You need to charge your phone, and that lamp you’re trying to plug in is too far away from the outlet. So you reach for a power strip to save the day.
But did you know there is a surprisingly long list of ways people misuse power strips? These mistakes lead to electrical shorting, fire hazards and the destruction of appliances.
Keep reading for a list of mistakes to avoid when using power strips to prevent a whole mess of problems.
1. Don’t plug one power strip into another
This leads to power strip overload. Overloading a power strip often results in short-circuiting, but it can go further. Overloading a power strip can melt the entire plastic housing and cause a fire. It’s never a good idea to “daisy chain” power strips.
Be careful when you plug anything into your power strip by checking the amperage requirements. Inexpensive outlets from dollar stores will have very low amperage thresholds and often won’t be UL tested.
Look for UL testing or certification. This ensures the wiring can withstand the advertised amperage. If it isn’t UL tested, it’s not worth bringing into your home.
2. Avoid plugging beauty tools into a power strip
Beauty tools such as curling irons and hair dryers turn electricity into heat. That’s okay in a standard wall outlet, but a power strip isn’t designed for that much electrical pull.
Because it’s turning all that electricity into heat, the prongs on your beauty tool plug will heat up as it draws additional power (which may depend on your settings). That leads to overcharging and a high probability of fire.
This is another instance where you need to think about the amperage of your products. There’s usually a maximum and minimum draw. If it even poses the potential to draw more amperage than your power strip can handle, it’s a bad idea.
3. Don’t assume that your power strip is safe near pets
Cats are curious and dogs can do silly things. Power strips are attractive to them (usually because of the light to signify that the current is live). But you shouldn’t cover up power strips, as we’ll explain later. You also shouldn’t leave them out in the open for your pets to get to.
Power strips shouldn’t be used as permanent solutions. Once you’re done with your device(s), turn your power strip off and unplug it for the safety of your little furry ones.
4. Don’t use indoor power strips on outside outlets
Outdoor power strips are designed to handle weather conditions such as moderate rain. Unless your power strip explicitly states that it’s made to handle outdoor weather, it must stay inside.
Even outdoor power strips have their limitations. They should never be submerged or left in the elements for too long. Waterproof ratings differ depending on how sealed a product is, so even if you buy an outdoor power strip, there are still limitations due to the open outlets.
5. That visibly damaged power strip is not “fine to use” – it’s trash
Sometimes a power strip will short and shut off your devices. If this happens even for a few seconds, you have to inspect the power strip for signs of damage.
Look for signs of singe around the outlets. These will appear as rust-colored marks that you might be able to wipe off with your fingers.
The typical response for these marks on a house outlet is to call an electrician and not use the outlet until it’s fixed, so why would you use a power strip with the same problem?
6. Never plug this list of appliances into a power strip, no matter what
There are a lot of appliances you absolutely should not plug into a power strip. These include anything high-capacity, such as a washer or dryer, refrigerator, sump pumps and even space heaters.
If it turns electricity into raw heat, it’s too powerful to plug into a power strip. Avoid plugging in freezers, microwaves and even coffee makers.
Lastly, avoid plugging slow cookers, hot plates, toasters and air compressors into power strips. Many of these devices require surge protectors or UL-rated extension cables designed for high-capacity output.
7. Don’t hide active power strips under rugs, carpets, or behind curtains
We talked about those marks you can get on power strips earlier. When that happens, sparks come out of the outlet. Using a cardboard box, rug, carpet, or curtains to cover up an otherwise ugly-looking power strip drastically increases your fire hazard risk.
Even without sparks being a concern, power strips can heat up quickly. Insulating them with any fabric is dangerous.
8. Do not assume a power strip will protect any of your appliances or devices
Power strips do not protect your appliances. You should never plug anything into a power strip that you’re not comfortable losing.
Power strips often fail. They’re helpful and can be used safely, but you can’t stop a power surge on your own. If that happens, your connected appliances and gadgets can be destroyed. The damage adds up quickly.
9. Never put a power strip near anything that could even get remotely wet by accident
Avoid putting power strips near the kitchen sink or in the laundry room near the washing machine. You should never bring one into the bathroom for any reason.
We think about the utility and convenience of using power strips, which can make us forget just how dangerous they are when misused.
If there’s a chance that a power strip could get wet, you need to find an alternative solution. That solution is not to use an outdoor power strip inside, by the way.
10. Avoid leaving them plugged in when not in use
It’s good to turn the power switch off when you’re done with a power strip, but it doesn’t stop there. If it’s plugged into the wall, it’s drawing power and running through the wiring inside.
The switch acts as a disruptor to the outlets. It doesn’t prevent electricity from entering the power strip at the outlet level. Turn the switch off and unplug any power strip that isn’t in use.
Psst, a power strip and surge protector aren’t the same things
Power strips extend (most of) the utility of your wall outlet. Surge protectors protect your appliances, gadgets, and electronics from extreme harm.
This power strip is simple and gets the job done to extend a few small gadgets from the wall.
This surge protector is rated up to 3,940 joules (which is insane) and is backed by a $200,000 warranty from Belkin. What more could you want?
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