Unfortunately, counterfeit cords are used more often than you think. Some manufacturers will substitute with cheaper materials to cut cost, but they are actually compromising your safety.
If you end up with a knockoff, you run the risk of starting a fire, causing a shock, bringing down your systems and worse.
Luckily, there are ways to detect if your power cord is authentic or counterfeit. We’ve put together some guidelines for examining your cords so you can power your devices safely:
Why does it matter if I have a counterfeit cord?
Because electricity can kill, cause a shock, start a fire, slow down connected equipment, increase your electricity bill, and bring down your systems.
Why are some cords so much cheaper?
Because bargain-basement manufacturers likely cheated on several levels!
Stay safe, use this quick guide for your peace of mind.
Counterfeit Power Cords – Quick ID Guide
Look for an Authentic Certification
UL certified power cords must have an “E” number on the molded end. A Google search of UL E250704 will return the page on database.ul.com showing the StayOnline UL file. An invalid “E” number won’t return results from database.ul.com. However, an “E” number may be faked in which case it would return a legitimate manufacturer’s name being used by a counterfeiter.
Examine the Molding Quality
The molded ends of your power cord should be clean, smooth and feel solid. Imperfections result from poor manufacturing processes and indicate that a company has cut corners.
Examine the Strand Count
A common trick is to cheat on the strand count of the internal wire. When in doubt, cut a cord open and examine the strands against the specification print or compare it to a high-quality cord from StayOnline. Warning, cutting open a cord will destroy it.
Examine the Filler Material
If the cord has no filler material, it is definitely a counterfeit. Is the cord misshapen and lumpy? Does it feel hollow? Again, cut the cord open to confirm.
Examine the Copper
Counterfeit manufacturers cut corners by using materials other than copper. To identify a conductor strand that is not pure copper, scrape the strand with a pocket knife. If there is a contrasting silver color against the copper, then the strand is not pure.
Examine the Plug Blades
A new trend is to use hollow pins on the plug to save cost on materials. Flick the plug blades with your fingernail to see if it sounds hollow. The blades of the plug end should also be clean and free of corrosion — cheaper materials oxidize quickly.
Check the PVC Jacket
Counterfeit PVC is reground from disposed plastics and any other material a counterfeiter can possibly use. This material ages quickly becoming brittle and may contain toxic materials restricted by RoHS or other environmental regulations.
Mold & Approval Swapping
Another troubling trend is companies swapping agency approvals. Bargain cords on the market may be manufactured with borrowed or stolen molds without any agency inspection, knowledge of country specific requirements, or testing protocols. It is difficult to identify these potentially unsafe cords. Testing equipment is expensive to own and operate and needs to be calibrated annually. The time-consuming step of Hi-Pot testing for polarity and continuity is an EXTREMELY important step that dodgy manufacturers simply skip.
Yes, even the lowly label is subject to theft. Fake agency labels are meant to engender your confidence, but deteriorate quickly and often lack holograms.
The bottom line is, like many things in life, you get what you pay for. Counterfeit and bargain cords may be costly, dangerous, or in the worst case, deadly. Be careful about what you buy and if in any doubt follow the steps outlined above. If you are still uncertain, remember the adage, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t!”
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Note: this blog post was originally published on the StayOnline blog