Homes and workplaces across the US are full of power gadgets, appliances, and tools that utilize electricity as a power source. However, not even the most efficiently designed living and work spaces have enough power outlets to power each device independently.
Therefore, power strips are a must-have electrical accessory, helping power multiple devices from one power outlet. Nonetheless, one survey on home safety established that 3300 home fires started with a power cord.
The survey’s results suggest limited consumer knowledge on proper and safer power strip use. Therefore, below is a guide to power strips and using them safely.
- Power Strips Differ From Extension Cords and Surge Protectors
Although individuals erroneously use the terms power strips and extension cords interchangeably, the two are different electrical accessories. A power strip is the ideal electric accessory when electrical appliances in proximity demand more wall receptacles than available. And, if that’s the case, consider checking right angle power strip plugs.
On the other hand, extension cords help supply electric power to devices positioned some distance from a primary power outlet. Extension cords have up to 30ft in cable, and cable length is a primary consideration when purchasing one.
Second, power strips are usable for the long-term installation of multiple sockets because it is possible to hardwire them into the central electric system. In contrast, the Occupational and Safety Administration (OSHA) only permits extension cords used for temporary wiring installations not exceeding three months.
Besides extension cords, power strips also share appearances with surge protectors but have different applications. Although surge protectors also feature multiple plugs to supply several gadgets within proximity with power, their primary purpose is “clamping”/ suppressing power surges.
Therefore, surge protectors feature joule ratings, showing the amount of electric current they can suppress during a power surge. A higher joule figure means the surge protector is more effective in protecting plugged devices against power surges. In contrast, power stips do not feature a joule rating, although some models feature integrated surge protectors.
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- The Number Of Ports On A Power Strip Matters
A power strip’s primary purpose is to power multiple gadgets within proximity. Therefore, the ideal power strip for your application should have enough power ports to support the number of devices you need. Second, the strip should have enough spaces between plugs to prevent wider plugs from blocking adjacent ports.
Having the ideal number of ports prevents you from resorting to daisy-chaining multiple power strips or power strips and extension cords. Daisy chains are a fire hazard because they increase the risk of electric overload. Power strips can have anywhere between two and over 20 ports per strip.
- A Power Strip Should Match Plugged Appliances’ Wattage.
Standard power strips have wattage capacities compatible with the standard 120V-240V available in US homes and workplaces. However, the wattage varies between different devices; therefore, ensure the devices plugged into your power strip do not exceed the strip’s recommended wattage to avoid an overload.
Some devices fall within the category of appliances that you should never plug into a power strip for safety reasons. Such devices include large devices with high power demands and devices that cycle on and off, requiring immense energy each time they power back. Most kitchen appliances, hair dryers, and blowers can overheat a power strip and require a dedicated power source.
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- Integrated Safety Features Are Vital
Responsible power strip use goes a long way in ensuring your life and property’s safety. However, purchasing high-grade power strips with integrated safety features also helps keep you safe.
Such integrated safety features include surge protectors to suppress voltage spikes and circuit breakers to impede current flow during an overload, preventing possible fires. Also, some power strips feature overload protectors, and others have the automated shutoff function activated when plugged-in devices shut off or go into standby mode.
- Some Power Strips Have Outdoor Ratings
Ideally, you should not use power strips outdoors because, unlike outdoor-rated extension cords, most power strips do not have an ideal ingress protection (IP) or rating for outdoor use. Therefore, using them outdoors, especially when exposed to water, may result in damage or, worse, an electrocution incident. Therefore, consider using a power strip with an IP65 outdoor rating if you intend to use it outdoors.
- Some Power Strips Have Specialized Industry Applications
While power strips have a more or less similar appearance, some have specialized applications to meet the power needs of specific devices in specified institutions. A good example is hospital-grade power strips fitted with specialized features like Load Monitoring Inform technology. Load-monitoring technology automatically tracks the wattage consumption in plugged-in devices, preventing the power strip from exceeding its 75% power limit.
Besides hospital-grade power strips, server room power strips for rack equipment are available. Therefore, research into if power strips created for your intended application exists.
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- Not All Power Strips Are Made Equal
The power stips available on the market have different specifications, including current rating, nominal voltage/voltage class, and safety features. Moreover, secondary characteristics like an energy star rating and certification listings speak to the product’s quality. Therefore, consider your intended use, primary specifications, and secondary features when purchasing a power strip.
Learning power strip purchase guidelines and appropriate use is the first step towards keeping your home safe. Therefore, follow the guide above to avoid possible electrical accidents that may cause property damage, bodily harm, or even death.