Extension cords: safety first!

Extension cords can be a necessary tool for temporary power. They key word in the previous sentence was ‘temporary’.

All too often, items are plugged in temporarily with the best intentions to update wiring. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen causing potential fire risks.

We’ve seen fires caused by the unsafe use of extension cords. Some common misuses leading to fire risk include using them to power appliances and heating devices extended periods of time. We’ve also experienced fires caused by situations where cords have been run under carpets, mats and furniture. This stops the heat cords produce from dissipating and can lead to fire.

Choosing the appropriate cord load for the job (power load) is essential. Extension cords have ratings for the amperage and wattage they can handle. This is determined by the gauge of the wire on the inside. Complicating this further is the length of the extension cord. Without going to school to become an electrician, an easy rule of thumb to remember for which extension cord to use is, the lower the gauge number, the higher the amperage you can run. For example, you might use a 16 Gauge cord to run a small portable fan in summer, and a 14 Gauge cord to run a circular saw or air compressor.

Our loss prevention team has provided some additional extension cord safety tips to keep us all safe:

  • Use only CSA/ULC approved cords – don’t buy cheap cords from the dollar store
  • Use indoor cords indoors. Only use cords rated for outdoor use, outdoors.
  • Make sure the rating of the cord is proper for its use.
  • Only use 3 wire cords with a ground pin for appliances and power tools.
  • Do not cut off the third prong to use in a 2-pronged plug.
  • Never run extension cords under carpets, mats or furniture.
  • If using an extension cord as temporary fix, contact your electrician for a permanent solution.
  • Do not run cords through walls or nail or staple to walls.
  • Do not overload power bars and extension cords. They may come with several outlets, but it may be unsafe to use them all at one time.
  • Avoid getting extension cords wet or using through water.
  • Check cords for damage. If they have any, throw them out or repair them.

We all win when we work together keeping our homes and property safe from fire. If you ever have questions about extension cord safety, contact your South Easthope agent or broker, loss prevention team or an electrician.