Three Steps for Using Extension Cords Safely

Although extension cords are an invaluable tool that can allow you to set up and use electrical appliances where you need them even if the electrical outlet is far away, there are many misconceptions and unsafe practices regarding extension cords. Here are three steps that will allow you to bypass the electrical risks often associated with electrical cords due to unsafe use.

1. Keep your cords in great shape

Because they're basically electrical wires encased in plastic, extension cords can transmit a severe shock just like your wall sockets can if improperly handled. Fortunately, the plastic coating is there to guard against shocks, but you're responsible for checking the integrity of the plastic before using the cord. Only use cords that don't have visible damage such as fraying, melting, ripping, puncture wounds, or kinking. To keep your cord from sustaining damage, use these best practices during operation:

  • Never run the cord across a walkway or under a rug where people may step on it
  • Never allow the cord to come near a radiator, electric heater, or other heat-producing appliance
  • Keep playful pets (especially teething puppies) away from the cord
  • Don't let the cord get slammed in a door

2. Use the cord only as specified

If it's an indoor-only cord, don't use it outside because it's not rated as safe for outside use. Get yourself a new, heavy-duty extension cord for outdoor use instead. Be sure to read all the warnings that come with the cord and follow them, including (but not limited to) basic precautions such as not leaving the cord unattended while in use, not plugging too many things into the cord at the same time, and checking the unit's electricity requirements against the size of the cord before use (some smaller cords may not be able to handle a large power draw, such as that from a large microwave).

3. Know your electrical system and don't overload it

Many infringements of basic safety measures stem from an inadequate electrical system. If you only have a couple of wall sockets per room, you may feel like you have no choice but to use power strips and electrical cords as additional plug-in locations on a daily basis. Plugging in a power strip and an extension cord to the same outlet may overload that outlet. Using cords in this manner overlooks the fundamental problem of an outdated wiring system, and, the more outdated the wiring system is, the more likely it will be unable to handle the strain you're putting on that outlet. Overused outlets are another electrical hazard so, if you're having this problem, call an electrical contractor like those at Royal Plus Electric and have him or her add some circuits to your system.

These three steps will help you live safely with extension cords. Remember, if you feel like you can't stop overusing extension cords and power strips because there's not enough outlets in your house, you need to have an electrician update your wiring system.

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