For their worth, extension cords are probably the easiest solution for short power cords. They are also useful in homes in which the appliances outnumber the electrical outlets. But, is having too many extension cords actually advisable in the long term? No one can argue that they are cheap, convenient to store and easy to use, but extension cords and power boards are among the most common causes of fires and electric shocks at home. In many cases, installing a few electrical outlets more is much safer and more practical than relying on extension cords day after day.

Problems with extension cords

Extension cords are designed as primarily temporary connectors, and their performance deteriorates over time. Unless they are replaced regularly, they can increase the chances of a fire or electric shock. On the other hand, replacing your extension cords and power boards regularly can easily become more expensive than installing a new electrical outlet. The risk of fire increases even more if the extension cord is covered by a carpet or furniture. The heat has nowhere to escape, and if a higher wattage appliance is plugged in an extension with a lower power rating, the risk increases even more. Many homeowners plug one extension cord into another to reach farther. While this practice is convenient, it can also be dangerous. Extension cords are only designed for plugging into electrical outlets, not other extension cords. Power boards loaded with multiple appliances are also a common sight. Not only does this put unnecessary load on the power board, but also increases the risk of a fire or electric shock.

How to buy extension cords

Make sure to purchase only extension cords that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory. If available, read the information about the cord’s correct usage. If you need a cord for outdoor use, ask for one with outdoor use rating. Extension cords are rated according to the wattage they can handle. A cord’s gauge number indicates its size – the smaller the number, the larger the wire diameter and more electric current can pass through. Also, consider the length you’ll need, as longer cords of the same gauge can’t handle as much wattage as shorter cords. Finally, for the larger appliances choose thick, low gauge extension cords, while for smaller appliances and electronics, you can use thin or flat cords as well.

How to use extension cords

Apart from an improper selection of cords, many homeowners make the mistake of using them in the wrong way. For example, you should never remove the cord’s grounding pin in order to fit it into a two-pronged outlet. Also, you should never use one cord for powering multiple appliances. Indoor use cords are designed for indoor use only, and are not suitable for your yard. The risk of fire increases if the heat can’t escape, so never run extension cords under rugs or furniture. The same applies for taping the cord to floors. If you have to attach a cord to a surface, use only cable clamps specified for that cord gauge, as staples and nails can easily damage the cord’s PVC coating. When in use, don’t coil the cord, as it can lead to increased heating. Finally, if the cord feels hot to the touch, stop using it immediately.

A solution – more outlets

Using a power board or an extension cord is a good temporary solution. If you have a shortage of electrical outlets, or their arrangement doesn’t suit your current needs, adding more outlets is the only safe solution. Even if you are a skilled DIY handyman, for most localities, doing your own electric work is illegal or voids your home insurance. Whenever you need something rewired, you can call a 24-hour electrician who can solve your problem either at home or in your place of business.

Installing more electrical outlets not only makes your home safer, but also improves the appearance of your home, as you reduce the number of unsightly cords trailing around behind furniture. Also, you remove the tripping hazard that cords can pose to children or elderly people. As extension cords are one of the most frequent causes of electric shock and fire in homes, your family’s safety should come first.       


Published by Emma Lawson