A Valuable Home Theater and Life Lesson Learned

The other night, I had a major mishap in my home theater room that could have (but thankfully didn’t) result in disastrous consequences. Learn from my stupid mistake so that you can avoid something like it yourself.

Late Monday (or technically early Tuesday), around 1:00 AM, I ended a session of DVR watching and began powering down my home theater equipment to go to bed. As I returned my powered recliner to the upright position, I heard a loud spark and smelled smoke. The chair also stopped working. I immediately unplugged the chair from the power outlet and tilted it so that the underside was raised off the carpet. Fortunately, no fire started. The smoke cleared up momentarily.

What happened was that the extension cord that the chair was plugged into ran underneath the chair and had gotten entangled in the recliner mechanism. It looks like it had been this way for a while, until the plastic coating finally wore down and the wires frayed, causing a short. Because the chair ceased working, I couldn’t move the mechanism, and it was a real pain in the butt to wriggle the cord out.

Finally, after about an hour of working at it, I managed to pull the cords completely out and detach them. I replaced both the chair’s own power cord (which wasn’t frayed but had definitely been pinched) and the damaged extension cord. I feared that I may have fried the chair’s motor, but luckily it started up again and seems to be working normally.

I have straightened out my power cords and cables so that they no longer run underneath the chair. The chair is now plugged into a better surge protector, which is in turn plugged into an outlet that’s tied to a light switch and can be turned completely off to doubly insure that no juice runs through the chair unless I’m in the room to monitor it.

I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a photo of the tangled cords jammed up in the chair, but it was late and I was tired, and I was desperate to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible. Instead, here’s a close-up of the damage:

The take-away from this: Mind the cords underneath your furniture. This could have been a much bigger disaster had it started a fire. I was very lucky that the only damage I suffered was a lost night’s sleep.


  1. William Henley

    I have one of those cord covers for wires that run underneath furniture and across the room.

    I did have something similar happen about a month ago – at least with the frayed cable. Apparently, my vacuum cleaner had more suction than I thought I did, and it ended up eating its own cord. The brushes on the roller ate the casing on the cable, causing a short, causing the safty mechanism on the power strip to trip. Lucky for me, the fray was near the plug, so I cut the cable right above the fray and put a new plug on it. Sadly, it seems as the vacuum doesn’t have as much suction anymore, but it still works. I should probably take apart the roller assembly and make sure there isn’t something else going on.

    I also just replaced a phone charger. I had one at work with a long cable to run behind my desk. I did not think clearly when I ordered the cable, ordering a 12 foot cable. All the extra cable length meant that excess cable was constantly getting caught under my chair wheels, in drawers, etc. I think I finally broke the cable – it seemed to be charging, but my phone (just at work) was decreasing in battery life faster than it would charge. Wiring in the cable was also exposed. Finally just replaced the charger with a rapid-charger (and only a six foot cable) and seems to have taken care of all my issues.

  2. EM

    Glad you’re all right, Josh, as well as your family, your house, and all its often amazing contents!

    Personally, I’m opposed to sitting in the electric chair…

  3. NJScorpio

    I’ve closed my manual recliner on my kitten :/

    She was fine, but I try and be mindful going forward.

  4. I’m the kind of guy that this frayed cord would have electrified the framework of the chair and everytime I reach for a beer or something, get a little shock. I’d be like dude, wtf?

  5. Blaine Clark

    The research so far says use of power strips or extension cords with motorized chairs is not recommended. I see two of you have had some success and I am tired of the batteries. Plus with AC we can use the USB port. What are your recommendations regarding extension cords? My longer cord has a warning to NOT run it under a rug but it has to be under in our case. Help?

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