Safety Sense

Practice Electric Cord Safety

Extension cords, with their ability to bring any appliance or lamp within easy reach of an electrical outlet, are among the most convenient products in the home. But when they are misused, they can also be a potential source of danger.

Extension cords are generally rated in amps and volts. To determine if an extension cord is properly rated, add the total wattage of each bulb or electrical device, 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.

If you were to use a thin cord for a device that draws a lot of current, such as an electric space heater, the cord could overheat and start an electrical fire. Select the right cord for the job. Larger appliances and power tools use cords with three prongs, or conductors, one of which is the ground wire.

Choose a replacement cord with the correct insulation. Electric space heaters, for example, are required to use cords with a thermosetting insulation to prevent the cord from melting. Look for the letter “H” on the cord. Lamp cords are usually flat, and the individual conductors are parallel to each other. This type of cord is limited to indoor use and light duty. Appliance cords are usually round and have larger diameters because they are made using two layers of insulation over the copper conductors. The individual conductors are insulated and a second layer of insulation, called a jacket, is also applied.

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), www.esfi.org.

Caution!

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Never run extension cords through walls, under rugs or furniture, or across doorways.

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Never try to repair a damaged extension cord with electrical tape; replace it.  

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Never overload an extension cord. If any part of the cord feels warm to the touch, the cord is drawing too much power and could cause a fire or shock hazard.

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Never cut off the ground pin to connect a 3-prong appliance cord to a 2-wire extension cord or receptacle. Always use a CSA, UL or ETL listed adapter for this purpose.

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Replace older extension cords if one of the prongs in the plug is not “polarized.” In a polarized plug, one prong will be wider than the other.

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Avoid placing cords where someone could accidentally pull them down or trip over them.

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Cover unused outlets on the extension cord to prevent children from making contact with a live circuit.

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Before buying any extension cord, check the product to ensure that a nationally recognized laboratory, such as CSA, UL, or ETL, has certified the product.

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Outside the home, only use extension cords designed for outdoor use.

 

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