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A Few Tips on Power Strips

A Few Tips on Power Strips

It’s Monday morning, and you’re nearly ready for work. You just need to prepare your hair for the day. Grabbing your newly purchased power strip, you plug it into the wall and connect your flat iron and blow. While your flat iron is heating up you pop in the kitchen to pour yourself a cup of coffee. Just as you reach for your favorite bright candy apple red mug you begin to smell smoke coming from the restroom. Running back you are frightened to find your power strip smoking.  Quickly unplugging  it you decide to go with nature’s blow dryer. From power strip overload, to “daisy chaining,” to excessive cord length, there are several limitations that are associated with the use of power strips or relocatable power taps. Intended for indoor use only, power strips are used to connect current to devices.  Inappropriate use of power strips can produce serious threats, including burns, fires, and shocks.  Let’s take a look at a few ways to avoid some of these common electrical hazards.

Power Strip Overload

Just because there is an available outlet does not mean you should plug something into it. Though power strips are used to power multiple devices, it is important to pay attention to the type of appliances you are powering. Outlet power strips are not made for items that require a large amount of energy to operate (such as appliances with a heating element). For example, you would not plug a coffee pot, heater, or electric frying pan into a power strip because they each require a substantial amount of electricity to work. Plugging such high wattage devices into power strips can easily result in an overload or overheat condition.  Instead of power strips, opt for using single electrical sockets for high wattage devices.

Another way power strips may experience a power overload is when two power strips that are used by multiple devices at a time are plugged into the same wall outlet. It is typically okay to use more than one power strip in a room. However, be sure to use completely different outlets.

Wrong way to use Power Supply
Wrong way to use Power Supply

Daisy-Chaining

Daisy-chaining is a wiring setup where devices are linked together sequentially, with only the first device physically connecting to the power source.  While this does not typically pose an issue in computer hardware and some digital systems, daisy chaining is very dangerous when it comes to power strips. For example, to avoid calling an electrician, sometimes businesses and homeowners connect power strips to one another to allow for more electrical outlets in limited space.

Generally power strips provide a maximum of six to eight outlets, yet when multiple strips are connected to one another the primary strip connected to the wall unit or building outlet has to supply more energy than it is rated for.  This is because the initial outlet has to handle the demand for the appliances attached to it, and all of the appliances on each successive power strip. Daisy chained power supplies can easily result in circuit overloads which will result in either a circuit breaker trip or permanent damage to equipment connected to the cords.

Excessive Cord Length

We’ve all done it: took a lovely trip or spill to the carpet (hopefully carpet) because there was a cord in the middle of our pathway. While you may have gotten up, laughed it off and hoped no one saw you take that little dive; excessive cord length can actually be a hazard.  Be sure to avoid running cables through the middle of a room, or in front of doorways to reduce trips and falls.

When dealing with regulations for insulations and max-power length ratings for cables, you should check the cables UL rating. As we’ve learned in a previous post, the Underwriters Laboratories is an international organization that works independently to establish regulations and standards for a variety of products including power strips.

A Few Final  Strip Tips

  • Remember, power strips are meant for indoor use only (unless specially designed for outdoor use) and should be kept out of damp and wet locations.
  • Always pay attention to the wattage and ratings of devices and power strips before plugging in an appliance.
  • Only use cords on devices and appliances with low power demands, such as phone chargers.
  • Power strips that have not been UL tested may be defective, rated for an insufficient power load or lack surge protection.
  • If your power strip begins to overheat or feels hot, unplug it immediately and reduce the number of appliances connected to it.
  • Do not route the flexible power cord through any windows, walls, ceilings, or floors.

Hopefully these power strip tips help for the next time you decide to plug in. What have your experiences been with power strips? Feel free to drop us a line in the comment section below or contact us via Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram.

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