How many devices can I plug into a surge protector- is a common question people often ask.
Surge protectors are designed for occasional overloads. If you’re plugging and unplugging devices on a regular basis, it’s time to consider replacing the surge protector or using an extension cord to relocate the surge protector away from the wall outlet.
Plugging and Unplugging
Constant plugging and unplugging can cause a problem with the internal connections on surge protectors. When this happens, the protector may continue to work intermittently or stop working altogether.
“We are commonly called out by customers who believe they have wired something wrong when in fact the equipment at fault is their surge protector,” says Trey Cade, regional sales manager for Intermatic Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “If you’re not sure if your equipment’s wiring is correct or if it continues to malfunction even after being checked by a qualified electrician, call your surge protection manufacturer.”
How many devices can I plug into a surge protector? Handy Tips
Intermatic offers these tips for maintaining optimal performance of its residential surge protectors:
- Do not plug or unplug devices while an appliance is on or in the process of being turned on. Electronics such as radios and televisions can have sensitive circuitry that could be damaged by voltage transients generated when a surge protector’s MOVs are tripped. These transients occur when a sudden change occurs in current, such as when an appliance suddenly starts to draw power from a surge protector.
- Always pull the plug rather than yanking on the cord. This helps reduce strain on the internal wiring connections inside the surge protector.
- In bad weather conditions (heavy rain, snow or ice) disconnect outdoor-rated extension cords when not in use to protect them against moisture damage and potential shock hazards during use. For added protection, consider arranging for a qualified electrician to install an outdoor outlet.
- Check the rating of extension cords before use. Only extension cords with UL-approved labels should be used with surge protectors or any other types of home electronics equipment. In addition, make sure to unplug the extension cord from the outlet when not in use.
Not how many, it’s how much
While the number of devices you can plug into an electrical mat is important, it’s more important to check for what current they use. Most of the dangers associated with extension cords and surge protectors occur when a person overloads an electrical mat by plugging too many high-current appliances into it.
Video Credit: Design World
How many devices can I safely plug in?
In general, you should not exceed the total capacity of an electrical mat or power strip by more than 50 percent to avoid overheating. For example, if each of your 12-volt outlets has a 2-amp rating, you should not hook up anything that draws more than 3 amps total.
WalMart offers the following tips for safely using electric mats and power strips:
- Do not overload extension cords or power strips by plugging in too many devices. In general, you should not exceed the current capacity of your electrical mat or power strip by more than 50 percent to avoid overheating. For example, if each of your 12-volt outlets has a 2-amp rating, do not plug into it anything that draws more than 3 amps total. Use larger electric mats or power strips that have higher amperage ratings if you need to plug in several high-current appliances.
- Make sure your extension cords are heavy enough for the amount of electricity running through them. All extension cords sold at Walmart stores are rated for the amount of current they can safely handle. To check this rating, look at the label on the cord that shows how many amps it is rated to safely carry. Also make sure the extension cord has a three-pronged grounding plug that fits into your wall receptacle and outlet properly.
- Use grounded plugs with three prongs to reduce your risk of shock and fire hazards. The third prong in grounded electrical outlets is used as a safety circuit breaker in case too much electricity runs through an extension cord or power strip cord in your home or business; it’s also designed to protect people from shocks if there’s a short between two ungrounded (or “hot”) conductors inside an appliance’s power supply housing.
- Do not use frayed or cracked cords. Improperly wired extension cords can cause fires and electrocution hazards. Never modify the electrical wiring on any cord or remove the third prong from a grounded electrical outlet. If you need to replace an extension cord that is worn out, have it replaced by a qualified electrician. Depending on where you live, this service may be available through your local utility company as part of its public service program or via mail-order catalogs from companies like Sears and Roebuck & Co., which provide kits that let you quickly splice together replacement parts for any type of electrical cord.
- Do not run extension cords through walls, ceilings or floors.
If you need to run an extension cord under a carpeted area, buy a rubber- or plastic-sheathed cord designed to be used in this manner. Otherwise, the wires inside standard extension cords may eventually crack and break due to the weight of furniture on top of them and the forces exerted when people walk over them with heavy shoes; likewise, these forces can cause power supply housings and internal wiring to fray over time if they are laid out on surfaces like bare floors instead of being set upright against a wall where they belong.
You should also avoid running extension cords around door frames or other areas where people could trip over them—particularly if you use thin extension cords with light loads.
- Do not put anything into an extension cord’s grounding connector. This connector—also known as the third prong on a plug or power strip—is intended only for electrical grounds that are connected to your home’s main service panel and circuit breaker panel; you should never insert foreign objects like tape, screws or nails into this part of an extension cord or power strip. This is particularly important if you have young children in your household.
When using power strips, do not overload them by plugging in too many devices at once; you generally shouldn’t exceed a power strip’s total capacity by more than 50 percent. Otherwise, the strain on both the outlets and connecting cables can cause overheating and fires. (If you need to plug in several high-current appliances, buy a power strip that has higher amperage ratings.)
- Never run extension cords under rugs or carpeting. Avoid long strings of multiple plug-in lights running from the same outlet; these types of plugs can get hot enough to melt plastic and rubber coverings. Instead, use electrical timers on Christmas lights or other decorations so you can turn them off when they’re not being used. This will also help your bulbs last longer since they won’t be left burning for extended periods of time every day.
When using a lamp with an extension cord, make sure the weight of the lamp is supported by a metal shade bracket instead of just the cord. (If your lamp does not have a shade, use a base with wheels on it so you can easily roll it away from the wall when the lights are off.)
If you are using long electrical cords in an area where they will be stepped on or jammed under furniture, consider buying power strips with built-in cord shorteners so that only 3 to 4 feet of cord extends from each strip; this way, if someone steps on the cord or bumps into it, he or she won’t pull out more than a few inches and possibly trip over it.
- Do not overload extension cords by plugging too many high-wattage appliances into them. One properly advertised 16/3 extension cord should never be used to supply power to more than three standard household electrical devices, like table lamps or clothes dryers.
This is because the capacity of extension cords (their amperage and voltage ratings) are lower than that of power supplies for most appliances—especially high-wattage ones such as air conditioners, hair dryers and electric ranges. (You may need special heavy-duty plugs for these applications—or you may be able to just use multiple regular plugs split off from a single extension cord.)
For example, if you have an appliance with a rated operating current of 5 amps—like a typical vacuum cleaner or blender—you should buy an extension cord with at least 10 amps worth of current capacity since this would be sufficient to handle your needs.
- Do not strip the insulation off of extension cords to make them longer or fit into a power strip more easily. If your extension cord is too short, buy one with a longer length; never splice together two shorter cords–this could cause overheating and starting a fire. If an electrical device’s plug does not fit tightly into a power strip, use duct tape to hold it in place. (Duct tape is safe for this application because it does not conduct electricity.)
Never connect more than 2 extension cords end-to-end since this can result in voltage loss over long distances that can cause overheating at the appliance end if you try to run high wattage devices like space heaters on these cords.
- Do not plug three-pronged plugs into two-hole outlets or vice versa; if you do, the mismatch can result in sparks that could start a fire. Do not plug surge protectors or other sensitive electronics into extension cords because they will often overheat and malfunction due to the extra voltage drop of a long cable run combined with higher than normal electrical demand on them.
If you need to use an extension cord for these kinds of devices, make sure they are rated for high operating voltages (like those found on appliances like air conditioners and dryers) so that there is less voltage loss down the length of the cord.
When using large tools such as power drills or table saws, be sure to use power strips with built-in circuit breakers on the outlets, or a long cord with one end plugged into a properly grounded three-pronged outlet and the other end going directly to the tool. Do not plug any extension cords into these kinds of outlets. If you do, you risk tripping the breaker inside the strip if your tool draws too much current as it is starting up; this will cause an opportunity for fire if there are sparks from that contact.
- Always unplug electronics like televisions or computers when they’re not being used to avoid having them start up unexpectedly and burn out their internal components. Leave them turned off until you need to use them again so that nothing in your home’s electrical system gets damaged.
- If an appliance has a detachable cord, do not separate the wires inside it, especially if they have colored insulation on them. Never remove a crimp connector or screw each wire onto its own terminal; these kinds of repairs are only for qualified electricians who know what they’re doing and how to properly handle exposed power lines.
A bad repair can result in electrical shorts that could cause fire. When unplugging electronics like computers or printers from their wall outlets, always grip the plug firmly and pull steadily straight out to avoid bending any prongs in the outlet over which could lead to sparks and fire when you re-insert it into another outlet later on. Do not try to jiggle it back and forth to remove it if you accidentally damaged an outlet or prong; this can also create sparks.
If you have a hair dryer, space heater, toaster oven or other appliance that is too big for a power strip, but need to plug it in somewhere where there are no nearby outlets, consider buying a long extension cord and using it with these kinds of devices instead. Or buy an AC/DC converter/charger so that your device can be plugged into the 12 volt DC input on your vehicle’s lighter socket. (These converters are safer because they convert any excess voltage into heat rather than releasing it onto electronics like computers.)
In addition to preventing fires caused by overloaded electrical circuits, doing all of these things will also save you energy and money on your power bill.
Stay safe, stay warm, and stay informed!