Extension Cords in Your Home
claim the lives of 280 Americans each year while injuring 1000
more.  Electrical fires can be caused by poor electrical connections,
short circuits and/or electronic malfunction.   One of the main
sources of electrical fires in the home is extension cord use.  If the
copper wiring inside the extension cord gets damaged, the resulting
bad connection can heat up enough to start a fire.  If the
plug/receptacle connection is loose or damaged, this could be
another source of poor connection, heat and subsequent fire.  Poor
electrical connections get hotter as more electricity is used.  
Generally, the more heat an appliance generates, for example a
toaster or hair dryer, the more electricity it uses.  If the connection
gets hot enough, anything combustible next to it can ignite.
Modern homes should have enough electrical receptacles that extension cord use should be minimal, however if you
live in a home built before about 1970, you may find that you need extension cords in multiple locations.  The best
solution is to add properly installed receptacles in rooms with  few receptacles.  If you need to use an extension cord,
make sure that the connections at both ends are snug and clean.  If the plug falls out on it's own or the prongs are
corroded, it probably isn't making a good electrical connection.  If the cord has been damaged by excessive bending or
other physical damage, don't use it.  Avoid overloading the circuit with multiple high current appliances.

During a home inspection, receptacles will be tested for proper operation.  If there are a minimal number of
receptacles, a recommendation is typically made to install additional receptacles as needed.  I see many homes here
in Humboldt county that should have more receptacles to reduce the reliance on extensions cords.  The latest
household electrical improvement to reduce fires has been the development and use of the AFCI (arc fault circuit
interrupter) breaker.  An AFCI circuit breaker is designed to trip if a poor connection is detected and might be a good
idea to use if you use multiple extension cords.  You can find more information on
AFCI breakers and most other home
related items at my website at
Home Info.

This article was published in the Eureka Times-Standard 'Real Estate In Review' special section on May 26,