Excited to use your new device only to realise there’s no power outlet in the spot you desire?
Extension cords ease the frustration of stretching your device’s cord to its absolute limits.
But there are dangers to using extension cords, especially if you’re going to use them permanently.
An electrician in Mentone gives their tips on how to safely use extension cords in your home and what risks or potential dangers you need to look out for.
Is it safe to use an extension cord?
You may use some extension cords temporarily like for a mobile heater in winter or a portable air con in summer.
But you might also use extension cords for the long term, like in a home office or bedroom.
In the latter case, it might be handy and safer to install another power outlet where you need it so that you don’t need to use an extension cord.
In these cases you should choose a team of licenced electricians equipped in domestic electrical services to install these sockets.
There are many potential dangers in using extension cables, such as:
- Physically tripping over the cord
- Chewing – like from a pet
- Child safety hazards
- Electrocution – if it’s overloaded or a worn out cord
- Electric fires
Following electrical safety tips are crucial if you have young children; little ones are often the most vulnerable when it comes to electrical accidents.
What is the importance of an extension cord?
As well as creating dangers, extension cords can also mitigate danger otherwise experienced with a device’s own attached cord.
For example, if you have a very tight power cord from your vacuum to the power socket, this can create a tripping hazard as the cord is strained and potentially elevated off the ground.
This can also cause the socket head to eject out of the outlet while the vacuum is on which can damage the vacuum (or other appliance).
An extension cord creates the slack needed for the vacuum to reach further throughout your home and to reduce the risk of tripping.
Extension cords also give you more freedom to put your devices and electronics wherever you want.
What should I look for when buying an extension cord?
Don’t buy extension cords second hand and don’t buy cheap ones either.
Always be safe and speak to local electricians about what cords you should buy depending on what you need to use it for.
What happens if you overload an extension cord?
We live in a power hungry environment.
A powerboard can be used as an extension cord for multiple devices, or you could put a powerboard at the end of the extension cord to achieve the same purpose.
Or maybe you’re using an extension cord with multiple socket heads.
All these things can cause an overloaded circuit.
Perhaps the corner where your TV, gaming device, sound system, and Wi-Fi modem are, is far away from a power outlet. You might end up using a powerboard which can carry the same dangers as an extension cord because it has a long cord running across a certain distance.
On top of having the same dangers as an extension cord, this brings the extra danger of having an overloaded power outlet.
What are three warning signs of an overloaded electrical circuit?
The four signs of an overloaded circuit board are:
- Flickering or dimming lights
- Buzzing or humming sounds
- Warm to the touch
Often more than one of these can happen at the same time, e.g. your lights may flicker while your powerboard or socket is making an odd humming sound.
The heat you may experience can come from the cord, socket, head, prongs or device.
Overloaded circuits can cause power tripping which can affect your house and sometimes even your neighbours.
When your power fails to shut down in an electrical tripping incident, this can start a spark which can cause an electrical fire.
How to use a power cord correctly
Have you noticed random letters on your extension cord? These aren’t a batch number or barcode, but are code for different qualities of the cord.
Here are some of the letters you might find on your cords and their corresponding meaning:
- W – Can be used outdoors
- J – Only has a 300 volt insulation (No “J” indicates that the cord has a 600 volt insulation so is better for larger devices or a powerboard)
- P – Parallel wiring, used mostly indoors
- O – Indicates an oil-resistant cord
- T – Is made from vinyl
- E – Is made from elastomer
- S – For general use
Consider the above elements when deciding:
- If you can attach a power board
- If you should connect devices permanently
- If you can use the cord outside
- What not to plug into it
Note: Even if a cord has a “W”, it’s not recommended you use the cord permanently outside or in inclement weather conditions, unless you have outdoor roofing like a gazebo.
How to safely hide cables
You’re probably tempted to put your extension cords under a rug or table but this just makes the cords more susceptible to tripping and stepping as it’s out of sight.
The two main ways to safely hide any electrical cables is by mounting them along a wall or by covering it on the ground with cable protectors.
If it’s in a place to do so, you can also strategically roll the cord behind a couch, or mount it with electrical tape along the bottom edge of a wall.
Hooks and clips are preferable for mounting high up.
When you want to store a cable away for future use, you should do the over/under technique when coiling it instead of constantly wrapping it in the same direction, as this could snap the internal wires.
Wires, cords, and plugs: need help? Contact Briggs today
Searching for an emergency electrician near you? Contact Briggs Electrical and Data Solutions for high quality electrical work today!
We are expert electrical contractors in Melbourne who can give you advice for all things electrical, so if you’re worried that your extension cable is too old, if you want to install a new outlet or you’re having issues with an overloaded circuit, then contact us on 1300 300 222.
We’re available 24/7 for all your electrical emergencies!
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