Extension cords are a very simple and convenient way to ensure you have power for all your electrical devices. Not only do they provide you with more electrical outlets, but you have the advantage of having them very close to you.
That said, however, knowing that those electrical tools pose a danger to your home is essential. Over 3000 home fires per year originate from misuse of extension cords, so you must take certain steps to ensure you are safely using them.
Extension Cord Designated Uses
There are several types of extension leads, and it is vital to know the difference between them so you do not misuse them.
- Standard Extension Cord. As the name suggests, this is the most common type of household cord. Typically, they feature multiple socket outlets at one end and plug on the other and are used to extend the reach of appliances. The most common danger associated with this type is overloading. This is when you plug too many devices into it and cause it to overheat.
- Outdoor Extension Cord. This lead is specifically designed for outdoor areas. It is weatherproof and has robust insulation that protects against moisture and other outdoor elements. This type of extension cord is commonly used for gardening tools, lighting and outdoor power equipment. The most common issue related to this type of electric cable is wear and tear. Being exposed to UV radiation, it can easily break down with time.
- Surge-Protected Extension Cord. This lead provides an additional layer of safety for your electronic devices, protecting them from voltage spikes and surges. This type of cord greatly benefits sensitive equipment such as computers, TVs, and audio systems. While this extra security is excellent, you should not rely on this protection alone. It is important to unplug all devices during heavy winds, thunderstorms or when not used.
- Multi-Plig Extension Cord. This extension lead features multiple socket outlets in a compact design. It allows you to connect several devices at the same time and is particularly useful in areas with more than one power source, such as offices, entertainment systems, or computer setups. It has a similar downside to the standard lead, where it can quickly get overloaded. Do not use it for high-power appliances.
- Heavy-Duty Extension Cord. This extension cord is most commonly used for supplying power tools. Industrial equipment and appliances that require more electricity. They are designed to withstand higher voltage and have thicker electric cables and stronger plugs. They should never be used in a home setting, as domestic appliances do not require so much power and can easily overheat due to the excessive current flow.
Based on their intended purpose, extension cords have specific designations on their handles:
- S – For general use;
- W – For outdoor use;
- J – Standard 300 Voltage Insulation;
- O – Oil-Resistant;
- E – Made from TPE;
- T – Made from Vinyl Thermoplastic;
- P – Parallel Wire Construction.
Furthermore, electric leads have different lengths and amperage limits. It is vital to know what they are for your extension cord and to never go above them.
25 to 50 Feet Extension Leads:
- 16 Gauge (1-13 Amps). Recommended for light-duty appliances and electronics such as lamps, chargers, and small power tools.
- 14 Gauge (14-15 Amps). To be used with medium-duty devices such as power drills, fans, and kitchen appliances.
- 12-10 Gauge (16-20 Amps). Designed for heavy-duty power tools, large appliances, and equipment that requires higher amperage.
100 Feet Extension Leads:
They are similar to the shorter ones, except the 12-10 Gauge. Unlike the 25 to 50 feet cords, the 100 feet ones offer two types of electrical wires.
- 12 Gauge (14-15 Amps). Used for heavy-duty power tools, similar to the 12-10 Gauge electric cable the shorter leads offer.
- 10 Gauge (16-20 Amps). Perfect for industrial-grade power tools.
150 Feet Extension Leads:
The longest type of extension cord offers three different wire sizes:
- 14 Gauge (1-7 Amps). Suitable for outdoor lights or low-power garden equipment. You can use it with other light-duty devices that require limited power over longer distances.
- 12 Gauge (8-10 Amps). Meant for medium-duty usage in outdoor environments, such as power tools or lighting setups.
- 10 Gauge (11-15 Amps). Mainly used in construction sites or to power sizeable outdoor equipment.
Extension Cord Safety Precautions
Electrical safety is vital regardless of whether you are at work, home or outside. There are certain things you should and others you should not be doing to ensure your safety and that of others.
Extension Cord Dos
To safely use an extension lead, you should:
- Choose the appropriate extension cord based on your intended use.
- Inspect it before each use. Check for any signs of damage.
- Use electrical tools to measure the amperage.
- Check for what use the extension lead is rated and only use it for that purpose.
- Position it away from heat and water sources.
- Use surge-protected extension cords when connecting sensitive electronic devices.
Extension Cord Don’ts
- Exceed the maximum load capacity.
- Use damaged or faulty cords.
- Run extension leads under carpets or rugs or through walls, ceilings, or doors. Lack of proper ventilation can cause overheating.
- Overload a single socket by plugging multiple high-power devices into a single lead.
- Leave extension cords connected and energised when not in use.
- Connect multiple extensions that lead to each other.
- Use extension cords as a permanent solution. They are intended for temporary use only.
When to Call Electrical Services
You may need to call an electrician to assist you in several cases. If you are using extension cords constantly, that would suggest that you have insufficient outlets. Get in touch with a specialist so that he can access your electrical system and either add more outlets or upgrade it.
If you frequently overload extension cords or power strips despite using them correctly, you may need help. Call a specialist to measure how your system distributes the electric load and provide the necessary electrical repairs.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are more popular than ever. If you want to upgrade your electric network’s safety, you may need the help of electrical services. Their representatives will help with the installation and ensure that it complies with electrical codes.
Knowing how to use extension cords in your home correctly is vital to its safety. By using the proper lead for your needs and never exceeding the limit, you can keep your home safe for longer.
Remember, extension leads are only a temporary solution. If you are looking for a permanent option, do not hesitate to seek the help of electrical services.