, a 16-gauge extension cord should easily handle up to 13 amps, but it wouldn’t be suitable for an electrical device that uses 20 amps. In this case, a 10-gauge cord would be the safer option.
When using extension cords, also consider the cord’s length. A shorter cord can handle more current than a longer cord that’s the same gauge. To ensure it’s safe to use with the device that needs power, always read the cord’s instructions before using it.
How to Use Extension Cords
Extension cord usage might seem straightforward, but it never hurts to brush up on basic usage skills. Many people assume they’re using their extension cords properly and are surprised to learn that some of their habits are risky.
The number one thing to remember about extension cord usage is that it’s supposed to be a temporary solution. Many people use extension cords to power everyday items like lamps, electronics and other household electrical devices. Relying on extension cord usage is putting your home in jeopardy of an electrical fire. If you need multiple extension cords to meet your home’s power needs, this is a problem. Call an electrician at Arc Angel Electric to discuss circuit installation and outlet installation.
Another habit that many households have is using multiple extension cords that are connected. More than one extension cord plugged into another is a fire hazard. Again, you’ll want to discuss with an electrician the possibility of installing more outlets to meet your electrical needs.
Other extension cord safety tips include:
- Installing childproof extension cord covers
- Never using an extension cord that’s hot when touched
- Only using extension cords in good condition, not cords that are bent or coiled
- Avoiding running extension cords under furniture, curtains or rugs to prevent them from overheating
- Never stapling or taping extension cords to the ground or walls
Lastly, when removing an extension cord from the outlet, don’t pull the cord to release the plug. Walk to the outlet and remove the cord by holding the plug. The cord will last longer without becoming damaged and possibly causing fire or injury.
How to Care for Extension Cords
Extension cords are convenient and safe to use when they’re cared for properly. Electricians always advise their customers to store extension cords inside. This applies even to outdoor-rated cords. Storing cords inside prevents them from being damaged by weather elements and pests. Rodents love gnawing on extension cords.
When an extension cord is no longer being used, put it away. Many households leave their unused extension cords plugged in, but this isn’t a good practice. Even though extension cords aren’t at risk of freezing in Georgia and South Carolina as they would in more northern states, it’s still important to bring them inside when they’re no longer being used. This simple action protects them from becoming damaged accidentally.
Speaking of damage, never use a damaged cord. If it’s cracked, bent or otherwise in disrepair, throw it away and buy a new one.
Extension Cords Make Life Easier, but Use Them Safely
There’s no doubt that extension cords have a place in Southern households. We rely on them when using lawn equipment to maintain our yards and to power up those festive holiday decorations. We’re not against extension cord usage. We only want you to be safe while using them.
If you’re relying on extension cords a little too heavily, why not give Arc Angel Electric a call for a home electrical evaluation? You might need more circuits to meet your household’s growing electrical demands. It’s common for homes in the Cumming or Bluffton areas to need more outlets, especially homes built more than 30 years ago. We perform a complete range of electrical services. For questions about extension cord usage or to schedule an appointment, call Arc Angel Electric today!