HomeBeyond Outlets: A Guide to Choosing the Right Extension Cord 

Beyond Outlets: A Guide to Choosing the Right Extension Cord 

If the length of primary electrical wire of a device is inadequate, you can use an extension cord to connect it directly with the switch on 

Flexible and convenient, these cables enable the use of electrical equipment in places where outlets are scarce such as some rooms on corners of houses or balconies attached to offices or outdoor spaces. 

Yet after all, choosing the best extension cable requires detailed understanding of many factors. 

In this article, some key points that must be considered in choosing an extension cord which helps to ensure effectiveness and compatibility are introduced. 

1. Power Requirements 

While selecting an extension cord, it is also important to note that the power of these extension cords is defined by the capacity of the current they carry. The lowest range of an extension cord is 5amp, while the highest range can go up to 20 amp extension cord.   

It is usually advised to select an extension cable with a higher power or amperage capacity than what your equipment needs. To get the maximum amperage of the cord needed while connecting numerous devices, sum up the current needs of those devices. For example, if you are utilizing various tools or pieces of lighting, think about using an extension cable with multiple outlet boxes. 

2. Plug Configuration 

Extension cables with one or more outlets can be purchased in various chord designs and ends, such as block, T-shape, W-shape, sliding compression lock, and more. The 3 or 2-prong connectors are compatible with most gadgets. You can use a 2- or 3-prong extension cable to securely utilize a gadget with a 2-prong connection.  

When using a gadget with a 3-prong plug, be sure the extension cord is plugged into a properly grounded 3-hole electrical outlet and that the equipment is only used with three-prong plugs.     

The grounded outlet and third prong were included in the design to assist in lowering the possibility of electrical fires and shocks. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) developed standard designs to assist consumers in choosing the appropriate plug for the voltages and amps of their devices. To assist in selecting the appropriate plug type, see a NEMA Plug Configurations chart. 

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3. Size 

The diameter of the conductor within each extension cable is measured by the AWG (American wire gauge) rating.  

The most common extension cord sizes are 16-gauge, 14-gauge, 12-gauge, and 10-gauge, in order of smallest to largest. The gauge’s size and the amount of amperage and watts it can handle increase with decreasing numbers. Ensuring that the extension cable you buy is the appropriate gauge to accommodate the tool’s amperage is crucial.  

Since you should never connect more than one extension wire to another, purchasing a longer cord than is necessary is usually advised.  

Get an extension cord adaptor or go with a longer cord to get more length. Remember that longer extension cables need to be larger to compensate for voltage drops.    

4. Color 

Even though extension cables aren’t color-coded, how they are utilized frequently indicates that the color factor matters.  

While darker colors are generally needed for audio, visual, and other inside applications, construction sites and other sectors frequently utilize brightly colored extension cables to avoid tripping risks. 

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5. Gauge 

The thickness of an extension cord, also known as gauge, affects the current flow. A bigger gauge wire can transport more power farther without losing much voltage, whereas a shorter one cannot. Using a bigger gauge can counteract the voltage and decrease over distance. For appliances that include motors, this is quite crucial. Using a motor with too little voltage might result in irreversible damage.  

The product box prominently displays the gauge printed on the cord’s outer jacket or insulation. For instance, the jacket for 16-gauge cables will read 16AWG. 

Types of Electric Extension Cords 

Before you grab the first cord you see at the home center, know these basic extension cord types: 

  • Indoor: Extension cables used only for indoor usage, as the name implies. They frequently feature a two-prong connection and are usually available in shorter lengths than outdoor extension cables.   
  • Outdoor: A three-prong plug and a heavier outer jacket are included. The word “weather,” or “weather resistant,” is represented by the letter “W,” which is written on outdoor cables.   
  • Light-duty: Use them for portable fans and interior Christmas lights, among other low-wattage, low-amperage tools and equipment.   
  • Medium-duty: These multipurpose cables work well with microwaves, laptops, and Hoover cleaners, depending on the power.   
  • Heavy-duty: Contractor-grade cables typically contain conductors of 12 AWG or more, characterized by robust insulation and sheathing. When operating long distances or outside, use them with higher amp and higher wattage instruments. Consider devices such as air compressors, shop vacuums, table saws, etc. 
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Selecting the appropriate extension cable is essential for practicality, safety, and effective power control. When choosing the best cord for a given set of requirements, factors including power capacity, plug arrangement, size, and type come into play.    

Compatibility with certain devices and settings is ensured by knowing the AWG gauge, plug configurations, and various cord kinds, including indoor, outdoor, light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty.    

Ultimately, choosing the right extension cords guarantees adequate power distribution, lowers risks, and maximizes productivity—whether for usage at home or work. Users may optimize the advantages of this indispensable electrical equipment by making well-informed selections based on their own needs. 


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