Extension leads and adaptors

Extension leads and adaptors – how to use them safely

We have so much electrical equipment in our homes these days that most of us use electrical extension leads and adaptors.  We never seem to have enough sockets in the right places!  But what are the dangers with using extension leads and adapters and how can you make sure you are using them safely?

All too often our team comes across daisy chains of extension leads or adapters piled up like the Leaning Tower of Pisa,  running a number of high current appliances such as electric heaters, kettles, irons and tumble dryers.  Overloading circuits in this way increases the risk of fire.  But this is not the only risk.  Cable damage is common with extension leads and this can lead to one of the conductors failing which can result in electric shock.

So, here are my tops tips for the safe use of extension leads:

  1. Don’t use extension leads and adaptors unless you have to.  Where possible, ask an electrician to fit more sockets for you.
  2. Be aware of the maximum loading for the adaptor or extension lead and the rating of appliances you are plugging into them.  A typical extension lead has a maximum loading of 13A.  Don’t overload with more than one high current appliance.
  3. If you do need to use an extension lead, buy one from a reputable retailer and make sure any adaptor used complies with British Standards.
  4. It’s advisable not to use an extension cable that exceeds 15m.  If you use a cable drum extension lead, unwind the cable from the drum completely before use to avoid the cable overheating
  5. Avoid trailing leads under carpets and rugs as this may result in damage to the cable.  Where a lead has to cross an area where people walk, cover the lead with a rubber protector.
  6. Never be tempted to join two lengths of flex by twisting the bared ends of wires together, even if you bind them with insulating tape!
  7. Always check that leads, plugs and sockets are undamaged before use.  If there are any burn marks on a lead, plug or socket, do not use and seek advice from your electrician.

It’s ok to use an extension lead for low current appliances such as your TV, DVD, etc but it’s always safer to plug one appliance into one socket.  As a guide, it should never cost you more than around £75* to have an extra double socket fitted.

Next time I’ll be talking about RCDs – what they are and how they can prevent electrical shock.

*subject to survey