Power cable maintenance: best practices for longevity and safety

Whether at home or in the workplace, electrical power cables are everywhere. With electrical appliances being a key part of our everyday lives, many of us don’t give a second thought as to whether a power cable is a disaster waiting to happen. But it might be.

Power cables are usually coated with PVC or cotton. This makes the power cables safe to handle as these materials don’t conduct electricity.

But the moment a chord becomes frayed or worn, the exposed internal wires can cause electrical shocks or fires. Although you might think it’ll never happen to you, each year 25.9% of electrical fires can be attributed to faulty appliances and power cables.

To help you avoid potentially lethal wires, we’ve noted down everything you need to know below.

How to identify faulty power cables?

Before you use an electrical appliance, it’s a good idea to check any power cables before using them. If you suspect any damage or they feel warm, you should refrain from using them.

When you give the cables a once-over, you should keep a look out for:

  • Cracks
  • Bulges
  • Tears
  • Abrasions
  • Exposed wires
  • Melted plastic
  • Burn marks

If you spot any of the above signs, the best thing to do is to replace the power cord. Try to avoid replacing the appliance if possible and opt for fixing it where you can. This way you won’t be contributing to the 347 million metric tonnes of unrecycled e-waste on Earth in 2023.

How to know when to change your cable?

As well as looking out for the above signs, cables in a workplace should be graded. For example:

  • A-B grade cables are new or have a good appearance
  • C-grade cables are chemically affected
  • UV-grade cables are UV affected
  • QC grade cables are those that are aging early due to sheath material issues
  • M-grade cables are mechanically damaged
  • H-grade cables have signs of heat and/or fire damage

You want to make sure that all your cables are A-B grade.

How to maintain your power cables

Keeping your power cables in good nick is surprisingly straightforward. A lot of it comes down to the way cables are used. Many cables have a heavy amount of wear and tear through daily use, but you can minimise the damage by:

  1. Properly storing your cables – When you’re not using your cables, be sure to unplug them and store them in a dry area, out of harm’s way.
  2. Don’t yank or strain cables – Even the most heavy-duty cords can get damaged if you’re too rough with them. To avoid cable damage, try to plug cords in as close as possible to where you’ll be using the tool/appliance. And when you unplug it? Be sure to unplug the plug, not the cord!
  3. Keep cords away from sharp edges – Make sure to keep your power cables away from sharp edges, saws, or doors/windows. These sharp corners can wear away the coating over time, which can be dangerous if not spotted.

So next time you go to use an appliance, stop and take a minute to check the condition of your power cable to keep yourself – and everyone else – safe.

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