Are You Using Power Strips Safely?

Power strips can be very handy, and they are completely safe—when you use them properly.

I have this clear memory of a person from the fire department visiting my elementary school when I was very small. They talked to us about all kinds of potential fire hazards, including power strips. The fireperson showed us a rat king of power strips, all with clearly fraying cables, all plugged into each other. They were sparking.

Chances are, you’re not plugging tons of frayed, sparking power strips into each other, but are you using the power strips in your home safely? Below are tips to help you avoid fire and shock hazards.

Power Strip Safety Tips

Most people know that frayed cables and strings of power strips are unsafe, but that’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using power strips safely.

Most people know that frayed cables and strings of power strips are unsafe, but that's the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using power strips safely.

1. Do not plug one power strip into another.

This is one of the most well-known power strip safety tips, but it still bears mentioning. Even two daisy chained power strips can be a fire hazard.

Plugging one power strip into another is called “daisy chaining”, and it makes it much more likely that you’ll overload one of the strips, starting a fire. If you need your power strip to reach further, it’s time to hit the store for a longer one.

2. Never use a power strip with a frayed cable.

You probably already knew this, as well, but it’s so important. If the casing around the cable on your power strip is damaged, take it to an electronics recycling facility. It’s done.

3. Never use it to plug in a space heater.

Not all power strips can handle the amount of electricity that a space heater needs to pull from the wall.

Before plugging any medium to large appliance into a power strip, make sure the strip is rated for those products. The energy absorption rating should be right on the power strip. Compare it to the rating printed on the device you’re planning to plug in to avoid a meltdown.

4. Plug in one appliance maximum.

This is another tip to avoid overloading a power strip. If you’ve got your television plugged into a power strip for example, you shouldn’t also plug your computer into the same power strip.

5. Never attach them to surfaces using tape, nails or staples.

Power strips aren’t meant to be long-term solutions. The International Association of Home Inspectors website calls this “an obviously dangerous condition.”

6. Always keep the cord uncovered.

Don’t run the cable for a power strip under rugs or even low furniture. The cord needs air to circulate around it to keep it cool. Covering it up can cause it to overheat, causing a fire.

7. Childproof your power strips.

If you have small children, power strips present a similar hazard to uncovered outlet, though they may be even more enticing to little fingers. Keep plugged-in power strips out of reach until your kids are old enough to understand what they are. You can also use childproofing covers on unused outlets or buy a special childproofing cover to prevent an accident.

Related at Care2

Most people know that frayed cables and strings of power strips are unsafe, but that's the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using power strips safely.

Images via Thinkstock.

57 comments

Marie W
Marie W9 months ago

thanks for sharing

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KimJ M
KimJ M11 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M11 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M11 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M11 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M11 months ago

Tfs

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Maureen G
Maureen Gabout a year ago

I'm sitting here looking at my 2 large power boards/surge protectors/landline phone connection/internet/television plus plus and am very glad we had a reason for the electrician to come recently and everything was checked. As it costs me $200 in traveling expenses just to get him here we make good use of him when he eventually comes. With reference to No4 why would you have a power board (power strip) for only one electrical item?

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Angela K
Angela Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing

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Clare R
Clare Rabout a year ago

"a rat king of power strips" )

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Freya H
Freya Habout a year ago

Thanks for the tips. I keep my power strip - which doubles as a surge protector - on my desk, away from the cats.

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