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Why Do Extension Cords Get Hot? – 6 Causes & Solutions

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

why do extension cords get hot

When an extension cord overheats, it creates a hazard that can lead to fire and electrocution. Most of the time, this accident is a result of negligence and improper usage.

If you wonder “Why do extension cords get hot?” then this article is for you. Here are some of the reasons your extension incurs damage as well as how you can avoid such a problem.

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List of Reasons Why Extension Cord Gets Hot

1. Overloading

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One of the most prevalent reasons for overheating is an overloaded extension cord. This occurs when you plug in electronics that surpass the cord’s current rating.

It also happens when you use a multi-outlet power strip or link two or more extension cords together. Although these practices enable you to use many devices simultaneously and expand the length of the cord, they may push the cable to work past its limit.

On the other hand, certain electronics can also make the extension cord hot, even if only one of them is running. Specifically, gadgets such as space heaters and air conditioners consume a substantial amount of current.

In this case, using one or two low-power devices at a time or using a heavy-duty cord is better. Also, it would be best to know your device’s power rating before plugging it into your extension.

2. Damaged Extension Cord

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Damaged electrical cords are another typical cause of overheating. Any wear and tear along the cable, including the terminal connections at both the male and female ends, can cause overheating and sometimes short circuits or electrical shocks.

Rough or improper use of cords is the most common cause of damage. However, we cannot deny that wires naturally lose durability over time, especially if used more often. It is good to always check your connections before and after usage.

3. Loose Plug and Outlet Connection

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Overheating can also result from connecting a loose plug to the extension cord’s socket.

Other than the loose part getting hot, you may also encounter sudden sparks and an unstable energy supply for your devices. This hot plug causes a fire or harm to your appliances, so it should be fixed or replaced with a new one as soon as possible.

4. Using Indoor Rated Wires for Outdoor Application

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Using your extension cord for unsuitable applications, such as indoor-rated wires for outdoor use, will most certainly cause overheating. An indoor-rated cable has thin insulation that is more easily damaged under different weather conditions outside.

As a result, you should always use only the appropriate extension type in each application. This way, it’s possible to avoid overheating and ensure extension cord safety regardless of the weather.

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5. Using Ungrounded Extension Cord

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People often don’t try to ground extension cords. However, the 3-pin plug get hot mostly when it is connected to an ungrounded power source. The current may accumulate on the cord or in the device, particularly when you first disconnect them, at which point you can get electrocuted.

If ungrounded, extension cords dangerous accidents like ground faults may happen. Hence, it is a smart idea to always connect them to a GFCI outlet for added security.

6. Using Rugs as a Cover

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Covering your extension cord to protect it from damage is a good idea, but hiding it with rugs is not.

This practice will cause the cord to gets warm, potentially leading to overheating. Cord hiders, such as a floor cover or cable concealer, are better choices for shielding cables in any room of your home.

Ways to Fix a Hot Electrical Cord

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An overheated extension cord is easy to repair. However, it is preferable first to determine the source of the overheating. If you mistakenly overload an extension cord and it becomes hot, unplug it right away to avoid further harm.

It’s also a good idea to calculate the total loads of the items you wish to connect to your extension cord and see if it can handle them. In this case, the formula Ampere=Watts/volt may be useful for determining the load of each electronic device. Then, you can add all amperes up and compare the total to the extension cord’s rating.

However, if overheating is due to a damaged part, splicing and covering the cable with electrical tape is not a suitable solution and may violate NEC standards. This trick will also increase the dangers of extension cords, as tape may soon wear out and cause problems.

Instead of splicing, you can stop a plug overheating by replacing the damaged part with a new one. Simply purchase a new component, cut out the defective part, connect the wire properly to the replacement, secure it, and you’re done. Your extension cord is now ready to use and as good as new.

Note: To avoid an extension cord fire hazard, make sure their parts match each other in ratings.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is it Normal for Extension Cords to Get Hot?

Normally, an extension cord gets hot when plugged in and running a high-powered device. However, it should not get hot if you only use a low-load appliance. Always remember that misusing an extension cord, such as overloading it, may lead to potential hazards and the risk of an electrical fire.

How Do I Tell If an Extension Cord is Overloaded?

As stated above, overloading the extension cord can heat it up. Therefore, if your extension cord becomes too hot while using, you can say that you plugged a device with too high of a rating into it.

In this case, you must use a bigger cable or plug your device directly into the wall outlet. This way, you can prevent damaging the extension cable, which can cause accidents and injuries.

How Many Things Can You Connect to an Extension Cord?

There are no specific numbers of devices or equipment you can plug into an extension cord. Generally, the rating of an extension determines the limit of devices you can use.

This means that you can plug innumerable appliances into your cable, as long as their current ratings do not exceed the cord’s rating.

Conclusion

Knowing why do extension cords get hot will help you detect problems in your electrical connection. At this point, the guide I provided above might be helpful as your quick-fix solution.

Always ensure that your extension cords are in good condition all the time. If you see any damage on them, it is best to replace them with new cables or call a professional for repair. Do not try to fix the plugs or wires by yourself, unless you have enough knowledge of electrical connections.

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