Choosing the Right Extension Cords

Extension cords seem like simple fixes. Your vacuum cleaner’s cord isn’t long enough? Extension cord! Your fridge is too far away from the outlet in your kitchen? Extension cord! You want to put an air conditioner in your window, but the window is too far from the grounded outlet in the next room? Extension cord with a grounding adapter! No, no, no, no, no. Well, sometimes.

The flimsy, bendy extension cords that you can buy at grocery stores (they can sometimes be found hanging in the checkout aisles between the gumballs and the tabloids) do have some uses, and they can be handy in certain situations. Let’s say, for example, that your alarm clock or small stereo won’t reach an outlet. In these cases, cheap extension cords can make outlet access problems go away. Even in these cases, though, it’s important to make sure that you’ve chosen an extension cord that has been certified-tested by Underwriters Laboratories or a similar, credible testing authority. Also, heeding the warnings about polarity, load and proper usage is very important. Larger appliances are a different story entirely. Before even considering connecting an extension cord to an appliance, it’s worth the time to consult an expert or a safety manual in order to avoid damaging the involved devices, yourself or your home or place of business.

These cautions are especially important in the context of industrial extension cords, which are used with devices that draw more current and which are often subject to demanding or hazardous environments. Take construction sites, for example, where extension cords are commonly needed to give workers’ tools access to electricity. If improperly used, a cord could cause electric shock, fire or other hazards, which constitute serious risks to worker safety and even to equipment and structures. When it comes to extension cords, the familiar adage applies as it does in many other contexts: safety first.

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