Is it safe to plug an extension cord into another? Not all of us are lucky enough to have electrical outlets positioned exactly where we need them. And those of us, who are unlucky, tend to appreciate the presence of extension cords.
They ‘bring’ socket outlets closer to us. So that we don’t have to rearrange our furniture, which could be cumbersome. Yet even as helpful as they are, extension cords have their dark side.
They are among the most dangerous electrical devices present in our homes. This is according to US Consumer Product Safety Commission. They result in average 3,000 residential fires, 50 deaths annually. Now let’s go back to the question.
Is it safe to plug an extension cord into another?
While it is technically correct and possible, the practice is highly discouraged. Doing so leads to voltage drop. In some cases, short circuits and fire break outs. It is also against the regulations of OSHA and NEC.
What Type Of Extension Cord Do I Need?
Extension cords come in different lengths and sizes. Both these characteristics determine the safe load capacity of the cord. Use the appropriate extension cords for each appliance. This is for your own safety.
Light-duty extension cords
They are similar to lamb wire cords and often not grounded. Such cords should only be used for light-duty devices. They feature two plug prongs and lack the third wire and grounding prong. Never use this type of cord with gadgets that have a three-prong grounded cord.
Medium-duty extension cords
They are usually grounded. They have a third wire and a grounding plug prong. Perfect for electrical gadgets drawing power up to 10 Amps.
Heavy-duty extension cords
They are mainly connected to devices that draw 10-15 Amps of power. Like medium-duty extensions, they are also grounded.
Built-in GFCI protection
There may be a need for you to use an extension cord outdoors. For this reason, some cords come with an in-build ground- fault circuit interrupter. This helps prevent any shock hazards. Especially in areas where there is moisture.
How Does An Extension Cordwork?
The main function of an extension cord is to allow you to power devices. Thosewith cables that do not reach the electrical outlet. It consists of insulated wires, wire sheathing, and plugs.
Basically, an extension cord ‘moves’ the wall socket outlets closer to you. Current from the socket is transferred to the other outlet end of the cord. From where you can feed the power to your devices.
Understanding The Topic
There has been a lot of confusion between power strips and extension cords.The power strip allows you to connect multiple devices from a single socket outlet.
It consists of a block of electrical sockets and a plug. An extension cord allows you to power gadgets with cables that can’t reach outlets.Recommend extension cords only have one outlet.
Reasons Why Plugging An Extension Cord Into Another Is Considered A Safety Hazard
Connecting many extension cords into another may be practical but not advisable. Series connection of more than two extension cords increases the effective resistance of the cords.
High resistance leads to increased temperatures in the wires. The obvious outcome would be the melting of the wire insulations. The exposed wire is a shock hazard. Worst case scenario, if the cord runs under a carpet may ignite a fire.
Also, daisy-chaining leads to voltage dropdown. When there is a voltage drop-down, there is a low current.
What this means is that you will be underpowering your devices. And this isn’t good. Some devices like drills and power saw will not perform optimally.
How To Select Your Suitable Extension Cord
Here are some tips to help you get an extension cord that is right for your needs
Always but longer than what you need
Before you go and get that extension cord, estimate the length required. The length should be from the electrical outlet to your point of interest.
Always buy a cord more than the length you estimate you need. This will give you the freedom and flexibility you were looking for in the first place.
Note that too long extension cords are not also advisable. Extension cords should not exceed 100 feet.
The thickness of a cord will determine the amount of power it can carry. Here, we are talking about the thickness of the copper wires inside the cord.
A wire with a large cross-sectional area allows them to carry more power over an extended distance. Therefore if you want an extension cord to power heavy appliances, go for thicker ones. And vice versa is true.
You definitely don’t want a rigid extension cord. Flexiblecords are effortless to position and move around in your space. They are also easy to store away. When cords are displayed on the shelves, it’s hard to tell which one is flexible.
Here is a trick on how to tell. Just make sure you buy the ones made for lower temperatures. Because they are more flexible in nature. Don’t forget that also the rigid cords have their suitable place of use.
Avoid extension cords with multi-outlet ends
Using extension cords with multiple outlets is dangerous in many ways. Sure, it can be tempting to pick an extension cord with extra outlets. But you need to overcome the temptation.
Extension cords with multiple outlets are easy to overload. An electrical appliance could be drawing more power from one outlet. And that is where the problem lies. It can result in electrical fire break outs.
Tips From Electrical Safety Foundation International On How To Safely Use Extension Cords
Properly using an extension cord.
- Don’t overload your extension cord. These cords have a maximum amperage rating. And exceeding it will cause overheating.
- Keep the three-prong; it is safer. The third pin is the grounding pin, and it dissipates power surges. This reduces the chances of electric shocks or fires.
- Inspect the extension cord for damages before using or storing it. Again, this is for your safety.
- Never use indoor extension cords outdoors. Their jackets aren’t made to withstand the harsh outdoor conditions.
- Extension cords are for temporary use. You shouldn’t try to fix them to surfaces using tape, staples, or nails. Please don’t put them under furniture or rugs while in use.
- Avoid plugging several extension plugs together. Extension cords are designed to carry a specific amount of current over a particular distance, usually the cord’s length.
- Avoid using extension cords as permanent solutions
- Use extension cords on one appliance at a time
- The extension cord you use should be rated for the appliance you want to plug in.
- Use extension cords approved by authorities like Underwriters Laboratory
Caring For an Extension Cord
- When removing the extension cord from the power outlet, pull the plug. Don’t pull the extension cord. As it will eventually cause rupture exposing the core wire. You wouldn’t want that.
- Let go! Discard damaged extension cords and get a new one for your safety. Stop trying to fix cuts with tape. This will only make it unpleasant to look at.
- Whether you own an extension cord for indoor or outdoor use, store them indoors. It would be best if you had a specific place for them. Not in peoples’ path, and the storage space should be dry.
- Switch off the power outlet socket before you unplug the extension cord. It’s a bad idea to unplug while it’s still in use. There might lead to a power spike causing a fire or electric shock.
What is the difference between a power strip and an extension cord?
A power strip has multiple electrical outlets. This increases the number of appliances connected from a single power source. On the other hand, an extension cord enables you to connect distant appliances to a power source.
Why is daisy-chaining dangerous?
Yes, chaining is dangerous. It would be best if you never plugged extension cords together. Daisy-chaining extension cords will cause them to overheat.
Resulting in damaging of appliances or, worse, electrical fire hazards. Purchase longer electrical cords to keep your home safe.
What is the maximum number of extension cords I can connect together?
While it’s not clear on the max number of extension cords, you can connect into one another. The more you connect, the more your line will experience voltage drop. This reduces the current flow received on the other end.
What appliances can I plug into an extension cord?
It would help if you plugged in low power appliances. Their amperage rating shouldn’t exceed that of the extension cord.
Thick round and low-gauge cords are ideal for large appliances. In contrast, thin or flat extension cords are best for small appliances.
What is a power board?
A power board is a portable electronic device with several electrical sockets on it. It also has a plug and a wire.
It allows you to connect multiple electrical appliances at once. It is powered by a single socket and usually activated by a power switch.
Having seen that it is not entirely safe to plug an extension cord into another, you are advised to get a long-enough cord for your needs. Be sure to adhere to appliance manufactures guidance regarding the use of extension cords. Some appliances are designed not to use extension cords at all.