6 Extension Cord Safety Tips
Walk into any Seattle home and you’re almost certain to find an extension cord in use somewhere in the household. These tools help people get more power for appliances or devices when they don’t have enough outlet space. They’re used to help people extend the outdoor entertainment season in the Northwest by powering outdoor electric heaters. While extension cords are convenient, they must always be used with caution to prevent electrical shock or electrical fires.
At Brennan Electric, we take the safety of our customers in the Seattle area seriously. Here are some tips to help you use extension cords better and to improve your cord knowledge.
1. Make Sure You Choose the Right Extension Cord
A common mistake people make is believing that all extension cords are the same. They’re not. When making an extension cord purchase, start by being sure the one you buy has undergone testing at one of the following independent testing laboratories:
- Intertek (ETL)
- Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
- Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
It’s easy to find this information. Look at the cord’s packaging or its label.
Can’t find a label on the extension cord? Does the label display odd lettering or symbols? If either of those is the case, don’t buy that extension cord. There are plenty of counterfeit or poor-quality extension cords being distributed by third-party sellers. That’s why we always recommend purchasing extension cords from local hardware or home improvement stores.
2. Choose Extension Cords Based on Location
Another mistake that people make is using indoor extension cords for outdoor applications. Most people don’t think twice about using an indoor cord to plug in a string of lights on their deck or to power a miniature lighted holiday tree on their front porch. It might seem harmless to do this, but indoor extension cords aren’t made for outside use. They aren’t wet-rated like most outdoor extension cords, and they can’t withstand the elements. Using an indoor cord outside could easily trip a circuit or cause an electrical fire.
You must be picky about where you utilize an extension cord. Check the label, and look for the letter “W.” This indicates the cord is made for outdoor use. The letter “S” is on indoor-use extension cords.
Another thing to keep in mind when using an outdoor extension cord is to make sure it’s always plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. GFCI outlets sense moisture and shut down electrical flow to the outlet immediately if moisture is detected. These outlets protect people from becoming shocked or electrocuted if they plug in an outdoor extension cord that’s wet. Homeowners who aren’t sure if their outdoor plugs are GFCI outlets should contact Brennan Electric for a home electrical inspection.
3. Choose an Extension Cord That’s the Correct Wattage
Wattage is something else to consider when using an extension cord. Some appliances or devices require a higher wattage extension cord than others. Using an extension cord that doesn’t match the required wattage creates problems. A good rule of thumb to follow when purchasing an extension cord is to remember that the smaller the cord’s gauge, the more wattage it can handle.
4. Check the Cord Length
Cord length is important to consider, too. Many people are surprised to learn that a shorter extension cord can handle more electrical current than a longer one of the same gauge. Before using your extension cord, make sure you’re aware of how much power the device you’re plugging into the extension cords needs.
5. Practice Safe Extension Cord Usage
It’s easy to gloss over extension cord safety because using one seems relatively straightforward. However, the extension cord habits of many people could be putting their loved ones and their properties at risk.
The main issue we see is households using extension cords as permanent electrical solutions. Extension cords are designed for temporary use. They’re meant to help you get power in the short term, but they’re not ideal for long-term applications. Households that rely on extension cords to power their appliances and devices indefinitely risk overpowering their electrical systems and sparking electrical fires. It’s also a very bad idea to string multiple extension cords together.
Have you been relying on multiple extension cords to power devices or appliances in your home? You’re not alone. Many people live in older homes with electrical systems that can’t meet the electrical demands of today’s modern household. Put away the extension cords, and call Brennan Electric to learn more about new outlet installation.
Here are some other extension cord safety tips that homeowners should know:
- Install childproof extension cord covers to keep little ones safe.
- Hot extension cords should never be used.
- Avoid using coiled, bent, cracked or otherwise damaged extension cords.
- Never run extension cords under anything, especially furniture or rugs.
- Don’t staple cords to flooring or ceiling joists.
- Never use three-prong adapters.
- Always remove the cord by pulling on the plug, not the cord.
6. Care for Your Extension Cords Properly
When cared for the right way, extension cords are safe and convenient. If you have extension cords at home, electricians at Brennan Electric want you to know how to store the cords properly. All extension cords, including outdoor cords, should always be stored inside.
It might seem like no big deal to store an outdoor extension cord in the garage or leave it outside in a shed, but doing so could result in damage. Not only do you need to worry about weather-related damage such as freezing, but you also must consider outdoor critters. Rodents and even insects like to chew on extension cords. Storing them inside the house is the best way to keep them from being damaged.
We also can’t stress enough the importance of bringing in outdoor extension cords when you’re done using them. Washington is wet, and even wet-rated extension cords need a break from the elements occasionally. The best way to extend the lifespan of an extension cord is to always bring it inside when not in use.
Extension Cord Safety Should Always Be a Top Priority
Here, at Brennan Electric, we want you to get the most out of your electricity. We know that extension cords are one way to do this when they’re used as directed. But if you’re relying on extension cords a little too much, why not give us a call? Let one of our electricians look at your existing electrical system and determine if it could benefit from upgrades.
Contact Your Seattle Electrical Professionals
At Brennan Electric, we offer home electrical evaluation services to households throughout King County, Snohomish County, Pierce County, Kitsap County, Lewis County, Thurston County and Mason County. We’re Seattle’s most-trusted electricians. Our highly trained technicians install new outlets and perform main electrical panel upgrades, home rewiring services, emergency electrical services and much more!
We consistently meet the electrical needs of the Greater Seattle area and are proud to deliver unsurpassed value and quality. We’re the team to rely on when you need electrical service professionals who can get the job done right the first time. Whether you have questions about how to use an extension cord or you need another electrical service, give us a call at Brennan Electric today!