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Reduce the Risk of Fire and Shock By Using Safe Extension Cords

extension-cord-safetyWhen it comes to extension cords, many people think that finding one the right length is all that matters.  Unfortunately, this common way of thinking can create unnecessary risks.  The truth is, there are many factors that distinguish one from another, and they all matter.  Paul Holstein, COO of, says, “Power extension cords are not created equal, but rather are manufactured for use in specific applications and environments, and to carry varying amounts of electrical current.  By basing choice on each task’s specific requirements, you can greatly reduce the risks of fire, electrical shock, and injury that come with improper use.”  So remember, the next time you reach for an extension cord, think more than length.

Holstein’s Extension Cord Safety Tips

  • Classifications: Extension cords are classified for either indoor or outdoor use. The insulation, or jacket, of an outdoor-rated extension cord is made of tougher material designed to withstand temperature changes, moisture, and UV rays. “While it’s fine to use an outdoor power cord indoors, never use an indoor-rated extension cord for an outside job,” Holstein warns. “Doing so could cause electric shock or create a fire
  • Wattage rating: The number of watts an extension cord can safely transmit is known as a wattage rating. Before plugging an appliance or power tool into an extension cord, verify that the power (or pull) of that device does not exceed the cord’s wattage rating.
  • Powering multiple devices: If more than one device will be plugged into an extension cord, calculate their combined energy requirements and make sure that the total is not higher than the wattage rating for the cord.
  • Power requirements: It is important to know how much electricity is required to run a given device. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions, or check the tag attached to a device’s power cord.
  • UL approval: Only purchase cords that bear the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) symbol. Its presence indicates that samples of that particular type of cord have been tested by UL and have received consumer safety approval.
  • Red Flags: Do not use extension cords with cut or damaged insulation. Exposed conducting wires can create the risk for fire, burns, and electric shock.


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