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How to Know if Power Strip Is Bad | 5 Things to Look For

Even though our modern world is rapidly inclining towards wireless technology, almost every room in every household contains a reliable and familiar power strip. The multiple sockets allow consumers to plug in the numerous devices and appliances required in today’s world.

While power strips provide the benefit of using power anywhere in the house due to their long cords, most consumers aren’t aware of thousands of home fires that start with an overused power strip or a damaged extension cord.

The best way to determine if your power strip is no longer safe to use is by carrying out regular inspections, preferably before you plug anything into it. Warning signals that a power strip is bad include crackling sounds, burn marks, ozone smell, switch bounces, or malfunctioning outlets.

If any of the warning signs are present, immediately unplug and throw the power strip away.

The rest of the article will cover exactly what to look for in deciding whether a power strip is bad or not.

5 Signs of a Bad Power Strip

Hand Holding Power Strip in Front of a Microwave

Before plugging in yet another electronic appliance or device, check your power strip for the following warning signs. If any of these issues are present, you need to immediately throw it away and replace it with a new one.

1. It feels hot, has burn marks, or melted plastic

An overheated power strip with burn marks is a dangerous sign, and could even lead to a house fire.

To avoid this problem, you need to know the limits of your power strip. Once purchased, look at the maximum number of watts your strip can handle. It should be somewhere near the series number.

You should never exceed the allowed number of watts. Most devices, such as your phone, TV, cooking appliances, beauty devices, and other small electronics, don’t draw that much power to break the power strip.

However, be cautious with large electronic devices such as air conditioners, fridges, heaters, and many others, as they do take up lots of energy to operate. They can potentially overwhelm your power strip and become the cause of a house fire.

2. It is damaged, burned, frayed, or discolored cord and exposed wires

The power strip cord usually consists of three layers:

  1. An inner layer includes copper wires that transfer the electric current to your devices and appliances.
  2. Another inner layer is for the insulation of copper wires.
  3. The third outer layer consists of rubber to further protect the inner layers.

Any cracks, damages, or changes in the appearance of a cord are signs of potential danger. The best way to look after it is by keeping it straight at all times. Make sure it isn’t knotted and tangled or located next to sharp objects.

3. It has a broken fuse, outlet, or switch

Power strips usually provide up to six or eight outlets. If even one of the outlets stops working, it means that you have a broken or loose wire inside your power strip. Stop using it.

The same goes for a broken fuse and switch. Power strips aren’t expensive, so it’s better to buy a new one.

4. There are crackling noises and/or the smell of ozone

If one of the wires inside your power strip became loose, it could produce a crackling and buzzing sound. It is a result of the live current connecting and disconnecting constantly. It can lead to overheating of the power strip.

The heat produced will start melting the plastic and other components of a power strip, and the smell of ozone may appear. Once again, it’s dangerous to continue using this strip.

5. It keeps turning off and on

If your power strip keeps turning off, it means that it is either overloaded with an electricity surge or has faulty wires inside it.

Try unplugging other appliances to see if it continues to switch off. If it keeps switching between off and on, that means that your power strip has an integrated surge protection mechanism. Some modern power strips have them, but they usually cost more money.

In this case, the surge protector is warning you of an overload or protecting your power strip from current fluctuations caused by outside lightning. Either way, it’s defending your electronic devices from overheating and breaking. It isn’t worth the risk since it is also a sign of faulty wires.

If relieving a potential overload doesn’t fix the problem, just toss it out.

Related Do Surge Protectors Work Without a Ground? | A Quick Guide.

How Long Does a Power Strip Last?

A typical power strip usually will only last for up to three years. However, there is no exact lifespan as it depends on many factors. Factors include the area you live in, the number of appliances you plug in daily, the number of watts they use, and whether there is a surge protection mechanism inside.

One thing that needs to be understood is that power strips should not work for extended periods. Unlike the socket in the wall, power strips are supposed to be short-term solutions, and their wires cannot handle the constant transfer of electric currents. The safer alternative would be calling an electrician to install more wall outlets inside your house.

It’s best to replace your power strip every two to three years or as soon as you notice any indication of failed operating properties. If you see any signs of damaged components, you need to replace your power strip immediately. The fatal and harmful circumstances are not worth the risk.

Please keep your home, office, family, and co-workers safe.

Are Old Power Strips Safe?

An old power strip can be safe to use if it does not show any signs of malfunctioning or broken components. Some older versions of power strips are made better than the new cheap ones. However, as soon as you see any of the danger signs, you need to stop using them.

Also, keep in mind that a power strip and a surge protector have different lifespans.

If you have an integrated surge protector, its lifespan is measured in Joules, and once you have used up all of the Joules, it stops defending your power strip from electrical current damage. You still can use your power strip after that, but it becomes more prone to jumps in electricity and overloading.

Related What Is the Standard Voltage and Amps for an Outlet?

Bottom Line

Plugging Into a Power Strip

To sum everything up, a power strip that is used a normal amount daily will typically work well for 2 to 3 years. After that, the functionality will probably begin to deteriorate. Look for the common signs of damage listed above, and please don’t take any chances.

When in doubt, throw it out.

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!

For more, check out Can You Plug a Microwave Into a Power Strip?


Monday 13th of November 2023

Thank you for the info. On a surge protector, how do you know if the Joules have been used up? I had no idea about that!

Jim James

Wednesday 15th of November 2023

As far as I know, it's impossible to tell if they are used up. But it is probably a good idea to replace all the surge protectors in the house if a major event, like a lightning strike as occurred. Better safe than sorry.


Wednesday 25th of January 2023

thank you very much!

Jim James

Wednesday 25th of January 2023

You're welcome!