What Extension Cord Should I Buy?


When you need electrical power but the nearest outlet is too far away for your device to reach, an extension cord can bridge the gap and bring the socket to you! Extension cords come in numerous shapes and sizes, and are intended for many different applications. However, are you choosing the right cord for your needs? Believe it or not, not all extension cords are created equal, and depending on the amount of energy you need and where you need it, you should carefully consider what cord you’re using. Check out our blog now to learn about the different types of cords and which one you should choose for the job.

Keep it Short

While extension cords are great because they let you bring power virtually anywhere you need it, you should also think very carefully about where you will need this power, and where you plan on drawing the electricity from. Longer isn’t usually better, and in fact, the longer your extension cord is, the lower the delivered voltage will be. The more distance electricity must travel, the weaker it will be when it reaches you. This is because every cable has a certain amount of resistance, which causes your voltage to drop as well as produces heat. If you can help it, don’t use a 100-foot extension cord if you only need power about 20 feet away. You’ll bring better voltage over a shorter cable, and have less cable to manage during use as well.

On a related note, if you do have to bring electricity to a further-away distance, never link two extension cords together. This is a recipe for disaster. If you must bring electricity to a further-away distance, always upgrade to a longer cord that will meet your needs.

Use the Right Gauge

Every appliance or device has an amperage rating, which essentially tells you how much electricity that device will draw during its use. Based on this amperage rating, you’ll want to select an extension cord that can handle this power draw. Thus, extension cords come in a number of different thicknesses, or gauges, which can carry varying loads of electricity.

Think of the electricity going through your extension cord like a water flowing through a garden hose. The amount of pressure the water is under is like the electrical voltage (the standard wall socket in the United States outputs 110 volts, so any cable that’s designed to be plugged directly into a wall socket should be able to handle this load). Amperage is essentially the amount of water that passes a given point every second. However, unlike a hose where the pressure pushes the water through, the device that’s plugged in to the extension cord instead pulls the electricity through, as though your garden hose (or extension cord) were a giant straw.

If you pull too much power through too small of a cord, you will draw too many amperes (or “amps” for short), and the cord itself being too small or having too much internal resistance will get hot and possibly fail, which could result in melting, sparks, and even a bad electrical fire. A device that uses more electricity, such as a major appliance like a stove or electric grill, should always be plugged into a larger-gauge extension cord, whereas smaller gauge cords are generally safe for use with things like laptop and phone chargers, low-energy lamps, and more.

Never Use an Indoor Cord Outside

The plastic shielding around the extension cord will determine whether it’s safe for use outside in the elements or should be strictly reserved for indoor use. The packaging on your cord when you purchase it should make it very clear whether or not a cord is approved for outdoor use, but in case you aren’t sure, examine the jacket of your cord thoroughly. If you see a “W” letter on your cord, it’s approved for outdoor use. However, do not use a cord with the letter “S” on the jacket, as these are only rated for general use and could cause a fire if used outside.

Run Your Cord Safely

Extension cords are a huge trip hazard, and the more you use one, the more likely it is that someone will eventually get tangled up and fall because of it. Be very cautious where you run your extension cords, and always make sure you secure them down with tape or cover them with a large carpet or rug to make sure nobody will accidentally become tangled in one.

If you own a business and find you are in constant need of an extension cord to a particular spot, you may want to consider calling a Marietta electrician and having them permanently install a new electrical outlet to get rid of the need to use an extension cord all together. This can significantly improve worker safety even save you money on your electric bill by helping your devices get the voltage they need easier.

If you need a new electrical outlet installed, call Lightning Bug Electric today by dialing (404) 471-3847 to request an estimate!
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