The importance of properly using extension cords

When used and cared for properly, they can be a convenient and safe solution to a temporary electrical need. Safe usage also involves acknowledging they are a temporary solution, and not meant to be used as a long-term ‟extensionˮ of your household’s electrical system.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers the following tips to help avoid electric shock and electrical fires1:

  • Don’t overload extension cords.
  • Don’t substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.
  • Don’t run extension cords through walls, doorways, ceilings or floors. If the cord is covered, heat cannot escape, which may result in a fire hazard.
  • Never tape extension cords to floors or attach them to surfaces with staples or nails.
  • Don’t use an extension cord for more than one appliance.
  • Make sure the extension cord or temporary power strip you use is rated for the products to be plugged in.
  • For outdoor projects, use only extension cords marked for outdoor use. If you are using them outdoors, do not allow them to run through water or snow on the ground.
  • Don’t use an extension cord that has a lower wattage rating than that of the appliance or tool you are using with the cord.
  • Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way. Touching even a single exposed strand can give you an electric shock or burn.
  • Use extension cords with polarized and/or three-prong plugs.
  • Never remove an extension cord’s grounding pin in order to fit it into a two-prong outlet.
  • Buy only cords approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), ETL-SEMKO (ETL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

A temporary solution

Remember, extension cords are a temporary wiring solution and are not a substitute for permanent wiring. If you find you’re using them on a permanent basis, consider updating your home’s electrical system.