Extension Cord Safety -
The Shocking Truth:

Important extension cord safety information: 

Extension cords are used by a household member in and around one's home just about each & everyday.

So, Heading to the garage or tool shed, and grabbing the first extension cord you can find, just because it's long enough for the task at hand, doesn't mean it's the proper one to use for the job!

What matters most is the current drawing from the power tool and what the extension cord you're intending to use can actually carry.

All power cords are manufactured to work in varying conditions and carry differing amounts of electrical current.

Wattage rating of extension cords is crucial. 

Before plugging in appliances or power tools make sure that the power demand of the devices doesn't exceed the cord's wattage rating.

You see If a power tool or appliance is drawing more current than the power cord can actually carry, it may cause the cord and tool to overheat and create a fire.

Before using any extension cord to help power an electrical tool or appliance, Ask yourself these three important questions:

Will I use the cord indoors or outdoors? 

* Extension cords that can be used outdoors will be clearly marked.

* Outdoor extension cords are made of tougher materials that withstand temperature changes, moisture, sun ( UV ) rays and sometimes even chemicals. Indoor cords are not.

* You can use an outdoor cord indoors, but the doing the opposite could result in an electric shock or fire hazard.

What is the total wattage rating of the appliances I'll use with the cord? 

* Thinking that all extension cords are created exactly the same, except for their size is a very dangerous notion. Extension cords are labeled with valuable information as to the use, size and wattage rating of the cord. Cords are offered in many lengths and are marked with a size or "gauge." The gauge is based on the American Wire Gauge (AWG) System, in which the larger the wire, the smaller the AWG number.

The thicker the inner metal conducting wire - the more electricity the cord is able to carry. 

a 12 gauge wire is larger, and can power larger wattage appliances, than a 14 gauge wire.

Quick Tip:

Before deciding which extension cord to use, Look at that number on the tag usually attached to the device's power cord, in the owner's manual or available through the manufacturer. Owners manuals will also indicate whether the tools are suitable for use outdoors.

How far is the nearest outlet from where I'll be working? 

* To determine what size -- or gauge -- of cord you will need, you will also have to determine how long you need the cord to be. A cord, based on its gauge, can power an appliance of a certain wattage only at specific distances. As the cord gets longer, the current carrying capacity of the cord gets lower.


A 16 gauge extension cord less than 50 feet in length can power a 1625 watt (W) appliance.

A 16 gauge cord that is longer than 50 feet in length can only power an appliance up to 1250W.

All appliances indicate how much wattage is consumed when operated; that rating can be found on the appliance itself and often within the use and care booklet that accompanies the product. Other appliances will indicate power usage in amps, rather than watts.

Quick tip - Do the math!

If your appliance/tool indicates that it uses 5 amps at 125 volts, then its wattage rating is 625W (5x125).

If you are going to use the extension cord with two or more appliances, you must add together the wattage rating for all appliances used on the cord. The total of those wattage ratings will help you determine which gauge size you will need.

More Important extension cord safety brought to you by the 
Consumer Product Safety Commission 
RE: CPSC Document #16

The Statistics

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSO) estimates that each year, about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms. About half the injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains from people tripping over extension cords.

Thirteen percent of the injuries involve children under-five years of age; electrical burns to the mouth accounted for half the injuries to young children.

CPSC also estimates that about 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others.

The most frequent causes of such fires are short circuits, overloading, damage, and/or misuse of extension cords. 

The Problem

Following are CPSC investigations of injuries that illustrate the major accident patterns associated with extension cords, namely children putting extension cords in their mouths, overloaded cords, worn or damaged cords, and tripping over cords:

A 15-month-old girl put an extension cord In her mouth and suffered an electrical burn. She required surgery.

Two young children were injured In a fire caused by an overloaded extension cord in their family's home. A lamp, TV set, and electric heater had been plugged Into a single, light-duty extension cord.

A 65-year old woman was treated for a fractured ankle after tripping over an extension cord. 

The Standards

The National Electrical Code says that many cord-connected appliances should be equipped with polarized grounding type plugs.

Polarized plugs have one blade slightly wider than the other and can only be inserted one way into the outlet.

Polarization and grounding ensure that certain parts of appliances that could have a higher risk of electric shock when they become live are instead connected to the neutral, or grounded, side of the circuit.

Such electrical products should only be used with polarized or grounding type extension cords.

Voluntary industry safety standards, including those of Underwriters Laboratories Inc.(UL), now require that general use extension cords have safety closures, warning labels, rating information about the electrical current, and other added features for the protection of children and other consumers.

In addition, UL-listed extension cords now must be constructed with #16 gauge or larger wire,or be equipped with integral fuses. The #16 gauge wire is rated to carry 13 amperes (up to 1560 watts), as compared to the formerly-used # 18 gauge cords that were rated for 10 amperes (up to 1200 watts). 

Additional Safety Suggestions & Extension Cord Safety Tips: 

CPSC has the following extension cord safety recommendations for the purchase and safe use of extension cords:

* Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.

* Unplug extension cords when not in use as they are still conducting electricity.

* Use polarized extension cords with polarized appliances. (one blade wider than the other).

* Make sure cords do not dangle from the counter or table tops where they can be pulled down or tripped over.

* Replace cracked or worn extension cords with new. #16 gauge cords that have the listing, of a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, safety closures, and other safety features.

* With cords lacking safety closures, cover any unused outlets with electrical tape or with plastic caps to prevent the chance of a child or pet making contact with the live circuit.

* Insert plugs fully so that no part of the prongs are exposed when the extension cord is in use.

* When disconnecting cords, pull the plug rather than the cord itself.

* Teach children not to play with plugs and outlets.

* Use only three-wire extension cords for appliances with three-prong plugs. Never remove the third (round or U-shaped) prong, which is a safety feature designed to reduce the risk of shock and electrocution.

* In locations where furniture or beds may be pushed against an extension cord where the cord joins the plug, use a special "angle extension cord," which is specifically designed for use in these instances.

* Check the plug and the body of the extension cord while the cord is in use. Noticeable warming of these plastic parts is expected when cords are being used at their maximum rating, however, if the cord feels hot or if there is a softening of the plastic, this is a warning that the plug wires or connections are failing and that the extension cord should be discarded and replaced.

* Never use an extension cord while it is coiled or looped. Never cover any part of an extension cord with newspapers, clothing, rugs, or any objects while the cord is in use. Never place an extension cord where it is likely to be damaged by heavy furniture or foot traffic.

* Don't use staples or nails to attach extension cords to a baseboard or to another surface. This could damage the cord and present a shock or fire hazard.

* Don't overload extension cords by plugging in appliances that draw a total of more watts than the rating of the cord. * Use special, heavy duty extension cords for high wattage appliances such as air conditioners, portable electric heaters, and freezers.

* Replace outdated outlets and appliances.

* When using outdoor tools and appliances, use only extension cords labeled for outdoor use.

* Cords deteriorate when stored outside so bring them inside when not in use. * Children and pets face serious injury if they chew on unused outlets or stick sharp metal objects into the openings.

* Do not use extension cords that are cut or damaged.

* Touching even a single exposed strand of wire can give you an electric shock or burn.

By using proper extension cord safety techniques, you and your family can enjoy longer, safer use of your power tools and garden appliances.

* Before you purchase - Think extension cord safety - Only buy extension cords that are UL Listed and CSA approved.

These Markings mean that the cord has already been tested for foreseeable safety hazards.