4 Dangerous Mistakes You're Making With Extension Cords

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Hospitals in the United States see roughly 4,000 extension cord-related injuries per year. While most of these injuries could be prevented with proper extension cord management, few people know exactly how to keep themselves and their families safe from extension cord accidents. If you're doing any of the below four things when using extension cords, you're creating a dangerous environment.

1. You're Not Checking Their Wattage Limits

Before you run to the hardware store or go rifling through your garage for an extension cord, do you look for the wattage of the appliance you plan to connect the cord to? No? Well, you really should be doing this each and every time you use an extension cord.

Different household devices require different amounts of electricity to operate. The amount of watts each device needs will be listed either on the device itself or in its owner's manual. Extension cords have wattage limits, which will be listed clearly on their labels. If the number of watts needed to operate a device exceeds the wattage limits of the extension cord you plug that device into, the extension cord will be overworked, get hot, and create a fire hazard.

2. You're Running Them Under Rugs And Furniture

Half of the 4,000 annual extension cord-related injuries are the result of trip and fall accidents, so it makes sense that you would want to keep extension cords located in heavily trafficked areas tucked away from people's feet. However, if you're hiding those cords under rugs or furniture to keep them out of the way, you may be doing more harm than good.

Heavy furniture can damage the insulation that protects the wires in extension cords. Should the wires becomes exposed, the electrical current running through them could spark and create a fire. A rug isn't heavy and won't damage your extension cords, but if people are continually walking over it, the gradual wear and tear on the cord could result in it being damaged. And since a cord hidden under a rug can't be readily viewed, you may not notice that a cord is damaged until it actually ignites a fire.

Do protect against trip and fall accidents, but not at the cost of creating a fire hazard. If you must run extension cords across heavily trafficked areas, invest in a cord protector. These rubber strips have tapered edges to protect against trips, and they also have pre-slit channels that cradle extension cords without crimping or squishing them.

3. You're Connecting Them Together

The process of connecting two or more extension cords together to make one very long cord is so widely used that it has been given its own cute name -- daisy chaining. There's nothing cute about fire hazards, though, and that's exactly what you create when you join extension cords together. 

Joining cords together creates line loss, which is a reduction in the wattage capabilities of the cords. If the required wattage for the device you're trying to power is already at your extension cord's wattage limit, adding another cord to the mix might put it over the edge. And when an extension cord is asked to deliver more power than it is capable of, it becomes overloaded and poses a serious risk of fire.

4. You're Using Them As A Permanent Solution

Extension cords carry serious risks and are not meant to be used as a permanent power solution. If you need one to power your Christmas lights for a few weeks or to run your leaf blower a day a week during the summer, that's fine. If, however, you're looking for a way to run power to a device you'll use on a regular basis, then an extension cord isn't the answer. Instead, contact a licensed electrician and ask them to install a permanent electrical outlet that's close to the device you plan to power. By doing so, you'll eliminate your need for an extension cord and eliminate all the dangers associated with them.

For more information and professional assistance, contact electricians, such as those at Advantage Electric, today.