Extension cords, power strips and more...
It is that time of the year again, fires lots of fires.
Let us have a real talk about the power cords, extension cords, outlet plugs, and power strips. They are not the same thing and they are not meant to be plugged into each other. The only time a power strip can have an extension cord plugged into it is when it has been hard wired into the system.
Power strips/ surge protectors/ Hard wired power strips: They are different. But we use them for the same purpose added outlets and to extend the reach of our outlets to something further away. There are some precautions that many do not know or tend to ignore for convenience. Two different types of power are drawn from various equipment high power and low power. High power equipment tends to be stuff that turns one and off ovens, toasters, coffee pots, microwaves, space heaters, refrigerators etc. Low powered equipment tends to be more steady with its power use. Computers, cell phones, Radios, TV’s etc. Know what you are trying to plug in and make sure that you stay safe.
Extension cords: We all use them. Are we using them properly? Most likely NO. Did you know they are not meant for long term use. There is also a purpose to that pesky 3rd prong on the end. The one that many of you cut off. It is a grounding wire. Ok so you didn’t break it off on purpose. It got stepped on by accident and broke off. The fact that it is missing renders the cord no good. The equipment and items that are plugged into it are not grounded. (We will get into that later) If the extension cord is not being used do not leave it plugged in. It too can not handle high powered equipment.
3 prong vs 2 prong: OK this is a simple visual but has lasting consequences. So you have a wall plug that allows only 2 prong devices. You bought one of those 3 prong adapters, and it has that weird metal thing that you have no idea why it is there. So you plug it into the outlet plug in your device and carry on with your day. Guess what that’s wrong. That little metal piece has a purpose. You are supposed to plug the adapter in such a fashion that the metal piece hangs over the screw in the middle. You are supposed to remove the screw and secure this metal hook to the faceplate. That is what converts it to a grounded outlet. ( MIND BLOWN>>>WE KNOW)
Overloading: This is another step that many ignore. They think because they have space left on the power strip they can keep plugging things in. Or if they have something like Christmas lights they can connect an infinite number of strings together to get from one side to the other. You have to take into account the capacity load that the strip can take and how much energy each piece of equipment that is being plugged is going to draw. This will avoid over loading not only the strip or power cord but also the outlet. Many outlets are tied to others and do not run on an independent power source. Understanding how everything is connected can cut down on electrical issues.
Frayed cords ( NO duct tape is not a proper fix) Before you use any electrical cords, power cords, power strips, even the cords to the items you are trying to use. It is important to inspect them. Items that have been stored could have cracked or become frayed from age. They could have been gnawed at by an animal over the course of being stored. Place duct tape over the cord does not make it safe. Will it make the item work? Probably but it is NOT safe.
Grounding: So if you are not sure what grounding is or why it is important. It gives electrical surges a place to go other than into your home or office. Providing pathways for it to travel that are safe and less conductive. Easy enough. OK so your building or home is not properly grounded. What does that mean? It means all metal becomes a conductor. You along with the static in the air also becomes a conductor. In a power surge situation the energy will escape into the building. Your body can become the conductor as electrical currents flow through easily. Fires start more easily, electrical noises increases, as does the risk of electrical shock. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) states that "better than 80% of all electronic system failures that are attributed to power anomalies are actually the result of electrical wiring or grounding errors or are generated by other loads within the customer's facility.
Being electrician is not for everyone. It is also not a part time hobby like a handy-man. Make sure that you are hiring a properly license and certified electrician. For those basics around the house have a light understanding of how all of your various options work. This will keep you and everyone in your home safe.