Extension lead safety

DATE: Apr, 4   COMMENTS: 0   AUTHOR: Allan Azarola

Generally, most people have extension leads in their homes and businesses to space-save or to provide an electrical outlet for the different electrical devices we use. Though it is ideal to use extension cables, it is not always safe because overtime the extension will deteriorate.

Using the extensions properly is vital for your protection. This guide will provide practical tips on the safety of extension cords.

Common problems related to the use of extension leads

Overloading; this is the biggest problem among so many people because we often forget that the extension lead is plugged into a wall socket with certain maximum amperes. Using multiple devices on extensions may cause overheating and should there be a faulty condition the fuse may fail to activate until a fire is well-lit due to added resistance from multiple sources and heavy-duty cable in the system.

The damage of cables; this may result when you run them on walls, doorways and floor thus exposing the internal wires which risk electrical shock or fire.

Using extension leads for unintended projects, for example for outdoor projects use ones marked for outdoor use.

Removing extension cord grounding pin to fit into a two-prong outlet.

Bending or curling cords when they are in use.

Using extension cords that feel hot when you touch. 

Extension Lead safety tips

 Check the current rating of the appliance. Ratings for most common workplace appliances;

• Kettle – 13 Amps/ 3000 Watts

• Computer monitor- 0.5 amps

• Printer – 0.5 Amps/ 50 Watts

• Desktop Computer – 3.0 Amps/ 700 Watts

Avoid overloading the extension lead. Consider a multi-way lead over block adaptors because they put less strain on the socket.

Avoid plugging an extension cord to another extension cord.

Consider installing additional sockets if you heavily rely on extension cords.

Use extension cords with three-prong plugs.

Ensure the equipment has a mark of an independent testing laboratory.

Check for damages or dangerous signs before use and unplug the extensions when not in use.

Understanding extension leads designations

  • S- Meant for general use.
  • W- For outdoor use
  • J -Means the cord has a standard 300 voltage insulation
  • T- Means the code is manufactured from vinyl thermoplastic.
  • P- Has a parallel wire construction for household use such as air conditioner.
  • O- Means it’s oil resistant
  • E- Made from thermoplastic elastomer rubber (TPE)

Understanding the relationship between lead length, gauge and amperage limits.

Lead length is available in different measurements such as 150 feet, 100 feet and 25-50 feet. The longer the extension cord, the less the power delivered to connected devices.

Gauge is the diameter of conductors in an extension lead. Gauge is commonly available as 16, 14, 12 and 10. The higher the number, the lower the gauge and the lower the amperage (a measure of current/flow) and wattage (a measure of electricity used) and vice versa. A practical example of this scenario;

A 25- 50 feet extension lead can have conductors with the following gauges and amps;

  • 10 gauge, 16-20 amps
  • 14 gauge, 14-15 amps
  • 16 gauge, 1-13 amps
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