Extension cords are a convenient way to bring temporary power to electrical devices. Used without proper caution, they can become a fire hazard and pose a serious risk to your personal safety. Follow these tips to help keep your home safe:
Selecting extension cords
- Purchase only cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
- For outdoor projects, use only extension cords marked for outdoor use.
- Read the instructions (if available) for information about the cord’s correct use and the amount of power it draws when running.
- Select cords that are rated to handle the wattage of the devices with which they’ll be used. A cord’s gauge indicates its size: The smaller the number, the larger the wire and the more electrical current the cord can safely handle.
- Also consider the length you’ll need. Longer cords can’t handle as much current as shorter cords of the same gauge.
- Choose cords with polarized or three-prong plugs.
- For use with larger appliances, thick, round, low-gauge extension cords are best. For smaller appliances and electronics, you can use thin or flat cords.
Using extension cords
- Never remove an extension cord’s grounding pin in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet.
- Never use extension cords to power appliances. Plug appliances directly into wall outlets. .
- Never use indoor extension cords outdoors.
- Don’t plug multiple cords together.
- Don’t run extension cords under rugs or furniture.
- Never tape extension cords to floors or attach them to surfaces with staples or nails.
- Don’t bend or coil cords when they’re in use.
- Immediately stop using extension cords that feel hot to the touch or show signs of deterioration.
Caring for extension cords
- Always store cords indoors.
- Unplug extension cords when they’re not in use.
- Throw away damaged cords.
- Pull the plug—not the cord—when disconnecting from the outlet.
- Consider covering unused cord receptacles with childproof covers.
And remember that extension cords are intended as temporary wiring solutions. If you find you’re using them on a permanent basis, consider updating your home’s electrical system.