Socket & Extension Lead Safety

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Socket Safety

With appliances, machinery, and gadgets all working on electricity, the sockets you have in your home or office may not be enough to meet the demand. This often results in overburdening the sockets and using extension leads.

Just because extension leads have the capacity to squeeze in four plugs doesn’t mean that it is safe to do so. There are several things you need to take into consideration, such as how much power your appliances require and whether or not the socket and extension lead will be able to bear it.

The overburdening and misuse of sockets and extension leads can cause the plug to overheat and possibly start a fire.

To help you stay safe and keep your home and office electrics in good working condition, you need to practice a few safety measures when it comes to sockets and extension leads. Read on to find out more:


Extension leads are convenient gadgets that are a must-have in every home and office. The reason is that they increase the number of appliances you can plug into a wall socket and keep all of them running at the same time.

They are also extremely useful when it comes to using electrical items with a relatively short cable, such as portable lamps.

While they are safe to use, you need to make sure they are used properly and do not result in sparks and electrical fires, both of which are serious safety issues.

Ensuring your property has adequate sockets at convenient points can minimise the need for extension leads, but oftentimes, their use will be unavoidable.

Following are some of the most common issues with sockets and extension leads:


Overloading is the most common and dangerous issue with using extension leads. It happens when several high-current appliances are plugged into the extension lead at the same time, or by plugging one extension lead into another.

Damage to cables

Another common issue with extension leads is that they are often damaged by people walking over them, by passing the cables through doors and windows, or due to contact with moving furniture. This results in damaged and exposed internal wiring which can be a shock risk.

Tripping or falling

Since extension leads have long cables, they usually go across rooms and become a serious tripping hazard. The chances of someone tripping over an extension cord and injuring themselves are high, which is why they must be placed strategically so that they aren’t in anyone’s way.


To make sure extension lead use doesn’t turn into a safety hazard, there are a few precautionary measures you can take to keep yourself and your property safe.

You can avoid overloading sockets and minimise the risk of fires due to using extension leads by practising the following safety tips:

  • Avoid using cheap extension leads and always buy good-quality ones from a reputable retailer.
  • Check the current rating of the extension lead marked on the underside before plugging in any appliances. Most are rated 13A but some are 10A or less.
  • Never overload the extension lead by plugging in high-power appliances at once, which may exceed the maximum current rating.
  • Never plug an extension lead into another extension lead and only use one extension lead per socket.
  • Use extension leads no longer than 15 metres in length.
  • Use a multi-way extension lead rather than a block adapter as the latter puts more strain on the wall socket.
  • Use extension leads fitted with insulated connectors and plugs.
  • Position the extension lead carefully to prevent any damage to the cable and minimise the risk of tripping over it and falling.
  • Remove and replace any damaged sockets, plugs, and extension leads.
  • Consider having extra sockets installed on your property if you regularly rely on extension leads and adaptors.
  • Hire a registered electrician to carry out any socket installation work.

Other than the aforementioned safety tips, you need to be vigilant while using extension leads and check for the following danger signs:

  • Damaged or frayed cables.
  • Sparks or smoke coming out of the extension lead or the appliance attached to it.
  • Smell of hot plastic or burning near the extension cord or socket.
  • Melted plastic on the extension casing or lead.
  • Discolouration or scorch marks near the socket or lead.
  • Exposed coloured wire inside the leads.
  • Fuses and circuit breakers tripping for no reason.


A home or office has several different types of appliances that use varying amounts of power. When determining how many appliances you can plug into an extension lead, you need to take two things into consideration:

  • The current rating of the socket and extension lead, and
  • The power requirement of the appliances you need to plug into it.

Most extension leads can handle a maximum of 13 amps or 3kW, while smaller ones can only handle 10 amps or less. Keeping this in mind, the extension leads should not be overloaded with high-current appliances such as kettles, portable heaters, and microwaves.

An electric kettle consumes a lot of power and can max out the capacity all on its own. Similarly, a washing machine and dishwasher plugged into a socket or extension lead at the same time would also go above the recommended amount. Appliances such as refrigerators and lamps are better suited to sharing a socket.

Here is a list to give you a general idea of how much power common portable appliances consume:

Portable applianceAmps usedWatts used
Laptop< 0.565 – 100
Printer< 0.550
Desktop computer3.0700
42” television0.5120

If you are in doubt about which appliances to plug into an extension and in what combination, you can check this socket calculator to see if you are exceeding the maximum load.


A surge protector is a device or appliance designed to protect your electrical appliances from voltage spikes resulting in an increase in the voltage above the designated flow of electricity.

Power surges are most commonly caused by direct lightning strikes, internal tripping events, and a high-energy inrush. They can happen anytime and can often go unnoticed, showing the effects when the damage has already been done.

If a surge of electricity passes through a socket, it can damage the items that are plugged in and may cause permanent damage.

To prevent this from happening, surge protection devices are used to stop the increased power to flow through your plugged-in machinery and appliances and absorb it instead.

They limit the voltage supplied to an electric device by diverting the extra electricity into the grounding wire of the outlets.

One of the main reasons that surge protectors are so important is because they can protect your electronic devices including anything plugged into an outlet, socket, or extension lead, such as the television, computer, lights, and kitchen appliances.

Domestic surge protection devices are suitable for light applications and can be fitted into the property’s consumer units and control panels. They provide peace of mind and help mitigate safety hazards associated with power spikes and surges.

Commercial surge protection devices are suitable for offices and other commercial applications and are typically installed in building management systems which include systems and equipment such as computers, security systems, data centres, lifts, and various other electronic and control systems.


Electrical wiring and installations, including sockets, need regular upkeep and maintenance to counter the wear and tear that they are subjected to over time.

There are certain signs that you must look out for such as discolouration on or near the sockets and foul smell or smoke coming from inside.

Most often than not, these issues don’t manifest until much later when the problem has spread far and wide. This, for obvious reasons, is not the ideal situation to be in considering the amount of damage it can incur.

The best way to ensure that the wiring on your property and the electrical devices and installations, including the sockets, keep working as they should and stay in good condition is to have a reliable electrical contractor regularly check them out.

A periodic electrical inspection is the answer to all your worries, where a professional electrician will be able to identify any potential or developing problems and fix them before they become an issue.

It is recommended in the wiring regulations BS 7671 that a domestic property must be regularly inspected and tested after an electrical installation every 5 to 10 years, or if you are buying/selling the property.

The duration is every 5 years (or whenever there is a change in occupancy) for landlords, and between 3 and 5 years for commercial properties.

An electrical inspection is divided into two parts: a visual inspection and an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR).

A Visual Inspection is carried out to inspect any visible signs of damage or defect, after which a Visual Inspection Report (VIR) is generated.

The electrician is likely to check the fuse board, sockets, lights, plugs, switches, cables and leads, earthing and bonding, visible signs of wear and tear, and burning, as well as the kitchen and bathroom safety.

An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) is more detailed than a visual inspection and allows the electrical contractor to identify issues that couldn’t be found earlier.

It identifies any damage, defect, or deterioration that may turn into a potential hazard, along with recording several observations in line with BS 7671 and providing recommendations for improving the installation.


As part of your regular electrical maintenance, all the extension leads on your property must be PAT tested to make sure they are safe to use.

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is the term used to describe the inspection and testing of portable electrical appliances, such as extension leads.

A professional PAT test involves a certified electrical contractor visiting your property to perform a visual assessment of the appliances and then carrying out a proper test to check their condition.

There are currently no strict legal regulations which state that you must conduct regular PAT testing for your portable electrical appliances. However, the law has put special emphasis on having the appliances and installations maintained and in good working condition, and the best way to go about that is through PAT testing.

It is recommended that PAT testing be conducted between 3 to 12 months depending on the type and use of the appliance.

Other than extension cords, the portable appliances included in PAT testing include:

  • Coffee machines
  • Computers
  • Dishwashers
  • Freezers
  • Kettles
  • Lamps
  • Microwaves
  • Portable fans
  • Portable grills
  • Portable heaters
  • Printers
  • Refrigerators
  • Stereos
  • Televisions
  • Toasters
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Washing machines


To make sure that the electrical wiring and installations on your property are safe to use, you need to get the work done by someone who has the required skill and expertise.

The inability to do so may put you and all those on your property at risk as faulty electrics are a safety hazard and can increase the likelihood of electrical fires.

It is very important to find the right electrician to do the job to ensure it is carried out safely and complies with British wiring standards.

To ensure everything meets the current safety regulations, you must choose a reliable and registered electrician who has the relevant experience and is trained to carry out the job.

A trained and certified professional residential electrician will:

  • Have the necessary training and expertise, along with lots of experience working in the field.
  • Offer peace of mind knowing everything will be done while keeping everyone’s safety in mind,
  • Quickly troubleshoot issues thanks to their deep understanding of the system that helps you save both time and money,
  • Offer fully insured work, which means that you won’t have to worry about any damages or accidents.


If you are looking for a registered electrician for installing extra circuits and socket outlets, look no further. Calder Electrical offers a wide range of services from installation to maintenance and testing.

All our work is fully insured and we work to meet the standards set to us by the NICEIC to make sure all your electrical installations meet the current regulations and all the notifiable work is signed off by the local authorities.

We have been undertaking electrical work since 1976 and are specialists in the field. If you have unplanned issues within your home or business, we can provide a call-out service to rectify and solve any problems.

Anything from circuits tripping, loss of power, broken items that need repairing, or checking if you feel something is unsafe or a potential hazard.

Our team can generate a Visual Inspection Report (VIR) to identify anything visual that does not comply with the standards or looks unsafe, as well as a full Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) where we will identify and test each circuit to make sure they are not deteriorating and are safe for use within the current standards and regulations set by the BS 7671.

We can also provide PAT testing of appliances to make sure that any items such as kettles, computers, and microwaves are safe for use in the home and workplace.

Contact us here or call us on 0800 612 3001 for more information on socket and extension lead safety.

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