Safety tips when using extension cords
Electrical outlet and power strip with plugs
Most electrical fires can be prevented. Below are some electrical safety rules you should follow.
Power strips and surge suppressors don't provide more power, just more access to the same limited capacity of the circuit to which it is connected. Not all power strips are surge suppressors. In the event of a large surge or spike, the surge suppressor is a one-time-use protector and will likely need to be replaced.
Extension cords are only for temporary use. Most cannot carry as much current as permanent wiring and tend to overheat. Overheating can occur at the plug, at the socket or over the entire length of the cord. They come in a variety of wire sizes known as gauges. The most common are 18, 16, 14, 12 and 10. The lower the gauge, the more electrical current (amps) the wire can carry. A 12-gauge wire is heavier than 16-gauge wire. You would want to use a 16-gauge wire extension cord for a table lamp and a heavy duty extension cord of 12-gauge wire to run power tools such as a circular saw.
NEVER, use an extension cord, regardless of the gauge, with large current appliances such as a refrigerator freezer, air conditioner, clothes dryer or space heater. These large current appliances generate increased heat in the cord, causing it to overheat, melt or ignite.
Types of Extension Cords Gauge Amps Watts Volts
Lightweight (lamp, radio) 18 7 875 125
Medium use (small equipment) 16 13 1625 125
Heavy Duty (computer, printer) 14 15 1825 125
Heavy Duty (power tools) 12 20 5000 220
Do the math!
To determine if an extension cord is properly rated for the number and type of devices being plugged in, add the total wattage of each bulb or appliance and then divide by 120 to calculate the total number of amps. If the total number of amps is equal to or greater than the maximum rating of the cord, you must use a higher rated extension cord.
† With your family, use the above formula as you check out each of the extension cords in use at home and change out any extension cords that are not correct.
DID YOU KNOW?
* "Failure to clean" is the leading factor contributing to clothes dryer fires.
* Clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items should be kept at least three feet from all heaters.
* All electrical appliances should be kept away from wet floors and counters and pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
* Most electrical fires result from problems with "fixed wiring" such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. In urban areas, 33% of residential electrical fires are due to faulty wiring.