Electric safety at home
Why do they say you should not use extension cords on toasters and irons?
Most household extension cords are rated for 7-10 amperes (amps). Toasters and irons often draw considerably more current, 10-12 amps. Since most household circuits are fused to "blow" or "trip" at 20 amps, they won't trip even though the appliance is drawing more current than the cord should have put through it. Result - the extension cord is overloaded and can become overheated.
What is the purpose of polarized plugs?
They assure that the plug is installed correctly so that when the switch is off, the electricity is turned off just as it enters the appliance. Otherwise, the appliance can have electricity inside even though the switch is not turned on.
Some extension cords are 2-wire or not polarized. What happens when you use these with grounded or polarized outlets?
You lose the grounding or polarizing protection provided by a 3-wire plug/outlet combination.
What are the little plastic covers I see attached over the plug holes on newer extension cords?
These are to prevent injury to small children who sometimes put the end of energized extension cords in their mouths. Keep these plastic covers in the holes not being used and; in general, be especially careful with extension cords around small children.
Should extension cords be run under rugs or carpet to prevent tripping?
Although that installation will prevent tripping, it is not a good idea. If the cord should become worn or if it overheats, it could become a fire hazard.
Sometimes I see an arc when unplugging an appliance. Is this normal?
This is caused by breaking the flow of current at the plug. It can be prevented by turning the appliance off prior to unplugging. If the appliance does not have a switch, you may expect to see a spark when unplugging it.
What is GFCI and how does it protect me?
A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter detects tiny amounts of stray current and shuts off the electricity before it can cause harm. A GFCI is much more sensitive to a problem than a fuse or standard circuit breaker.
What circuits in the home should be GFCI protected?
Those in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and outdoor receptacles.
Should I unplug appliances when not in use?
This is not practical for all appliances but is a good idea for irons, toasters and those appliances that heat up or get used infrequently. Remember, don't pull on the wire; grip the plug itself when unplugging something.
If extension cords and various types of adapters are unsafe, why are stores allowed to sell them?
These items are safe when used properly. However, most of these items are very easy to misuse. For example, lightweight extension cords with three outlets on the end are easily overloaded.
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