Power strips and extension cords are just a fact of modern life. We have so many appliances, tools, and toys that need power, and only so many outlets.
What’s the Difference Between a Power Strip & an Extension Cord?
Put simply enough, power strips are the ones that are one length of cable that has a plug on one end and a row of sockets embedded in a plastic box on the other. Extension cords, however, have a similar setup but are typically much longer, less stable, and only feature two or three plugs. Extension cords are designed to be used for hours at most, and should never be used for days, whereas a strip can handle a few days.
Using a power strip is pretty much plug and play. But, there are a lot of things that people may not know about them, or that the box might not directly state. Keep in mind the following when using your power strip:
They are designed to handle multiple small loads. Power strips were developed so that you can power a radio in conjunction with your lamp, or a computer can stay powered while you plug in your tablet. They are not designed to handle even a single major appliance like a space heater or power tool.
They have different voltage ratings. Make sure you pick out a strip that meets your needs. Exceeding the maximum safe voltage of a strip can mean electrical fires or blown out appliances.
They aren’t intended for extended use. Even though they can handle a couple of days, or even a week or two, they aren’t designed as a workaround for proper electrical outlets. They lack the stability and longevity and will eventually fail, potentially taking your devices with it. If you need more plug sockets that frequently, get new outlets and circuits installed in your home!
They should have a surge protection device. Surge protection devices are usually indicated both on the box and by a small light/switch indicator. This simple but important device protects your equipment if a surge or short occurs.
They should never be plugged into other or additional power extension devices. Chaining multiple power extenders together is like trying to build a house of cards, except the cards keep getting smaller, flimsier, and less stable. It’s one of the quickest ways to find yourself with an electrical fire or appliance damage.