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Extension Cords

A Safety Guide To Using Extension Cords Indoors And Outdoors

Extension cords lead to fires, property damage, injuries, and death from fire and electrocution every year. Despite the fact that they are dangerous, people are very likely to ignore safety rules when it comes to using extension cords. In fact, you likely violated the rules of using extension cords yourself or are violating them now. Read this to avoid such violations in the future.

Statistics On Extension Cord Hazards

In the United States, improper use of extension cords results in over 3,000 fires of different scales per year, leading to the deaths of at least 50 people and injuries of approximately 250-270 people. While many injuries are a result of fire, tipping over an extension cord is also a common type of a non-fatal injury associated with extension cords.

Extension cords are a common reason for structure fires that damage or entirely burn the property.

A common reason for the fire is overheating the extension cord due to misuse. Fires commonly occur because of the misuse of extension cords by abusing ampacity, using it with the wrong tools, using it in the wrong places, and using it for longer than intended.

NEC and UL Regulations On where it is prohibited to use extension cords

According to the rules designated in the National Electric Code, an extension cord is not allowed to use in applications:

  • Attached to building surfaces
  • Inside concealed structures like walls, floors, ceilings
  • Above the suspended ceilings
  • In run-through holes like windows and doors

While there could be limited exceptions to these rules, they are only a few. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, never use extension cords in these circumstances.

Common Safety Rules For Using Extension Cords

  • Do not use light duty-cords for heavy-duty usage.
  • Do not violate the amperage rating of the extension cord by overloading the cord.
  • Buy longer runs of extension cords than you intend to allow room for error.
  • When in doubt, choose 15 Amps cables.
  • Cover the extension cords running through the floor with the special protection device so that the cords will not be damaged and you will not overtip on them.
  • Never cover the extension cord with rug as this will increase the fire hazard if the extension cord overheats. It can also facilitate overheating.
  • Use tape on cords in areas where people walk to prevent overtipping.
  • Monitor whether the cords are getting warm. If they are, stop using the cords immediately. The cords are either too light for the applications or damaged.
  • Do not use visibly damaged extension cords under any circumstances. Periodically inspect extension cords for signs of damage.
  • Route extension cords in a way that minimizes the risk of damage occurring.
  • Prevent the cords from coiling up as it increases the fire hazard and electric shock hazard.
  • Use only the extension cables intended for the application. You can not use a non-outdoor-rated extension cord for outdoor applications.
  • Keep the extension cord away from water.
  • Do not modify your extension cords or perform any DIY on them.
  • Do not use extension cords that are not UL-rated or are from unreputable manufacturers.
  • Follow the instructions if the appliance manufacturer states that it should not be plugged into an extension cord. 
  • As per NEC, refrigerators, microwaves, and other large appliances should never be plugged into extension cords.
  • Match the wattage of the extension cord to the wattage of the appliance where it is used.
  • Extension cords are only allowed for limited use. According to some suggestions, they should be used for at most 90 days in industrial conditions. For homes, this time should be even shorter.
  • Skip using three-prong plugs with outlets that solely have plug two slots.


All in all, if you find yourself using a lot of extension cords and rely on them, this is often a sign that there are not enough outlets in your household.

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A Safety Guide To Using Extension Cords Indoors And Outdoors