Extension Cord Safety

Posted on: May 27, 2014

extension cordHow many times have you observed your neighbor using a weed-whacker that is connected to a series of four or five extension cords in order to reach the far corner of the yard? Probably plenty of times. When using a series of cords, be sure they are all the same rating, and check with the manufacturer or your local licensed electrical contractor to see if it is safe.

Extension Cord Ratings

Extension cords are rated by the thickness of the wires inside using a standard known as AWG (American Wire Gauge).

A simple rule of thumb is that the higher the AWG number, the thinner the gage of wire. It sounds backward, but it isn’t. So, an AWG 8 is much thicker and heavier duty than an AWG 14.

Keep it Grounded

A potentially dangerous modification that consumers often make to extension cords is removing the grounding or “third” prong of the plug. Usually, this is done so it will fit into an older, two-slot receptacle, or into a two-slot extension cord. This can be a serious electrical shock waiting to happen. That neighbor with the weed-whacker is in for a jolt if he is doing this in wet grass! Never remove the grounding prong. If you don’t have three-slot receptacles, your local electrical supply store or a licensed electrician can help.

Proper Use Only

Never use an extension cord as a substitute for proper electrical wiring. They are not made for that purpose, nor are they constructed in the same way. Never bury a live extension cord behind a wall. Additionally, never bury an extension cord in the ground. The elements will eventually eat through the insulation, corrode the wire, and may cause a fire. There are special outdoor wiring products available. Check with a licensed electrical contractor and stay safe!