- 1. Understand the basics: gauge and length
- 2. Extension cords for less power-consuming appliances
- 3. Extension cords for medium power-consuming appliances
- 4. Extension cords for high power-consuming appliances
- 5. Outdoor extension cord with GFCI protection
- 6. Extension cord with a surge protector
Almost every household has extension cords.
You know – you need those puppies when you don’t have a socket at a place where you need it. (also known as extension leads or power extenders). They look like a flexible length of wire with a plug at one end and 3-5 sockets at the other end. Usually, the cap and sockets are of the same type. Their lengths range between 50cm and 10m.
When you move to a new house, chances are you will need an extension cord. Before buying new extension cords, you first need to understand what you require the extension cord for.
After all, if you don’t purchase the right extension cord according to the appliance, it can lead to short circuits and other dangers. To ensure your safety, we have curated the basics you need to know before purchasing an extension cord:
1. Understand the basics: gauge and length
You will find extension cords in different sizes, lengths, and types.
Choosing an extension cord depends on its environment of use, appliance wattage, and distance from the outlet where you will be using.
Let’s understand the two main factors, wire gauge and the length of the wire:
- Wire Gauge: Gauge is the unit in which the diameter of the copper wires inside the extension cord is measured, also known as Standard Wire Gauge (SWG) or American Wire Gauge(AWG).
Wire gauge tells you about the current-carrying capacity. It also demonstrates the magnitude of heat generated in the extension cord. You can find the gauge printed in the extension cord jacket.
Remember to cross-check your previous extension cord SWG when you replace it with a new one of the same SWG. The higher the gauge, the higher would be its resistance and the hotter the wire gets. It means an extension cord with a high gauge has less current-carrying capacity.
- Length: The length of the wire tells you about voltage drop due to wire resistance. The more the length of the wire, the higher is the resistance.
So, there will be a huge voltage drop due to electrical resistance in the entire circuit, if the length is higher. Therefore, a shorter extension cord has a higher current carrying capacity compared to the longer ones.
2. Extension cords for less power-consuming appliances
Low power consuming appliances are alarm-clock, portable fans, table lamps, hair-straightener, and fairy lights.
For appliances that are less power consuming, you can choose light-duty extension cords.
These extension cords are thin and compact. They have two plug prongs and don’t have any grounding. Due to this, you should not use these with high power consuming appliances like iron or mixer grinder.
3. Extension cords for medium power-consuming appliances
Medium power-consuming appliances are televisions, laptops, mixer-grinders, and table saws.
You must use a medium-duty extension cord to connect appliances like these.
The gauge of these extension cords lies between 10-14 AWG. Their plugs are three-prong, grounded with a third wire.
4. Extension cords for high power-consuming appliances
Appliances that require a power of 1-15 amp like air compressors, chain saws, microwave, geyser, refrigerator, and food processor, consume high electricity.
So, these appliances require heavy-duty extension cords that have the current-carrying capacity, without getting heated.
These extension cords are always grounded. Extension cords with 10 gauge (or 2.59 mm) is a heavy-duty cord, suitable for a 30 amp rating appliance.
5. Outdoor extension cord with GFCI protection
Note that you cannot use an indoor extension cord for an outside purpose like basements.
Were you aware that an extension cord for outdoor has a temperature and moisture durable insulation?
Extension cords used indoors do not have these protective insulations. Outdoor extension cords prevent damage due to chemicals too. Using an outdoor extension with a ground-fault circuit-interrupter is an added safety measure for you. GFCI acts as a circuit breaker that automatically shuts down in case of power leakage.
6. Extension cord with a surge protector
Overflow of power in appliances can damage them.
Using a surge protector with an extension cord will keep a check on excessive power flow.
You must use a surge protector extension cord. It is also known as a long-cable surge protector or a power surge extension cord. You can link two incompatible components together safely and can use these cords for the long term.
Keep the above factors in mind before choosing an extension cord. Read the instructions given by the appliances because some appliances clearly state, not to use any extension cord.
Before purchasing new extension cords, check your appliances for their amperage, to decide which extension cord would fit them.
All extension cords have the information on voltage, amperage, length, and if it’s for indoor or outdoor use or both. Also, check for any wear and tear of the insulation, as it can expose the conductors.
Check all this information carefully and then purchase the right one that solves your purpose. Make sure, not to keep an extension cord near any sharp corner or doorways.
Refrain from using damaged extension cords because it can lead to fire due to electrical resistance. Therefore, buy only high-quality and properly rated extension cords for safe and long-term use.