Since working from home, I am using more devices than ever before.
Both my partner and I have our laptops and phones charging most of the time as well as having electric radiators and other appliances also plugged in.
We are using socket adaptors and extension leads to ensure everything is plugged in but I am worried we may have too much switched on at one time.
Does it matter if we have lots of devices plugged in to one adaptor? What can we do to be more safe? Is it easy to have new sockets created in a home?
With more people working from home full time, it is likely some will be overloading sockets
Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: We are all facing challenges now that most of us are working from home again, due to the second national lockdown.
Our energy bills are set to increase due to the added hours of being at home as we need more light, more heat and spend more time cooking.
Added to this is the constant use of devices such as laptops, computers, mobile phones and TVs.
Most people have extension leads in their homes, using four way bar adaptors or plug adaptors to increase the number of appliances they can plug into a wall socket.
However, although there is space to plug in four appliances, this does not mean it is always safe to do so.
In fact, one of the most common causes of electrical fires is overloading sockets.
Therefore, whilst it may be necessary to plug in a number of devices, it could be wise to try and unplug the ones you are not using.
Another way to avoid overloading sockets to the point it is unsafe is to ensure you don’t exceed the maximum current rating stated for the extension lead as this could cause the plug in the wall socket to overheat and possibly cause a fire.
It is also advised that households only use one socket extension lead per socket and never plug an extension lead into another extension lead.
Take care: One of the most common causes of electrical fires is overloading sockets
Electrical Safety First, electrical safety experts, suggest using a multi-way bar extension lead rather than a block adaptor, as this will put less strain on the wall socket.
Some block adaptors also do not have a fuse, which increases the risk of overloading and fire.
It added that if you think you may be working from home for a long time to come, and you own your home, it could be worth installing extra sockets.
To install a a standard socket with a single plug would cost between £50 to £200, with the average cost coming in at £125, according to Checkatrade.
It added a double socket is better value than fitting two single sockets and help future proof your home in case you need to use more devices in the future.
These cost between £100 to £300, averaging £200.
Meanwhile, both single and double USB sockets cost a little more but give you the added convenience of being able to charge by USB whilst keeping the plug free for other appliances – essentially enabling you to have four things plugged in from one double socket.
The USB element is ideal for gadgets such as mobile phones and tablets – when you pick one, check the power it offers and potentially pick one that offers fast charging.
It should take around one to two hours to install a new plug socket.
This time will increase if considerable new wiring is needed, or in the case of an extension will take a lot longer if the room hasn’t yet been wired.
A surge protector could also be worth investing in as it is designed to protect electrical devices from voltage spikes.
Households are also urged to check their sockets for signs of damage if they believe it could be overloaded.
Signs include a smell of hot plastic or burning near an appliance or socket, sparks or smoke coming from a plug or appliance, blackness or scorch marks around a socket or plug, or on an appliance and damaged or frayed leads.
Martyn Allen, technical director at Electrical Safety First, replies: Electrical extension leads are a useful tool for household appliances when there are not enough sockets, but must be used with care as overloading can cause the plug in the wall socket or internal wiring to overheat and possibly cause a fire.
Before using one, check its current rating – this should be clearly marked on the back or underside of the extension lead, and in the manufacturer’s instructions.
Most are rated at 13A, but some are rated at 10A or less.
Never overload an extension lead by plugging in appliances that together will exceed the maximum current rating stated for the extension lead.
Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: You have also asked whether the appliances you plug in will contribute to the overheating of sockets or not.
Electrical Safety First has its own socket calculator where you can select the devices plugged in and it will tell you whether it is dangerous or not. Click here to test it out.
It may surprise you to learn which appliances actually use the most power with a kettle using 20 times more watts than a fridge.
In general, it is recommended you only load a socket with a maximum of 3,000 watts – the equivalent to a kettle.
Therefore, it depends on what appliances you are using as to whether you could potentially overload your socket.
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