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extension cords

Posted by kwhoughton (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 30, 11 at 19:42

I just read the following: "Article 400 of the NEC specifically forbids the use of extension cords as a substitute for permanent wiring. The U.S. Office of Compliance limits the use of an extension cord for any single application to 90 days."

Does that mean that If I have a lamp on a dresser and the cord isn't long enough to reach the outlet, that I can't use an extension cord? Does it mean that I have to rewire all plug in items when the cord is too short? Is my power strip that all my computer stuff plugs permanently into illegal also?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: extension cords

It depends on the context and credibility/authority of the writer.

For instance - "The US dollar is worthless, send all of yours to me". Are you going to?

Cite your source and then perhaps a more useful answer will be forthcoming.


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RE: extension cords

U.S. Office of Compliance ????
Never heard of them, outside of a couple of urban legends.


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RE: extension cords

Regardless of the OP's quote (which sounds like horse dung), extension cords are intended for temporary use. I don't know if this is actually cited in Article 400 or not. That is why the NEC has specific receptacle spacing requirements - so a device with a standard 6 foot cord can reach a receptacle without the need for an extension cord.
Extension cords that are not overloaded, and kept out of harm's way (not under rugs, getting slammed in doors, chewed by pets, etc.) will probably not cause a problem, but they are still meant for temporary use.
Many house fires are caused by overloaded or frayed extension cords, especially in hot and cold temperatures when people use air conditioners or space heaters.
I don't think you need to worry about your computer power strip. Just be sure that the cord is protected from damage, and that unused receptacles are blocked off with child-proof caps. On some power strips, you can rotate the unused reeptacles 90 degrees to block them off. This helps defend against spilled drinks, curious pets, etc.


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RE: extension cords

"...so a device with a standard 6 foot cord can reach a receptacle without the need for an extension cord. "

Except there is not such "standard."

The Office of Compliance is a Congressional office that is their version of OSHA (since OSHA has no jurisdiction over Congress) for workplace safety rules ... like extension cords.

Neither they nor OSHA have any jurisdiction over residences, except the extent you may have employees working in your home.


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RE: extension cords

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that a 6-foot cord was somehow mandated. Please substitute "popular-length" for "standard."


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RE: extension cords

There's also some difference between "extension cords" and power supply strips with fuses or circuit breakers. An extension cord will carry electricity to the point of failure either of the device connected to it or the cord itself (melting, arcing, etc.). A power supply strip has a breaker which is designed to kill the electrical supply to devices connected to it in the event of an overcharge/overdraw on either end. Our city will not permit extension cords as code, but they will permit fused/breakered power strips.


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RE: extension cords

"Our city will not permit extension cords as code, but they will permit fused/breakered power strips."

Sounds like 'innovative' code interpretation.

If the power strip is fastened in place every AHJ I deal with requires it to be hard-wired.

It is very hard to enforce rules against extension cords, since temporary is in the eye of the use.

An AHJ will have a very hard time proving a cord is not temporary (unless they find it caked with dust maybe).


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RE: extension cords

I did not speak accurately when I said power strips met "code" -- a power strip is an allowable exception to (local) code which does not require a formally-requested, approved variance. Our inspector told me they did not write up power strips as a potential fire hazard as they would extension cords.

It might very well be "creative", but in the older housing stock around here (lots of houses from the late 1800s through the 1930s), outlets aren't exactly in profusion though electricity-demanding devices certainly are. Better a breakable link than a wire which has few limits on what it can carry.


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RE: extension cords

"It might very well be "creative", but in the older housing stock around here (lots of houses from the late 1800s through the 1930s), outlets aren't exactly in profusion though electricity-demanding devices certainly are."

1800s is still pretty new stuff.

Even using strips (with their less than reliable breakers) is pushing things an awful lot.

Most of the strips are Chinese made and very poorly done.

I have added additional receptacles and outlets in houses dating to the 1720s with little damage or trouble.

It just takes more time to fish instead of tearing into walls to gain access.

The 3-story town houses are often the worst though.

By combining a plumbing update with an electrical update a single lower floor stud cavity can be opened and all the upgrades run to the upper floors, then branched out using the attic.

It does take some special equipment though.

I have drill extensions over ten feet long in 48 inch pieces (with a few 24 inch sections thrown in) long before flex bits cam on the market.

I can drill with a hole saw over 8 feet away for larger cables.


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