Do you have a power strip under your desk? Perhaps you have them all around your house, serving a dual purpose of both increasing the number of plugs at a given place and protecting your electronics from sudden surges. Are these power strips safe? How can you tell one is about to go out? Could you be overloading your power strip?
Don’t Keep Your Power Strip in a Moist Environment
It’s sometimes easy to forget that water and electricity don’t mix very well, and may have fatal repercussions when they do. Keeping a surge protector or power strip away from water, or any liquid for that matter, is essential to not only protecting your valuable electronics, but the safety and well-being of your home and everyone in it. This is especially true of garages that aren’t climate controlled. If you’re going to need a power strip in this part of your house, you should have one hard-wired and secured against a wall by a professional electrician. These secured strips offer the best protection from the elements and have built-in failsafes in the event that moisture and debris contact the plugs. There are some power strips that are rated for use in moist environments, like the Wet Circuit.
Don’t Use a Power Strip Outdoors
Using a surge protector or power strip on an outside outlet is never a good idea, especially during damp days. Being outdoors, the exposed plugs are subject to any number of scenarios that could result in a short or electrocution. Debris falling from trees, bugs, moisture, and other elements commonly found outdoors can make these strips unsafe, and lead to potentially hazardous results. If you’re going to need an outlet outdoors, the best thing to do is to use the one installed (or have one installed) along the outside wall of your home and/or use a power strip rated for outdoor use.
Don’t Daisy Chain Power Strips
This can be one of the most dangerous and least-known hazards associated with the use of a power strip. Daisy chaining (or piggy-backing) power strips can result in serious problems for both your electronics and personal safety should something go wrong on the line. It’s also unwise to put a surge protector or power strip at the end of an extension cord, or put an extension cord after a surge protector or power strip. You should also have no more than one surge protector or power strip plugged in to a single duplex outlet. You risk potentially overloading the circuit, which can be a fire hazard.
Use the Right Power Strips
Before you start using any power strip or surge protector, make sure that it is either UL (Underwriters Laboratory) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories certified. You can usually find a sticker or stamp with these initials on any quality power strip or surge protector. This certification is put in place to maintain a standard of quality and safety for any electrical device in your home. Before you plug it into the wall, it’s a good idea to check for the label. Also, make sure that you are buying a power strip that is rated for the amount of amperage you need. Buying one that’s rated for more amps than you need is a good way to make sure it won’t overload if you plug too many things into it at any given time.
Replace Power Strips at the First Sign of Failure
If the indicator light on your UL or ETL certified power strip or surge protector begins to flicker or goes out, it’s time to replace the power strip. This light indicates safe operation of the strip and should be solidly lit throughout the time of use. Also, if you experience tripped breakers in a certain part of the house more than once, you may want to replace any existing power strips in that section of the house as a precaution.