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How to Keep Your Power Strips From Catching Fire

January 22, 2018

We can never have enough plugs for our dozens of juice-hungry devices. Multiple power strips are pretty much necessities in the homes of everyone who isn’t Amish.

But despite being commonplace in the home, these little plastic gadgets can be extremely dangerous when used improperly or when they malfunction. According to the ESFI, over 3,300 home fires originate in extension cords and power strips each year, killing 50 people and injuring 270 more.

power strip burned home safety tips(Source)

After hearing harrowing stories from our customers of burn-outs and near-catastrophes stemming from extension cords, we want to make sure everyone knows the best practices they should follow to minimize the risks.

Further Reading: Home Alarm Monitoring Saves Home From Catastrophic Fire

Here are the home safety tips you need to know about power strips to protect your belongings from fire:

Know the limits of your power strip.

Your power strip can only draw so much electricity without getting overloaded. When you overload your powerstrip, that's when you get the sparks a-flyin' and in a matter of seconds you can kiss your wooden furniture goodbye.

Usually, the manufacturer will clarify how much their power strip can handle on the package somewhere with a series of numbers.

For example, the “AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip, 790 Joule - White” has the following specifications:

“AC 15A, 125V, 60Hz, 1875W”

The important number is the number of watts this thing can handle: 1875. If you draw more than 1875 watts, you’ll overload the power strip. If you're lucky, you just end up with nasty burn marks and a molten plastic mess. Others have lost their entire houses to fires started by power strips. To be safe, you should never push your circuits to the limit.

Know how much power your devices are using.

Most devices like phone chargers, TVs, clock radios, hair dryers, and laptop computers won’t come anywhere close to drawing that much power, so if you’re mostly just plugging in smaller appliances into your power strips, you’re probably pretty safe.

Power-hungry machines like:

  • window air conditioners
  • dehumidifiers
  • space heaters
  • high-end gaming/productivity PCs

all have the potential to overwhelm a cheap power strip that’s already under a lot of strain because they don’t just draw a lot of power, they draw it continuously (over 3 hours of use).

Remember:

When using devices like these that draw continuous power, the maximum load your power strip can take will be reduced by about 20 percent, so your 1875-watt power strip can only handle 1400 watts of continuous power safely.

Before you plug any of these appliances into a power strip, glance over the packaging or do some research on the manufacturer website to make sure the math checks out. Avoid plugging multiple power-hungry devices into the same power strip. When in doubt, consult an expert.

Don’t daisy-chain your power strips/extension cords together.

extension cord power strips(Source)

A floor covered in cable spaghetti isn't just ugly; this kind of set-up is a serious fire hazard.

The wires inside power strips tend to be cheap and lower quality than the wires you find in your walls, so when you start chaining power strips, you lose a lot of electricity capacity in the process. Plugging in an appliance with high power usage will heat up those low-quality wires until they burst into flames.

Get a smoke/fire alarm.

The best way to stop a fire is to catch it before it gets out of control. We can’t always be at home to watch over our power strips 24/7, so for the moments when we’re not around, automated systems can pick up the slack.

Find out other ways you can keep your home safe when you're away by speaking with our home security experts.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Home Security and learn:

  • Top 5 misconceptions about home security
  • How to assess vulnerabilities in your home
  • Why home security is about more than preventing burglaries
  • Cutting-edge security equipment: how home security has changed
  • Monitored vs. Self-Monitored Systems
  • Local vs. National Security Companies

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