Extension cords make life easier sometimes. They allow you to use tools outdoors and have electricity indoors when you’re not near an outlet. While extension cords have their place, they can be a safety hazard when they’re not used properly. Also, if you rely on extension cords often, that’s a sign you could need additional outlets installed in your home. Here’s a look at using extension cords safely.
Buy Outdoor Cords for Outdoor Use
There are two basic types of extension cords. One type is designed to use indoors and the other is to be used outdoors. Outdoor extension cords are covered in a durable material that protects them from getting too hot in the sun.
They are more rugged so they can withstand the abuse of being outdoors. You can also use an outdoor extension cord in the house – but it may be much longer and bulkier than what you want indoors. One tip for using an outdoor cord safely is to inspect it for damage before each use.
For instance, if you use a cord to power a mower or weed trimmer, the rubber covering might be nicked or stripped off in places where you bumped the cord. These exposed areas can give you a shock if you touch them. Replace a cord when you see signs of excessive wear or damage.
Use the Right Amp Rating
Before you plug a power tool or electronic equipment into an extension cord, be sure to read the owner’s manual for the tool. Some power-hungry devices may recommend avoiding the use of an extension cord. Others provide the amp rating for the tool or appliance so you can match that to the appropriate extension cord.
Extension cords are available in different amps. The higher the amps, the safer a cord is with more powerful equipment. Using a cord with a lower amp rating than the tool you’re using can lead to overheating of the cord and the risk of fire.
Don’t Hide the Cord
Extension cords are not designed for continuous use, so don’t hide a cord under a rug or behind a wall. It’s better to keep the cord in the open so it has plenty of ventilation to keep it from getting hot and so you can observe it for damage. However, don’t create a tripping hazard with the cord that could pull it from the outlet. Ensure the cord is seated snugly in the outlet when it is in use and unplug it when it’s not. The cord maintains a supply of electricity when it is plugged in and can pose a danger even when you’re not using it.
Look for Safety Features
Some cords have features built in that make them safer to use. A GFCI plug or adapter in line with the cord adds protection against electrical shock. The ground fault circuit interrupter kills the electricity before it has a chance to harm you. This is an important feature to consider if you’ll use the cord in a wet area, such as a laundry room or bathroom. Another feature that might make the cord safer to use is when it has multiple outlets at the end. If you want to run multiple devices from the same cord, then having multiple outlets allows you to do so safely as long as you don’t overload the cord. Just add up the amp requirements for each device to make sure the number doesn’t exceed the amp rating of the cord. A lighted plug is a safety feature that lets you know the cord has power going to it, and a safety lock is a way of locking the extension cord to a tool so they don’t pull apart and expose the metal prongs.
If you use extension cords permanently to power lights or electronic devices in your home, you should consider installing more outlets so you can eliminate the need for potentially dangerous extension cords.