Extension Cord Safety Tips

Extension cords are a handy device to have around, whether it's for running your holiday lights or for use in the shop. Like anything that carries electrical current, though, safety can be a real concern. The following tips will help you make the best choice when using extension cords around the house.

Tip #1: Choose the Right Cord

Different cords are made for different purposes. If you will be using the cord outdoors, such as for a light display, make sure the cord is rated for outdoor use. All cords should also be labeled as tested by certified laboratory. The cords will also be rated for maximum voltage. It's important that you do not overload the cord by making it run more volts than it can handle. While most cords are suitable for use from a home electrical source, you may need a different cord when running off a generator or another object with less controlled voltage.

Tip #2: Use the Right Adapters

Don't try to rig up a method of using the cord if you don't have the right adapters. For example, most outdoor extension cords require a three-prong outlet. Don't simply cut off the third prong, which is used for grounding, if you only have two prong outlets. Instead, purchase the proper plug adapter so you can use your cord.

Another common safety hazard is stacking plugs, such as those from holiday lights, into a single cord. While most extension cords can handle multiple light strands, get a multi-port adapter for the end of the cord instead of stacking the light plugs into each other. You can also get safety hub adapters that allow you to plug multiple extension cords into a single electricity source. Whichever adapters you use, make sure they are rated for outdoor or indoor use, as needed. You can find a large selection of extension cord adapters online.

Tip #3: Check for Fire Hazards

An extension cord should be inspected before each use. Make sure the outer covering is in good condition and that there are no visible wires. The plug ends should also be undamaged. If adapters are in use, verify that they are seated snugly to the cord. Finally, avoid the temptation to run the cord through walls or ceilings.

Not all hazards are electrical or shock hazards. If the cord runs across walkways, tape it down or cover it loosely with a thin rug so it doesn't pose a tripping hazard. Avoid thick or heavy rugs, since this can cause a cord to overheat. For more information, contact an electrician in your area.