Safety Guidelines to Choose the Right Extension Power Cord

Using the wrong type of cord can be vulnerable. According to the U.S Product Safety Commission, extension power cords are among the most dangerous electrical devices in our homes because of improper and overloaded power cord usage. If you use a light-gauge household extension cord to extend the reach of a heavy power consuming appliance, it consumes excessing power than its loading capacity. Which can be disastrous! They are prone to fire, short circuits, leaked currents around your space.

It is important to choose extension cords according to its usage. The loading capacity of extension power cords depends on two factors:

  • Wire gauge: The thickness or say a diameter of the wire affects the quantity of current that a wire can carry and how much it heats up.
  • Length: The length of the extension cord which affects the voltage drop.

Here, Gauge is a numerical rating of copper wire diameter identified by an American Wire Gauge (AWG) number. Make sure to consider that the smaller numeric value indicates thicker wires, while big numeric values indicate thinner wires.



The Length of the extension cord affects the voltage drop. The voltage drop is resistance which electricity experiences while flowing through a wire. So, you need a long extension cord with the heavy wire gauge. Therefore, it’s advisable to keep various extension cords of different lengths or you can say a combination of cords to use as per your needs to escape the excessive length of cord.

This article explains the safety guidelines for the three major types of extension power cords you use on a daily base.

Light Duty

The Light-duty extension cords look like a lamp wire. Just like the name, it is advisable not to use these cords with anything except light-duty devices. It is not considered to use these cords with heat-generating appliances like toasters, irons that generates heavy electrical loads. The other thing which needs your attention is an application of third wire for grounding. You should not use them with appliances that have a three-prong grounded cord. You can use these power cords with devices consuming power up to 7 amps like lamps, clocks, and other light-duty electrical devices.

  • Cord length up to 25 feet: No. 18-gauge power cord
  • Cord length up to 50 feet: No. 160-gauge power cord
  • Cord length up to 100 feet: No. 14-gauge power cord

Medium-Duty

The Medium-duty cords are the grounded extension cords. They include a third wire for the proper grounding. The plug of these cords contains three-prong grounded appliance cords. The major applications of these devices include televisions, computers, and other devices that usually consume up to 10 amps of power.

  • Cord length up to 25 feet: No. 16-gauge wire.
  • Cord length up to 50 feet: No. 14-gauge wire.
  • Cord length up to 100 feet: No. 12-gauge wire.

Heavy-Duty

These are the power cords which are suitable to use for the appliances that consume up to 10 to 15 amps of power. Like the Medium duty cords, these are also the grounded extension cords that include a third wire for grounding and have plugs with three slots to connect the grounded appliance cords. It is considered to use the heavy-duty cords with tools and heating appliances which consume high power voltage.

  • Cord length up to 25 feet: No. 14-gauge wire.
  • Cord length up to 50 feet: No. 12-gauge wire.
  • Cord length up to 100 feet: No. 10-gauge wire.

However, it is important to follow the appliance manufacturers instructions. Some manufacturers of the certain type of ovens, cloth dryers, and space heaters specify not to use certain power cords with their products.



GFCI Protection

In instances of outdoors or below grade use, plug power cords need into GFCI-protected outlets. If there is no GFCI outlet available, you can use an extension cord with a built-in GFCI protection. With heavy-duty extensions, you get this feature.

Final Thoughts

When you connect an inaccurate power cord with your appliance, an electrical current flowing through wires generates heat, and it might catch fire in cases of overheating. Therefore, read the instructions twice which indicates the electrical current load. In case if you plug in a light-gauge household extension cord to extend the reach of a certain appliance, it consumes an ample amount of load. To escape such adverse situations, pick the right extension cord to plug in the appliances. This Article is originally posted here.

If you found this article useful, here are some others that may be of interest.

Power Cords: Connection Types And Regulatory Issues Explained

What is the Difference between C13 and C15 Power Cords?

What are Power Cords? Which Cord Powers Your Computer?

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