Using electricity safely is one of the most important things we can do at home and in the workplace. As we become more and more dependent on technology, so does the demand for our electrical needs increase too. And now, the use of extension leads and multiple sockets is commonplace in many settings. It may surprise many people that there are correct and safe ways to use both of these electrical devices and ignoring this could result in serious risk or accidents. In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about using sockets and extension leads safely.

Why Are Sockets and Extension Leads Dangerous?

With an increase in the daily use of devices, our need for consistent and reliable electricity is vital. And, in order to improve space use and organisation, many of us are turning to extension leads and additional sockets throughout our properties. However, because these items are so commonplace, it can be challenging to understand why they can be so dangerous.

If they are overloaded, extension leads can overheat. This is largely caused by connecting too many devices that have a collective watt rating higher than the attached cord can handle. Many extension leads have 4 or more sockets and it can be tempting to fill them up to the max. However, without understanding the domestic appliance power rating for every single device, you put yourself at risk of fires. As an example, the average iron can use approximately 2,800 watts And, if each individual wall socket can handle around 3,000 watts, it is incredibly easy to overload your leads.

It can also be tempting to ‘daisy-chain’ extension leads. This is when you connect more than one extension lead to make a longer connection or connect more devices in one area. Again, the collective power wattage is likely to be significantly more than the initial socket can handle and you create a more hazardous issue instantly.

Domestic Appliance Power Ratings

To work out the best set-up for your extension leads and sockets, you need to understand the individual Domestic Appliance Power Rating for every device. This is normally measured in either watts or kilowatts and should be supplied as standard with every device that you purchase. The exact amount of electricity that a divide uses will vary according to other factors too, including how long it is in use at any given time.

In technical terms, the power rating of a device is an indicator of the rate that it can convert electricity into another form of energy – light, heat or motion. The rating you’re given on your appliances will be set at a guideline by the manufacturer and are designed to help you plan your setup.

How to Avoid Overloading?

As we mentioned above, safety with extension leads and sockets largely comes from the risk of overloading.

To avoid this issue in your home or business:

  • Review the power rating of the extension lead and the devices you want to plug into them.
  • Remember that most sockets have a total power allowance of 3,000 watts.
  • Add up the power rating for all of the devices that you need to plug in. If this is higher than 3,000 watts, you’ll need to separate them and power the appliances using a number of plugs.
  • Use one extension lead for every wall-based socket.
  • Never ‘daisy-chain’ your extension leads.
  • Speak to a professional electrician, such as the team here at MJH Electricals, about having more sockets installed on your property if you need more power.

If you notice any of the following signs, your extension lead could be overheating. If any of them happen, either unplug the extension lead or turn off the power from the mains source.

  • A burning smell.
  • Sparks emitting from either the device or the socket.
  • Scorch marks.
  • Melting plastic.
  • Repeat blown fuses.

The same goes for multi-way socket adaptors and adapter blocks. You need to be aware of the total power wattage allowance and only use these when it is entirely necessary. Plugging a single device into each socket is preferable in all situations.

Broken Extension Leads

Another hazard to consider when using extension leads is their condition. As with any electrical components, it’s important to replace cords and wires when they become damaged. Broken wires, protective sleeves or bent cords can cause fires and serious electric shocks. These organisation cables should only be used temporarily and unplugged after use. Avoid wrapping the cords around the extension base as this can put pressure on the protective elements and lead to damage. Make sure, when in use, cords stay untangled and are securely fixed to prevent tripping or accidents by those walking past. Use a rubber protector strip, if necessary. And, if you are using a cable drum extension lead, unwind it completely to prevent overheating.

We also recommend discarding older extension leads as these are unlikely to have the recent and most up-to-date safety features.

Choosing the Right Extension Lead and Socket

So, how do you choose the safest and most suitable power socket for your needs?

  • Avoid extension leads that are more than 15 meters, where possible.
  • Only choose extension leads with insulated connectors and plugs.
  • Make sure the lead you choose has a correctly rated fuse for the devices and appliances that you need to plug in.

Extension leads can be incredibly practical and useful – especially in busy environments. However, it is very important to know how to use them safely at all times and to prevent overloading. Here in the UK, electricity is a major cause of accidental fires with over 20,000 recorded every single year. At MJH Electricals, we have a team of experienced and knowledgeable professionals on hand to provide guidance and support to domestic and commercial clients. If you’re concerned about electricity usage, need advice on using sockets and extension leads safely or are concerned about the safety of your electrical wiring, get in contact today.