Sometimes the closest outlet just isn’t quite close enough. When you need your equipment’s power cord to be just a little longer, an extension cord is a handy tool. Extension cords give you greater flexibility with any type of electronics or equipment, whether you’re vacuuming rooms in a hotel or using electric saws in a workshop. And if you’ve ever experienced a blackout, you know an extension cord is an essential tool for hooking up devices to a generator.
The style of extension cord you need will depend on where and how it will be used. Some common types of extension cords include:
You should not connect an extension cord to another extension cord, a process known as daisy-chaining. The cords can overheat and pose a fire hazard. Instead, look for a longer cord length.
Multiple-duplex or multi-outlet cords should be plugged directly into a mounted electrical receptacle – they should not be linked together.
Before using an extension cord, check that it is rated for the products you are powering. If you are using an extension cord outdoors, ensure that it is labeled for outdoor use.
You should not plug an extension cord into a surge protector, power strip, or another extension cord. Extension cords should always be plugged directly into wall outlets.
All extension cords have an American Wire Gauge (AWG) rating, a standardized system for measuring the thickness of an electrical wire. Note that the gauge number increases as the wire diameter decreases. Thus, the lower the number, the higher the cord's capacity to deliver power. The wire's thickness directly affects the amount of amps it can carry, so a thicker wire will ensure more free-flowing electricity. Light-duty household extension cords are usually:
Extension cords for commercial or industrial use may have a higher capacity.
It is best practice to match the number of prongs on the device to the correct extension cord. You can plug a two-pronged plug into a three-prong extension cord, but the device will not be connected to the ground wire in the cord. However, you should not ever connect a three-pronged device to a two-pronged plug. This will leave the ground prong exposed, which can cause electrical shock if touched.
Extension cords are often labeled with letters and numbers that tell the buyer important information about the wire material, size, and insulation type. A few common examples are:
Cords should also be UL-listed or ETL-listed, which indicates that they conform to established product safety standards. The UL or ETL tag will list the cord’s amperage, volts, and wattage.
Yes, if you choose a cord that is safe for outdoor use. Look for a cord that is specifically labeled for outdoor use and is weather-resistant. Some also have lighted connectors so they are visible at night. If you live in a cold climate, look for an all-weather, heavy-duty extension cord for outdoor use. These are designed to remain flexible in cold weather, even when the temperature dips below freezing.
Any time you are working with electrical power, you need to take steps to protect yourself and others. Follow these best practices when using extension cords at home or a job site:
Instead of putting old extension cords in your household garbage, check with your local recycling agency. Many cities and counties have recycling centers where they will accept old or broken cords. You can also check big box stores in your area, which often have a kiosk for recycling old electronics, cords, and batteries.
Whether you need an extension cord for your job site or are working on a home improvement project, HomElectrical has all the products you need. Serving electricians, contractors, and DIYers, HomElectrical offers convenient online ordering and an extensive inventory of electrical supply items from trusted brands. We also have LED lighting, power tools, hardware, adapters, and HVAC system equipment.
With warehouses throughout the country, we can process and ship your order quickly so you avoid project delays. For more information, call HomElectrical at 888.616.3532 or create an account today.