Unless you have the luck of having every single socket in your house at the right place where you need them, you’ve probably used an extension cord before. While an extension cord might seem like just another piece of electrical equipment to the average person, choosing the proper one for the job requires knowing what to look for in an extension cord. Extension cords have many distinctions, depending on the environment, wire gauge (size), and function.
This article aims to help non-electrically-savvy people shop for the best extension cord which is safe to use and works best for the job intended.
But before getting to the section that will answer, “how do you choose an extension cord?” First, let’s examine the dangers of using an extension cord.
Why Are Extension Cords Dangerous?
The concept of an extension cord is a group of electrical wires that have been insulated and plugged on both ends. Generally, an electrical current produces heat whenever it flows through a wire. But if the electrical current continues to flow through the wire for an extended period, it can overheat and melt the plastic insulation.
What’s worse is using the wrong type of extension cords for some appliances. You risk overloading the cable, potentially leading to short circuits and fires. So, how do you know the right extension cord to buy?
How to Choose an Extension Cord?
- The Length and Gauge of the Cord
Consider the cable’s length when purchasing an extension cord — it makes sense to consider what you want to use it for and the distance from the nearest electrical outlet. You don’t wish to have a scenario where you’ll have to be stretching the cable.
However, it would be best if you were careful not to exceed the required length. The longer the cable, the more likely it will lose energy because of wire resistance.
Another important thing you should consider when buying extension cords is the AWG (American wire gauge) rating for extension cords — a value that determines the wire’s thickness. Note that a lower value denotes a thicker wire and means it can transport more electricity (in layman’s terms) over shorter distances in a safe manner.
Usually, you’ll find manufacturers pairing the gauge rating and the number of wires in the specifications on cables. A typical example is 14/3, which means the cord has three wires and a gauge rating of 14 AWG. As a rule of thumb, if you are sure you need a power cable with a rating above 14AWG, purchase it. Don’t go otherwise.
- Type of Plug
Verify whether the wire has a two- or three-pronged plug. It is crucial since it will enable you to decide if it is appropriate. In addition, the ground wire on the three-prong plug makes using it safer. Also, consider getting an extension cord with switch as they are safer and flexible.
In addition, you cannot plug three-prong appliances into a two-prong extension cord. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, always use a three-prong extension cord with heavy-duty devices.
- Check The Amperage Rating
Amperage refers to the electrical current passing through the cables. You’ll find the amps’ value printed on the extension cord’s jacket, along with the voltage and Wattage. Try not to get confused with all these electrical terms. For example, Wattage (watts) is the amount of power generated, whereas voltage (volts) shows how resistant the wire is to its current.
Verify that the cable can accommodate the required current for your equipment without strain. Doing this can prevent the equipment from suffering damage from overworking to extract energy from the source. So, if your equipment needs ten amps, ensure it gets ten amps.
- Cable Insulation
Ensure the cable has the appropriate insulation to protect your equipment, the extension cord, and anyone using the extension — this precaution can save your life and money.
The right type of insulation would depend on where you plan to utilize the extension cord. If you intend to use it outdoors, you’ll want to look for an extension cord with W insulation written on its jacket. It should also have a plastic or vinyl shell because these materials work in various weather conditions.
Other identification letters include S and J, which denote general and heavy-duty uses, respectively.
- The Intended Use of the Extension Cord
Knowing this will make selecting the best option for your equipment simple. For example, are you going to use it inside or outside? While an outdoor extension cord will work fine inside, you should never use an interior extension cord for outdoor purposes as it doesn’t have enough insulation to withstand friction and weather.
It would be best to consider how frequently you plan to use the extension. Check the amps, watts, and Voltage ratings to ensure it can endure the resistance you would place on it for as long as you want. Also, thinking about the appliances you will plug the extension cord into would help in this instance.
For instance, you may get 16-gauge extension cables with up to 13 amps for low-power devices like fans. Depending on the equipment, you might require a 14 amp or 15 amp and 14-gauge for those devices with medium power consumption. Finally, you’ll need a wire with a 10-gauge or 12-gauge rating that can supply up to 20 amps for appliances that require a lot of electricity.
When using an extension cord, you must follow many rules to avoid issues and be safe. This article has explored several ways to guide you towards a perfect extension cord.