Extension cords or power strips are flexible electrical power cables with plugs and sockets on the ends – intended to deliver 110 to 120 volts of electricity to unreachable areas. If you too have been using such a cord, you’ll need to make sure it’s working fine and check it routinely for damage and wear. But, how often should you inspect an extension cord? Here, we’ll tell you exactly when to do it, how to do it, and what you need to look out for.

How often should you inspect an extension cord?

The answer to this question depends on the length of the extension cord, how often it’s used in your household, what it supplies power to, and the condition of your extension cords. 

Keep in mind that extension cords are used primarily for temporary purposes. Both Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and the National Electric Code mandate state that these be used only for temporary wiring and their usage be bound by certain safety-related rules – including regular inspection and upkeep. The rule of thumb is to inspect your cord before every use in order to prevent a fire hazard or electrical shocks due to damaged cords. 

What is the average lifespan of extension cords?

extention cord inspection

If your extension cord is being exposed to extreme weather conditions or moisture on a regular basis, shows signs of damaged or frayed insulation, or is being used frequently, the wiring will not last as much as a well-maintained, rarely used indoor extension cord.

You must regularly check the cord for any sign of exterior damage including nicks, cracks, or frays. If the protective coating of the cabling is damaged in any way, you’ll need to replace it immediately. Don’t try to repair it.

Keep in mind that a cord is thicker and more durable if the gauge number is lower. A 14-gauge cord, for instance, is more than twice as thick as an 18-gauge cord. A thicker wire can withstand more wear and tear.

Why should you inspect your extension cord?

Most manufacturers recommend that your extension cord be replaced after three to five years of regular use. And, is inspected frequently. Since they are made up of many different materials such as rubber, plastic, or metal, they are susceptible to damage if overused or misused. Damaged cords can lead to electrocution or house fires.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that faulty extension cords are responsible for about 2,900 house fires, on average, every year in the United States. That’s why it’s important to make sure all your electrical devices are working and maintained properly. 

Why does the cord get damaged?

Here are a few reasons extension cords may become unusable over time. 

  • Damage from outside elements such as rain, snow, and animals. 
  • Continuous exposure to extreme temperatures or sunlight that may lead to electrical fires or shocks.
  • Wire breakage inside the cord’s insulation.

Signs that your extension cord has gone bad

extention cord
  • Make sure the colors of the wiring match. A black extension cord means hot, white means neutral, and green means ground. If the wires inside of each color line up properly with their respective labels on the outside of the cord, the connection is correct. If they don’t, your cord has been tampered with and should be replaced.
  • Look for cracks and physical damage. If you spot any signs of cracking, melting, or exposed wires, throw out your extension cord immediately.

How should you inspect and maintain your extension cord?

  • Look at your cord’s plug. Make sure it’s not bent, burnt, or damaged. Or, there is no damage around the plug prongs and socket holes.
  • Visually inspect the complete length of the cord for damage, cuts, or holes in the outer casing.
  • Check the plug end, cord insulation, and electrical connections at both ends thoroughly.
  • Inspect your outdoor extension cords at least once a year.
  • Make sure there are no exposed wires, moisture, or dirt that could cause a short circuit.
  • Inspect the indoor extension cords every three months.
  • Avoid leaving the extension cord plugged in overnight since it could cause a fire.
  • Use it only for light-duty or low-wattage appliances to prevent overloading the outlet.
  • For permanent usage, opt for ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) electrical outlets.
  • According to OSHA standards, extension cords should not be used for more than 90 days since they offer only a temporary solution. 

Last thoughts

There are many different sizes and forms of extension cables, but they all ultimately become worn out with use. While some extension cords last longer than others, the majority of cables need to be checked every few months to ensure they are still safe to use. And that, there are no chances of electric shocks, electricity escaping, or any other hazardous situations. 

Know how often should you inspect an extension cord was last modified: March 18th, 2023 by Ramona Sinha
Your opinion matters, leave a comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments