Safety with Outdoor Extension Cords

Whenever the weather gets nice, it’s a ritual to begin or continue yard work and ambitious outdoor projects. With the aid of outdoor extension cords, many people have already been mowing, trimming and tackling outdoor tasks for several weeks. When using these cords, it is extremely important to use them properly and safely to avoid hazards. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 400 people are electrocuted each year using electrical appliances and about 9 percent of electrocutions involve the use of lawn and garden equipment and ladders.

The most common question regarding outdoor extension cords is: Extension cords are classified for either indoor or outdoor use. What’s the difference between the two?

Simply but importantly, the insulation, or jacket, of an outdoor-rated extension cord is made of a tougher material, which is designed to withstand temperature changes, moisture, ultraviolet rays and some chemicals. While it’s fine to use an outdoor power cord indoors, never use an indoor-rated extension cord for an outside job— doing so could cause electric shock or create a fire hazard.

So whether you’re doing routine yard work or a special outdoor project, following these tips can help protect you, your family and home from harm.

  • Use only weather-resistant heavy gauge extension cords marked “for outdoor use.” These extension cords have connectors molded onto them to prevent moisture from seeping in and the outer coatings are designed to withstand being dragged along the ground. In addition, these cords have added safeguards designed to withstand the outdoor environment.
  • Examine cords before each use — damaged cords should be replaced immediately.
  • Even though they’re rated for outdoor use, keep all outdoor extension cords clear of standing water and protected from the elements.
  • Keep your work area clean and free from debris.
  • Store cords inside when not in use. If left outside for long periods, the materials that make up the cord can break down and cause dangers such as sparking, fire or possible shock.
  • Do not hang cords over items such as nails, beams and pipes which can cause stress on the covering.
  • To prevent overheating, do not cover cords with cloth, paper or any other material while plugged in.
  • Extend the cord fully while in use — coiled cords risk the danger of overheating.

Be mindful to keep outdoor wall receptacle covers closed when not in use because moisture causes hazards when you are using an extension cord outdoors. When moisture enters an electrical circuit, it can short out the circuit and cause an electrical fire or electrocution. Using these precautionary tips for outdoor extension cords can help you stay safe while being productive.