Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Alarm New England

We can never have enough plugs for our dozens of juice-hungry devices. Multiple power strips are pretty much essential.

But despite being commonplace in the home, these little plastic gadgets can be extremely dangerous when used improperly or when they malfunction. Surge protectors can actually cause electrical fires. According to the ESFI, over 3,300 home fires originate in extension cords and power strips each year, killing 50 people and injuring 270 more.

power strip burned home safety tips

After hearing harrowing stories from our customers of burn-outs and near-catastrophes stemming from extension cords, we want to make sure everyone knows the best practices they should follow to minimize the risks.

Here are the home safety tips you need to know about power strips to protect your belongings from fire:

1. Know the limits of your power strip.

Your power strip can only draw so much electricity without getting overloaded. When you overload your powerstrip, that’s when you get the sparks a-flyin’ and in a matter of seconds your upholstery is going up in flames.

Usually, the manufacturer will clarify how much their power strip can handle on the package somewhere with a series of numbers.

For example, the “AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip, 790 Joule – White” has the following specifications:

“AC 15A, 125V, 60Hz, 1875W”

The important number is the number of watts this thing can handle: 1875. If you draw more than 1875 watts, you’ll overload the power strip. If you’re lucky, you just end up with nasty burn marks and a molten plastic mess. Others have lost their entire houses to fires started by power strips. To be safe, you should never push your circuits to the limit.

2. Know how much power your devices are using.

Most devices like phone chargers, TVs, clock radios, hair dryers, and laptop computers won’t come anywhere close to drawing that much power, so if you’re mostly just plugging in smaller appliances into your surge protectors, you’re probably pretty safe.

Power-hungry machines like:

  • window air conditioners
  • dehumidifiers
  • space heaters
  • high-end gaming/productivity PCs

all have the potential to overwhelm a cheap power strip that’s already under a lot of strain because they don’t just draw a lot of power, they draw it continuously (over 3 hours of use).

Are power strips a fire hazard?

Power strips can be a major fire hazard under certain circumstances. Remember that when using devices like these that draw continuous power, the maximum load your power strip can take will be reduced by about 20 percent, so your 1875-watt power strip can only handle 1400 watts of continuous power safely.

Before you plug any of these appliances into a power strip, glance over the packaging or do some research on the manufacturer website to make sure the math checks out. Avoid plugging multiple power-hungry devices into the same power strip. When in doubt, consult an expert.

Don’t daisy-chain your power strips/extension cords together.

extension cord power strips

A floor covered in cable spaghetti isn’t just ugly; this kind of daisy chains set-up is a serious fire hazard.

The wires inside power strips tend to be cheap and lower quality than the wires you find in your walls, so when you start chaining power strips, you lose a lot of electricity capacity in the process. Plugging in an appliance with high power usage will heat up those low-quality wires until they burst into flames.

3. Get a smoke detector

The best way to stop a fire is to catch it before it gets out of control. We can’t always be at home to watch over our power strips 24/7, so for the moments when we’re not around, smoke detectors can pick up the slack. They’ll give you peace of mind about other fire hazards too.

Smoke detectors are great for protecting your home, but fires caused by power strips are hardly the only safety threat in the home. Smoke detectors are most effective when combined with a security system and alarm monitoring to ensure fast response times from police and fire departments. Talk to a security company near you to learn more about what steps you can take to protect your home.