Things to consider before buying an extension cord


With the wide range of extension cords available these days, it can boggle the mind on which one to use, and for what purpose. Which is the safest? What outlet goes in where? Do you have to purchase a different cord for each different and specific application? These are valid questions and are confusing to the point of frustration. It is for this reason that we would like to provide you with helpful tips to take into consideration when buying and using an extension cord.


1.   Environment & Usage

Firstly, and probably most importantly, take note of the environment to which the cord will be exposed. An extension cord is manufactured with an outer protective housing to shield its inner electrical components from cold weather, direct sunlight or moisture, but most important of all – protect you from the electricity buzzing around in there. This housing has a designation comprising a pattern of letters, each with individual meaning. It is therefore important to take the housing and sequence of letters, referred to as electrical ratings into consideration before buying your extension cord.

2.  Socket Configuration 

Extension cords have numerous socket configurations, the majority of which are either back to back (commonly referred to as an “anus” coupler) type socket or a “side-by-side” socket. Before buying your extension cord, consider your application as you may be in need of a specialty configuration to ensure ease of use or aesthetic appeal when plugging in your appliances.

3. Power Rating

Another critical factor to take into consideration is the power requirements of the devices that you connect to the extension cord. It is vital that your extension cord can handle those power requirements.

Here is a list of a few factors to consider:

  • Know and respect the rated amperage of your appliances and tools.
  • Don’t forget that “amperes = watts/voltage”
  • In South Africa all socket outlets are protected by a 20A circuit breaker fitted in the distribution board.
  • Safety comes first! Safety is vital whilst dealing with electrical equipment and devices such as extension cords. It is therefore pivotal to consider safety requirements such as the quality of the cord and the producer thereof.

These requirements include:

  • Copper conductors (never aluminium)
  • Safety shutters on the socket outlets.
  • Integrally moulded plugs with safety sleeves on the live pins.
  • Clear marking showing the maximum ratings.

Call Apex Cordset Technologies today for your safe and high quality extension cord. We provide you with all the requirements that an extension cord can offer.


Is it safe to use multiple extension cords?

Not enough extension cords to connect your TV, heater, charger, and WIFI router? And all hope is entrusted into scratching through your cupboards for an extension cord? This may not be as good as it seems. Extension cords although very helpful in times of desperate need should only be a temporary solution and not as a long-term extension for all your household electrics.

Extension cords need to be used properly to ensure your safety. Continuous usage over time will damage the extensions thus potentially creating a serious fire hazard or risk of electrical shock.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers safety tips when purchasing and using the correct extension cord to avoid electrical shocks or fires:

  • Never overload your extension cords.
  • Do not allow them to run through water – whether completely submerged or through a puddle of water.
  • Never use extension cords as a permanent solution for wiring.
  • Don’t run extensions through doorways, walls, ceilings or floors or under carpets. When a cord is covered, heat cannot escape which can result in a fire hazard.
  • Extension cords cannot be used for many appliances, only one per socket outlet.
  • A high dependency on extension cords indicates that you don’t have enough outlets for your needs. The right thing to do is to Install additional socket-outlets where desired.
  • Avoid linking two or more extension cords together as each cord is specifically designed and approved for that specific length, a longer extension cord cannot handle the same load effectively.
  • Ensure that the extension cord used is rated for the appliances to be plugged in, by always having a higher rating than the appliance or combination of appliances. For example:

Extension cord rating: 16A.

Number of outlets: 3

Appliance Ampere ratings plugged in: Heater 8A, Charger 1.5A, Hair Dryer 4A

Total load: 8+1.5+4 = 13.5A – OK.

  • It must be marked for either indoor or outdoor usage.
  • Check the appliance that you are connecting to the extension. It will state the wattage rating on it. Ensure that your extension cord matches this wattage rating. Never use an extension cord that has a lower rating than your appliance.
  • Refrain from using an extension cord that looks and feels damaged or hot. If one touches an exposed strand, it will create an electrical shock or burn you.
  • Respect the South African plug and socket configurations, some are designed for 2 pin systems (double insulated) but others are 3 pin which includes a protective earth connection. Do not try to modify any plug pin or socket outlet access hole to fit a non-standard plug.
  • Use only 3 core extension cords fitted with a 3-pin plug. The only exception are cords for garden appliances such as lawn mowers and edge trimmers.
  • Purchase extension cords that are approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as TACS (Testing and Conformity Services) Laboratories or SABS or INTERTEK
  • Never substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.
  • Use round, thick and low-gauge extension cords for large appliances. Choose thin or flat cords for smaller appliances.

Avoid taping your extension cords to floors or surfaces with nails or staples.  Never bend extensions cords in use or wrap around sharp edges.

As convenient and common as extension cords are in providing power in the best places, without the correct precautions they can turn into a fire or pose a safety risk.

Here are some tips to guide you in keeping your home and trusty extension cords safe:

 Caring for extension cords

  • Dispose of any damaged cords. They cannot be re-used.
  • Unplug your extensions when they are not being used.
  • Store your extension cords indoors, before storage, check the surface of the cord for any damage.
  • When disconnecting your cords from an outlet, pull the plug – not the cord.
  • Check that the plug pins are clean and undamaged.

Don’t forget, extension cords are for temporary use. If you find yourself wrapped up in a mountain of cords, it might be about time to consider updating your home’s electrical system.


What should I do with my old unusable or unsafe extension cord?

All good things come to an end eventually. So when that plastered up extension cord finally gives in, what should be done with it?  Is it safe to reuse? Can one just plunk it away?

Below are some ideas and safety tips on what to do:

  Now is the time to throw that old safety hazard out.

  • When the cord suffers from insulation damage you should definitely get rid of it.
  • Should the inner cores be exposed, rather dispose of it.
  • If the cord is too short, and you are tempted to join two cords together – don’t; rather purchase a cord with the correct length.
  • Old worn out cords that no longer have those important safety features attached to them must go.
  • Cords without safety certification are unsafe!

Apex Cordsets is able to dispose of your old worn out extension cords responsibly.


  Do’s and Don’ts

  • Avoid worn-out extension cords. When working with extension cords we tend to roughen them up a bit, dragging them everywhere, physically using and abusing them. Work carefully with your extension cord to avoid this safety hazard.
  • Don’t overheat! When an extension cord gets overloaded by using too many appliances simultaneously, it gets overheated and finally wears out.
  • Prolong your cord’s life. This can be done by not using them under furniture and carpets and avoiding the foot traffic over your cord.
  • Know your devices well. It is vital to know which devices have a perfect match, in terms of rating, with which extension cord



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *