Electrical Safety In The Home And Electrical Extension Cords

Electrical Safety In The Home And Electrical Extension Cords

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  1. The use of electrical extension cords in your home could endanger your family’s health. Electrical extension cords are the cause of approximately 3,300 residential fires in the United States every year. Fires attributed to overloaded extension cords.

    Approximately 50 people lose their lives in those fires, and another 270 receive injuries severe enough to require treatment in the ER or hospitalization. Thirteen percent of all those injuries involved children under the age of five. Fifty percent of those children suffered burns to the mouth suffered when they chewed on an extension cord.

    More than half of the injuries requiring ER treatment were not caused by electric shock. Over 50 percent of  people going to the ER were treated for broken bone, lacerations, and contusions suffered when they tripped over an extension cord.

    We will not concern ourselves with those accidents here. We will concern ourselves with how people misuse home extension cords by overloading them, putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones at risk without being aware that they are doing so.

    Extension Cord Ampacity

    Ampacity refers to the amount of electric current measured in amperes that a given size wire can carry without overheating. The National Electrical Code (NEC) has a great deal to say on how much current a wire of a given size can carry without overheating. The NEC gives us that information in Table 310.16, and we need to study that table very closely. Unfortunately, this table does not even rate AWG 18 and AWG 16 copper wire which are the most common size wires used in residential extension cord.

    Extension cords are a special case and the amount of load that you can place on them depends on two factors-their wire gauge and their length. This table gives the maximum load for popular size residential extension cords.


    25 FEET                18             10
    25 FEET                16             13
    25 FEET                14             15
    50 FEET                18               5
    50 FEET                16             10
    50 FEET                14             15
    75 FEET                18               5
    75 FEET                16             10
    75 FEET                14             15
    100 FEET              16               5
    100 FEET              12             15
    125 FEET              16               5
    125 FEET              12             15
    150 FEET              16               5
    150 FEET              12             13

    Shorter Extension Cords

    Most extension cord sets sold for use in the home come in 6, 8, 10, or 12-foot lengths, for these cords use the 25-foot rating-Do Not Exceed It.

    Overloading Extension Cords

    This is very easy to do if you do not know how much each load you plug into an extension cord draws. This is especially true then at Christmas time when we start decorating our homes with festive lights and other illuminated decorations. Check the boxes for their amperes. Most small appliances have their amperes marked on a nomenclature plate somewhere on them. For incandescent floor lamps, you can safely figure about 1 ampere for every 100 watts. A 100-watt bulb actually draws 0.909 amperes, but using 1 ampere will make your calculations easier and also provide you with a safety factor to boot.

    What Not To Do With Extension Cords

    The NEC has a great deal to say about how extension cords should not be used. Here, is a brief list of the major rules applying to extension cords.

    •  Do not use extension cords as permanent wiring.
    •  Do not conceal extension cords inside walls, floors, or ceilings.
    •  Do not pass extension cords through walls, floors, or ceilings.
    •  Do not stretch extension cords across doorways.
    •  Do not run extension cords under floor coverings i.e. carpeting and rugs.

    If you find yourself using extension cords on a daily basis because there are not enough receptacle outlets in a room, install more or have more installed by an electric


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