Extension cords and adapters are no doubt helpful, but they can be the subject of many a mistake, even by people who have used them before. If you're adding a lot of new equipment to your home and are deciding how many extension cords or plug adapters you'll need, don't do it hastily. As basic as these parts are, you should buy them only after you've determined certain qualities that you'll need and looked at where the cords have to reach.

Direction of Prongs

You can generally find extension cords and adapters with prongs facing in two directions: parallel and perpendicular. It's very common to find prongs pointing in the same direction as the rest of the cord -- in other words, as you follow the line of the cord toward the wall, the prongs will point in the same direction. That's a problem if you need to plug the cord into an outlet that's in a tight space.

Use a cord with perpendicular prongs (where, if you follow the line of the cord, you end up at prongs that point up, down, or to the sides, but not in the same direction the cord was heading) to fit it behind furniture and in areas where you can't have much of the cord sticking out. It sounds like such a basic thing, yet many people forget about it until they go to plug in the cord.

Amp Limits

Remember that the extension cord doesn't increase the number of amps you can get from an outlet -- and the cord will often be rated for a certain number of amps itself. The number of amps depends on the length of the cord and the wire gauge, all of which should be noted on the cord's label or packaging. For example, Chainsaw Journal says a 25-foot cord can be rated for 1 to 13 amps with 16-gauge wire for light-duty uses, 14 to 15 amps with 14-gauge wire for medium-duty uses, and 16 to 20 amps with 12-gauge or 10-gauge wire for heavy- or extra heavy-duty use. If you use the cord with an appliance or group of appliances that pull more than the amps the cord is rated for, you could damage the cord and the equipment.

Piling on Adapters

If you need to connect an extension cord between an outlet and an appliance plug that are configured differently, look for an extension cord adapter that has both types of plug formations at the ends. Don't plug the extension cord into a series of extra adaptersm as that can increase the risk of a short somewhere. Also note whether the outlet you need to reach is grounded. If it isn't, and the extension cord is a three-prong cord, you need to find another outlet that is grounded or get a longer cord to reach a grounded outlet. Don't plug the extension cord into a two-hole cheater plug because you won't get the protection of a ground wire when using the cord and appliance.

For more information, contact Americord Power cords or a similar company.