Updated on 6th December, 2021 by Martin Astley
It’s all too easy to overload electrical sockets; you may plug extension cables into extension cables without a passing thought, never considering that you may be overloading sockets until you notice a slight burning smell, or your fuse box keeps tripping, or until you’re dealing with an electrical home emergency or even a house fire.
Just because an extension plug has space for four sockets doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to use all four sockets, and certainly doesn’t mean it is safe to connect another extension socket to it. Reduce your likelihood of requiring emergency electrical repairs or experiencing a catastrophic fire by considering the following tips:
Know the early warning signs of an electrical fault
A burning smell, perhaps one that reminds you of burning tyres, plastic or metal, indicates that a fuse or plug is heating up beyond safe levels. Any sootiness, dark patches or blackened marks around plug sockets, appliances and cables, or any evidence of melting or sparks, also reveals that an electrical item is creating a fire hazard. If you notice sparks when you remove or insert a plug, or if you suffer a mild electric shock, then there may be a problem with your appliances or your electrical wiring.
Don’t use damaged items
Do not use any plugs or appliances that show signs of fraying or damage, or any with exposed wire, until you have repaired or replaced them.
Understand the ratings of appliance leads
You can see the rating of your extension leads on their back or bottom. Most extension leads sold in the UK have a rating of 13A, but some are rated at 10A. Do not plug in any items if they exceed the rating of the lead – for instance, if you have a 10A-rated extension lead, do not plug in 4 3A items.
Never connect extension leads together
Can you plug an extension lead into an extension lead is an all too common question but combining extension leads puts additional stress on the sockets and fuses – causing them to overheat and catch fire should their safety fuses fail.
Be wary of block adapters
Bar extension leads – the rectangular blocks that usually contain four plug sockets, and are plugged into the wall with a lead – are almost always fused, and therefore should break before they catch alight. Conversely, block adapters – cuboid plugs that typically have two or three plug sockets, and are plugged directly into the wall – are less likely to contain fuses, and therefore are far more likely to become overloaded and catch alight.
Try to avoid using extension leads
Is it really necessary to use the extension lead? Overloading sockets or extension sockets are dangerous. Could you perhaps have another plug socket installed behind the television, or could you rearrange your room so that the computer is not plugged into the same wall socket as the television, DVD player and digital TV box? If you can get away without using extension leads, then do so! Not only will your home be safer, but it will look tidier. If you decide to have another plug socket fitted, ensure that you use a Part P-approved electrician.
Use an overload calculator
This overload calculator allows you to determine whether or not you are exceeding the recommended load of an extension socket.
The Socket Calculator has been brought to you by Electrical Safety First.
For more safety information visit https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk
Still having trouble?
Don’t attempt to make any changes to your electricals if you are unsure or not confident. Some electrical work in the home requires compliance with Part P building control and needs to be done in accordance with BS7671 wiring regulations. Don’t forget – electricity is VERY dangerous and can kill you.
Instead, call 24|7 Home Rescue on 0345 3192 247 and we can help. Our technical teams will run through some very simple troubleshooting with you over the phone to see if your problem can be resolved easily and if not, they will book one of our qualified and highly knowledgeable Part P certified engineers to get you back up and running as soon as possible.
247 Home Rescue accepts no liability for any injuries or damages you sustain following the advice on this website. If in doubt, seek professional assistance.