Extension cords are widely used to connect electric devices to power sources. And also used outdoors to power speakers, lights, and other entertainment activities. While useful, they also cause fires and electric shock if not used properly.
Extension cords should not be used in wet conditions as they pose a significant electrical hazard. Water can cause electrical shorts, damage electrical devices, and even fire hazards. However, you can use an outdoor-rated cord in damp conditions, provided you plug it into a GFCI outlet and keep the cord elevated from the water.
In this article, you will learn the hazards of using wet extension cords and the IP ratings of the extension cords.
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What if my extension cord gets wet?
Extension cords are used for extensive purposes, both indoor and outdoor. The impact would differ Based on the extension cord you use.
There are two common types of extension cords
Here is what happens when the indoor extension cord gets wet.
Indoor extension cords are not designed to tolerate wetness.
So it is not wise to dump indoor extension cords into wet conditions.
Electrical elocution is possible when extension cords get wet when plugged in.
So, immediately after the extension cord gets wet, you must unplug it from the electric outlet.
When the extension cord is not plugged into the electric outlet, a mineral and the liquid cannot conduct electricity.
Indoor extension cords are not wet-rated.
But they come with a waterproof quality for safety purposes.
If the extension cord got wet excessively, here are the common threads
- Short circuit: a short circuit will cause overheating, sparking, and can even cause a fire. It is because the water in the extension cord will create a path for the electricity to flow in a different direction.
- Electric shock: a wet extension cord will conduct electricity, and when someone touches it, they will get an electric shock.
- Damages to the electric devices: if the extension cord gets wet when plugged in, it will cause damage to the device connected to the extension cord.
So, it is crucial to keep the indoor extension cord dry.
Unplug it immediately from the outlet if it gets wet due to unexpected situations.
What happens when the outdoor extension cord gets wet?
An outdoor extension cord is specifically designed to be used in outdoor areas with a tolerance for wet conditions.
Outdoor extension cords have a mark on them to be identified as a wet-proof product, which will protect the extension cord from causing any threads due to exposure to the moisture environment.
If you are using an extension cord in the outdoor area, ensure that you have purchased an outdoor extension cord.
The water tolerance capacity of the extension cord will differ based on type and brand.
You must check the owner’s manual of your purchased extension cord to see how much tolerance is provided for your extension cord.
You must ensure that even the outdoor extension cord is not exposed to too much moisture or wet condition it can tolerate.
If the extension cord is exposed to more moisture than it can tolerate, it will cause hazards like electric shock, short circuits, or damage to the electrical devices.
The dangers of using wet extension cords
Elocution and fire are the two main threads of using wet extension cords.
When someone touches the wet extension cord plugged into the electric outlet, it can cause elocution.
The severity of the injury to the person will depend on the voltage.
If the voltage supplied to the particular electric outlet is low, it will only cause minor injuries.
If the voltage is high, the elocution can be fatal.
One can avoid this by using the right extension cord when one knows it will be exposed to wet conditions.
And it is not recommended to use indoor extension cords for outdoor purposes.
When you plug a wet extension cord into the electrical device, it will cause a short circuit.
When a short circuit happens, the wires will start melting, and an overload will be caused in the outlet.
It will result in fire.
When there is moisture in the electric outlet, it increases the flow of current in it.
The wires will also catch fire when there is no fuse.
So, having a GFCI extension cord is essential to avoid such occurrences because GFCI extension cords will shut down immediately after sensing if the electricity is running on water.
Understanding IP ratings
IP ratings refer to the ingress protection rating.
They indicate the protection the extension cord provides against liquid and solid foundations.
The IP ratings are displayed with the symbol IP followed by a two-digit number.
For example, IP23.
The first number digit refers to the protection against solid materials, and the second digit refers to the protection against liquid.
The first digit indicates the protection against solid objects
0 – refers to no protection for solid objects.
1 – refers to protecting against a solid object larger than 50mm in diameter.
2 – refers to protecting against a solid object larger than 12.5 mm in diameter.
3 – refers to protecting against a solid object larger than 2.5 mm in diameter.
4 – refers to protecting against a solid object larger than 1 mm in diameter.
5 – refers to the protection against dust.
6 – refers to complete protection against dust.
The second digit refers to the protection against liquid
0 – refer to the no liquid protection
1 – refers to the protection against vertically falling liquid.
2 – refers to the protection against vertically falling liquids up to 15 degrees.
3 – refers to protecting against water falling up to 60 degrees.
4 – refers to the protection against water falling from any direction.
5 – refers to water protection from spraying in any direction. Especially low-pressure water flow.
6 – refers to protection against heavy water flow.
7 – provides protection when an extension cord is immersed in water up to a particular depth and duration, which will be mentioned in the manual.
8 – Provide protections even when the extension cord is submerged continuously.
You can understand the IP id in your extension cord using these.
Types of extension cords suitable for wet conditions
There are many types of extension cords available for use in wet conditions.
Here are some of the common types of them.
Outdoor-rated extension cords
These extension cords are specially designed for use outdoors, especially in wet conditions.
They are built with water-resistant and robust materials to withstand moisture and weather.
They also have thick outer covering to protect from physical damage.
Water-resistant extension cords
These types of extension cords are built with water resistance but are not fully waterproof.
These types of extension cords must not be submerged in water.
They only protect against moisture and slight rain.
And these extension codes are made with a special outer covering or a jacket to repel water.
If they are exposed to heavy rain, they may cause hazards like electric shock or short circuits.
Waterproof extension cords
These waterproof extension cords are made in a way to provide protection against heavy water intrusion.
They can withstand heavy rain, slashed, and shorter immersion in water.
But these extension cords must not be immersed in water for long.
And these extension cords come with special constructions, namely covered plugs, heavy-duty insulation, and connectors.
These extraordinary constructions prevent water from entering the electric conductors.
GFCI extension cords
GFCI expands as a Ground fault circuit interrupter.
GFCI extension cords have a built-in capacity to protect against electric elocution or short circuit when used in wet conditions.
These extension cords have a GFCI fixed in the cord, designed to monitor the electric current continuously.
A GFCI device shuts off the power when it detects an abnormality in the ground current.
If you have planned to use extension cords, especially in wet conditions, you must use GFCI cords.
Twist-lock extension cords
A twist lock extension connection means a watertight connection between the cord and the electric outlet will be given.
This extension cord contains special plugs and sockets to twist, lock, and unlock.
It will provide complete protection from electric shock and is much more reliable for outdoor use.
Tips for using extension cords in wet conditions:
When using extension cords in wet conditions, follow the tip below to prevent any hazards.
Using a power cord shield
You will need a knife, drill, and a container to shield your power cord.
Make sure the container is large to fit the large extension cord.
Follow the steps below to shield your power cord.
- Using a drill, create holes at the back side of the container.
- Now, insert the extension cord through the hole. And keep doing it until the extension cord is fully covered.
- If necessary, you can widen the holes using a knife. Keep the cord and container in alignment to prevent any part of the extension cord from getting exposed to moisture.
Use plastic wrap
You can protect the extension cord with plastic wrap.
You can buy a plastic wrap from a nearby store to protect the cord.
Wrap the cord using plastic wrap.
It will help to prevent the water or moisture from getting in contact with the cord.
It will also help prevent electric shock.
Using a power cord protector
You can use a tube to protect the extension cord from rain and moisture.
The bicycle’s inner tube will be the right fit to cover the extension cord.
Cut the bicycle tube from one end and insert the extension cord into the tube.
After inserting it, you can use an electric tape to hold the extension tube in one place.
Using an extension cord cover
An extension cord cover will be available in the local stores and online.
Extension cord cover bags can cover all the wires in different locations.
You can also cut the bags to use them in different locations outdoors.
Using a bottle methods
The bottle method requires a box cutter, soda bottle, scissors, and sharp tools to cut the bottle.
Get a soda bottle and cut it using a sharp-edged tool.
Use a scissor to make a hole at the end of the bottle and let the wires hang.
This way, you can protect your extension cord from rain and moisture.
Maintenance and storage of extension cords
After using extension cords, it is vital to store them more safely.
- Unplug the extension cord from the electrical outlet, roll it, and put it in the package as it was while you opened it. Hand the package in a safer place out of reach of children.
- Keep extension cords away from a place where water and snow accumulate.
- Store extension cords in ventilated space. Because heat can build up, potentially damaging the insulation, while storing the extension cords without use for a long time, check them for any cracks and damage.
- It would be best if you did not overload the extension cords. Loading more devices than it can accommodate will result in overheating, melting, and may cause a fire.
- Keep them away from chemical exposure. Also, store them where they will not come in contact with sharp tools and physical damage.
- While storing them for the longest time, clean them regularly using a dry cloth to remove dust accumulation.
- Regularly inspect the connectors and plug of the extension cord for any damages. Replace it immediately if there are any faults.
Typical scenarios where extension cords can get wet
Here are the common scenarios in which extension cords can get wet.
- During outdoor use.
- In the construction sites, during mixing, plumbing, or washing works.
- When extension cords are used in garages and workshops. They can get wet during washing vehicles or plumbing work.
- During natural calamities like floods and storms.
- During maintenance work.
In all these scenarios, it is essential to protect them before getting in contact with water.
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Extension cords are widely used in households both indoors and outdoors. They provide flexibility to reach the power source for the devices. They are also used for outdoor activities like gardening, outdoor entertainment, and landscaping.
They can get wet when exposed to water and moisture in such situations. Extension cords are made of conductors, plugs, connectors, insulation, sheath, and cord grip. When they come in contact with water, one or other part of the cord may get damaged.
It will also cause electric shock, shock circuits, and fire. You can follow the tips and tricks mentioned in the article to prevent extension cords from water exposure.
Can you use an extension cord after it gets wet?
An extension cord is a basic device with no complicated circuit inside. You should expect minimal or zero damage if your extension cord gets wet, so long as it’s powered off quickly and dried off completely before use.
Is it OK to leave the extension cord on overnight?
Extension cords do not use electricity when they are plugged in but not in use. However, potential dangers are associated with leaving extension cords plugged in, such as fire hazards, shocks, and trip and fall hazards. So it’s always best to unplug them when not in use.
How many days can you use an extension cord?
It would be best if you considered an essential element of electrical safety in the workplace — the safe use of extension cords. The crucial thing to remember is that extension cords are for temporary use (up to 90 days). You can Install permanent wiring in the conduit when usage is no longer temporary.
Reference: Extention cord Wikipedia