If your home or business depends on the use of extension cords for more than a temporary fix, you might want to consider adding a new outlet to your electrical system instead. Extension cords are surprisingly hazardous.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that about 3,300 residential fires originate with these cords each year. The CPSC website recommends, “Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.” Many local building codes have made permanent use of these cords illegal in homes and businesses.
Why Extension Cords Are Hazardous?
One trouble with extension cords is that they’re often in the way. People can trip over them. Or possibly even worse, walk on them. Walking on a cord can damage it. This isn’t the only way the cord can be damaged. If used outside, it can deteriorate due to exposure to the sun.
If the cord is damaged, it can create a short circuit, which can result in overloading and overheating of the wires inside and possibly a fire. The hazard can be heightened if an indoor cord has been tucked under a rug to prevent tripping. Under the rug, the cord can be damaged by being trod on, but the damage is hidden. And the rug only adds to the fire hazard.
Extension cords that provide more than one outlet and allow more than one appliance to be plugged in create another hazard. They can allow overloading of the wires in the cord and overheating.
A power strip is a safety improvement over an extension cord. Power cords run from a couple of feet up to 12 feet. If you use a power strip, make sure that it is equipped with a circuit breaker. If damage to the cord results in a short circuit or if too many appliances are plugged in, the resulting power overloading will shut off power to the cord. This eliminates the problem of overheating and fire hazard.
Of course, with the power cord, there is still the tripping issue, and over time, the circuit breaker can deteriorate without giving any sign. Adding a conveniently located outlet is a safer solution. If you would like to look into an additional outlet or other modifications to your electrical system, please give like those at The Electric Connection a call, and we will be happy to give you a free over-the-phone estimate.
Indoor Extension Cords vs Outdoor Extension Cords
Extension cords are the perfect solution when you need power somewhere in a pinch but there are some differences between the cords you can use indoors and those that must be used outdoors. Outdoor extension cords can be used inside or outside but indoor extension cords must only be used inside. We will explain the differences between the two to help prevent safety hazards.
The one big difference between the two types of extension cords is the insulation used when they are created. Outdoor extension cords are made with a special type of protective insulation to prevent moisture from getting in and to add protection against temperature changes. When exposed to sunlight for long periods of time, the insulation can break down and possibly cause a fire hazard; this is why outdoor extension cords are built with a special material to protect it from the sun. Many outdoor cords have a outside shell that protects again different types of chemicals.
The next difference is the gauge of the cord. This is calculated by the size or diameter of the inside conducting wires. If a cord has a large conducting wire this allows more current to flow through it which is good for longer cords and powering larger pieces of equipment. Indoor extension cords are usually found in lengths shorter than 25 feet while outdoor extension cords can be up to 150 feet and maybe more.
Plug types are also different. There are many indoor extension cords that only have two prongs. Outdoor extension cords should have three prongs to help with grounding to prevent electrical shocks. The amperage also differs from indoor and outdoor extension cords. Generally an indoor cords requires less amperage because it is not powering heavy machinery. Outdoor extension cords usually require more power so they come with higher amperage.
Knowing the differences between indoor and outdoor extension cords can help you make important decisions while choosing your next cord. Be sure to choose the correct extension cord to keep your family safe from electrical hazards.
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