Extension Cords

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Extension cords to assist on your DYI projects

Extension cords can make life easier for homeowners, specially the busy and handy ones. It makes you nondependent on your homes electrical outlets when working on a project and instead, brings the power to where it’s needed, both indoors and outdoors. When it comes to using electric devices, you should always consider the safety aspects and buy the right cord for the job!

Most people put very little thought into when buying an extension cord, but it’s actually really important to buy the right size and capacity for the intended usage to avoid any serious hazards. For example, an indoor extension cord can not be used outdoors but and outdoor extension cord can be used indoors.

We have put together the important points to consider when buying an extension cord:

How to select the right size and type

As the extension cords come in different sizes and models, it’s important to keep in mind two main things; the cords electric load capacity and its ability to efficiently transmit the electrical current. To know if the cord has the needed capacity you would need to look at the gauge and the length of the cord.

The wire gauge refers to the thickness of the cord, the diameter more exactly and this determines how much current it can carry and how much heat it can handle because of friction. The length or the cord will also impact the amount of power lost through the wire resistance.

You measure the wire gauge in American Wire Gauge (AWG) and this is expressed by a number, the lower the number the thicker the cord and bigger the gauge (and the amperage/wattage). Common household extension cables come in gauges between 16-10 meaning 16 has a small capacity and the 10 bigger.

This means that when buying a longer extension cord, you need to look for better capacity meaning lower gauge, especially when you are planning on using a motor driven appliance, as running the motor on too low voltage can permanently damage it. The light duty cords should be used for smaller devices such as lamps and clocks.

What is Amps, Volts, and Watts?

In short, Amps or amperes measures the current of electrons through an electrical conductor, the higher the amps the higher the current. Volt or voltage is a measure of the force that is causing the electrons to move, the bigger the electrical force the higher the voltage.

Watts or wattage is the measure for the electricity used or needed for an appliance or device.


Now, how to use this knowledge when buying your extension cord?

The rating of the extension cords is based on how many amps or watts they can carry safely.

When buying your extension cords, always choose one that is rated for at least the total amount of amps or watts of the devices that it will power. As an undersized extension cord can overheat and become a safety threat.!

The wattage of the device is usually mentioned in the manual or labels and the extension cords carries a label mentioning its capacity in amperage, voltage, or wattage.  

Indoor vs outdoor usage

The main difference of the indoor and outdoor power cables is the capacity and design. As the indoor extension cable is used for smaller appliances it’s usually thinner, shorter and less powerful than outdoor power cables. As the outdoors can provide with unexpected weather conditions, the outdoor power cords have a thicker and durable layer of protective insulation, both for heat and moist.

You also have more options for the length of the cable while the indoor power cords come in different colors and designs to suit the homes interior.

Because of these features, you can use the outdoor extension cord inside your home while the indoor cable is not suited for outside use.

Grounded wiring

The standard extension cords are available with either two or three prongs. In both, one prong is “hot” meaning it carries the current, the second is neutral connecting the circuit and of you have a grounded wire you will have an additional third prong that grounds the wire. Having a grounded system drastically reduces the risk of electrical shock and electrical fires from the electrical system by giving the power surges a place to exit.

The two prong cords (non-grounded) can be used with grounded outlets, but a grounded cord should always be used with grounded outlets.

Sensitive electronics

Make it a habit to not connect your sensitive electronics to a regular extension cords. Make sure to use an extension cord with a build surge protector or have an external device as it will help protect your electronics from excess power surges that could damage them.