According to the U.S. Fire Administration, between 2014 and 2016, electrical fires accounted for 6.3% of all residential fires, with approximately 24,000 fires being reported each year. To all the electrical fires, improper use of power strips and extension cords contributes a very big proportion. Are there any ways to make power strips safe and reliable power distribution devices instead of fire hazards?
1. Overload & Short-Circuit Protector
Every power strip has a maximum limit of delivering power, which is often measured in Amps and Watts, and when the attached devices are drawing more current and power than that limit, the power strip is overloaded. With the built-in overload & short-circuit protector, some power trips cut off power immediately when the circuit is overloaded, thus prevent heat from building up and eliminate the source of an electrical fire fundamentally.
The red overload protector on the side of a power strip
Fire-retardant or fire-resistant materials are those slow or stop the spread of fire or reduce its intensity, and highly fire-retardant materials like ABS+PC blend have a fire-resistant temperature up to 1382℉ and self extinguish in seconds after it is ignited in higher temperature. Some of the newest power strips utilize ABS+PC blend as the casing material and have passed the international fire-proof testing standard: UL94 V-0.
A power strip casing made of fire-retardant material ABS+PC blend
3. One-Piece Copper Conductor
In some older power strips, copper contact pins are soldered in parallel by short wires, which increases the possibility of malfunction and shorting. Now more and more power strips are manufactured with one-piece technology that all sockets in the same row share one set of copper sheets for live, neutral, and ground pins. These sockets in a row will have better conductivity and longer service life.
The internal one-piece copper conductor layout of a power strip
4. Proper Use of Power Strips
Last but not least, power strips are only temporary tools to make power available where there wasn’t, and only when they are used properly can they serve their functions well. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts for using power strips.
- DO NOT plug a power strip into another power strip or extension cord, they should be plugged into wall outlets directly.
- DO NOT plug high power appliances like hair dryers, toasters, microwave ovens, and space heaters into power strips, they should be plugged into wall outlets directly.
- DO NOT overload a power strip, check the wattage information of all appliances before plugging them into the power strip.
- ALWAYS keep the power strips away from water and other types of liquid, they could lead to a short-circuit and/or electrical shock.
- ALWAYS check the power strips for defects, if they overheat or spark even with no appliances plugged in, discard them according to local environmental regulations.
- ALWAYS keep the power strip away from babies and children.
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I hope these tips would help you choose high quality power strips and use them properly to stay away from electrical fires. Comment below if you have any questions or suggestions about how to choose the right power strip for your need.