How to Choose the Correct Extension Cord Sizes

When we hear the name extension cords, the very first thing that comes to our mind is that they could provide an extension of any home’s or workshop’s electrical circuits. This comes in handy when a lamp, appliance or tool has a short cord to reach the required location. We often get to know about how important it is to maintain the security of these cords. However, out of all the factors, choosing the right length and size of the power cord is equally important to manage the load.

Let’s explore how:

Extension Cord’s Ratings

The cords may vary in rating based on the amperage they can carry and the wattage they can handle. The amperage rating for each extension cord needs labeling on a tag attached to each cord. However, it might not be present or visible always. While choosing an extension cord, it is important to determine the amount of wattage and amperage that the tool will draw when you connect it to the cord. With devices like lamps, radios, and televisions, the basic household extension cord is acceptable in most cases. Generally, these basic extension cords use 16-gauge wire.

While using devices including motors that produce heat, light-weight extension cords are least preferable. It can be complicated with such devices to choose the right extension cord. With the longer extension cords, it contains a higher resistance power cord and the potential for overheating is greater. A 5-ft-long heavy-duty extension cord powering a high-standard device may overheat, but a 50-ft-long extension cord of the same wire gauge will be undersized for the job.

Matching Extension Cord to Load

It is important to rate extension cords on the basis of their load capacity to get an idea of how the tool will work or if the load capacity matches the required necessities of the tool. To accommodate voltage, drop due to the natural resistance of the wire, you should implement over the 50-feet wire.

However, it is important to take proper caution with electric devices especially house heaters. If you are considering to use an extension cord to plug one of the heaters into a powerhouse, then make sure it can handle the load. There have been incidences of house catching fires due to selecting the wrong extension cord that did not meet heater’s high wattage amperage demands. It is always good to plug space heaters into electrical outlets. But even there it is important to be careful and not exceed the amperage rating of that circuit. If you come across a circuit breaker trips or a fuse when you plug in a space heater, try another circuit with heavier wire and a larger circuit breaker amp rating.

  • Leaf blower: Choose a 14-gauge medium-duty cord for a higher amp.
  • Table lamp: An 18-gauge, light-duty, two-prong, light-duty extension cord. It can handle up to 7 amps up to 25 feet power.
  • Laptop computer: A 14-gauge, medium-duty, three-prong like c13 power cord is an ideal choice.
  • Treadmill: Go with a cord made specifically for treadmills like the 9-foot Tread cord.
  • Circular saw: Choose a 12-gauge heavy-duty cord, which will cover up to 100 feet from the outlet.
  • Indoor/outdoor vacuum: 16-gauge cord for indoor and 12-gauge for outdoor.
  • Holiday lights: Use a 16-gauge cord for 25 feet, or 14-gauge for more than 25 feet.
  • Bug zapper: All you need is a 16-gauge extension cord to keep the lamp cooking.
  • Portable compressor: A 10-gauge heavy-duty extension cord to let you put air in a tire up to 100 feet away from an outlet.
  • Workshop: Choose a 14-gauge c13 power cord, which powers most tools. While buying, make sure the model comes with multiple outlets so you can plug in more than one tool.

One Last Important Thing

Make sure to discard or repair extension cords which are missing ground connections or show signs of extreme wear, or have cracks or cuts or If you can see a bare wire, uncovered, through the outer jacket of the cord. Power cords without ground connection can be hazardous to the user. Examine the ends of the plugs which end up on your extension cords where you are looking for damage. Your local hardware store may have replacement plugs that you can use to extend an extension cord’s life. There are online options available as well. You might want to check it out here. Here is the guide to help you choose the correct sized extension cord for your use.

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