Extension cords are essential tools at home, office, and workshop. While sockets may give the right power output for any device, they may not be enough for everyone or well-positioned in the room. This is where an extension cord comes in. It helps supply power to your devices at whichever point in the room. However, extension cords are not manufactured the same. You will need to choose one that serves your specific purpose.
Using the wrong power cords can be dangerous. According to the Electric Safety Foundation International (ESFI), over 3000 residential fires, close to 4000 injuries, and about 40 fatalities result from using the wrong extension cord. While these numbers keep growing, you can prevent such an ordeal by selecting the best extension cord for your home.
Tips for identifying the right extension cord
Several factors may influence your choice of the best power cord to use at home. These include;
- Power rating
- Cord length
- Gauge rating
- Jacket (insulation) strength
- Intended purpose.
While you should consider many factors before choosing the right power cord, there are no limitations on the cords’ usability and aesthetic appeal. With hundreds of power cords available on the market today, you have unlimited options to identify the best one. Here is what you should think about;
The power rating of the extension cord
This factor forms the basis of choosing any power cord. When buying the cord, check for three numbers that indicate its power capacity. These numbers will identify the required voltage, wattage, and amperes.
Simply put, volts measure the cord’s resistance level to allow current or “juice” to flow through it. Wattage is the maximum power output of the cord. Lastly, Amperes (amps) indicates the amount of power flowing through the wires in the extension cord.
Even though a 30 amp extension cord may be safe for home use, it is essential to consider these numbers before you can plug your tools or devices into the power cord. A high voltage device more than the cord can supply may cause overheating and short-circuiting.
Cord length of the power cord
Length and voltage have an indirect or inverse relationship, which means that a longer power cord will have low voltage and power output. As mentioned above, resistance affects the amount of voltage output on a power cord; resistance increases with cord length. Depending on the specific tool you are plugging in your extension, you should consider its wattage. Even though most extension cords are between 40 and 100 feet, they may offer sufficient juice for specific tasks.
In simple terms, a 50 feet power cord can power a device rated at 1500 watts, while a 100 feet power cord may not power a tool exceeding 1000 watts.
Gauge rating of the cord
Gauge rating refers to the thickness of the wire in the power cord. This number is a standard of the American Wire Gauge (AWG). The thickness of the wire may equally affect the power output and the resistance to supply current. Even though you would want to choose a thicker wire up to 40 AWG for your home safety, a rating of 10 to 18 AWG is sufficient.
You check for this number on the outer insulation (jacket) of the extension cord. Another essential factor in gauge rating is the number of wires in the power cord. For example, you may see a wire labeled 16/3. This implies that it is a 16-gauge cord paired with three wires.
Insulation is vital to prevent an extension cord from damage, overheating, and power leakage. Besides, insulation prevents electrocution. The power rating of an extension code will influence the strength of insulation used in an extension cord. Common insulation materials are vinyl, heavy-duty plastics, and woven nylon. If you propose using the extension cord outdoors, be sure to use a stronger jacket to avoid environmental damage.
To identify the right extension cord for home, check out different letters on the jacket;
- W – Lists a power cord that you may use outdoors.
- P – Indicates that the power cord has its wire running parallel to each other. This is common in air conditioners and standard cables for home use.
- S – lists a flexible cord, and you may use it for general purposes.
- T – Indicate that the insulating material is made of Vinyl thermoplastic.
- O – This indicates that your extension is oil resistant.
- J – This may indicate an extension for heavier use with high voltage output.
Before you can settle for a particular cord, be sure to check for these letters. They may be a deciding factor for the power cord you bring home.
The intended use of the cord
The purpose and intended use of the extension cord make all the difference. However, it depends on where you are using the cord. While you may use a general use or outdoor cord indoors, you should not use an indoor extension cord outside. The environment to which the cord is exposed may influence the type of insulation on it.
You may also choose a light-duty or a heavy-duty extension cord, depending on its intended use. Each of these will have varying power output.
Selecting the right extension cord for your home should not be a challenging task. With these handy tips, you should be able to identify just the right one. Besides, you should consider consulting your electrician for a specific use of a power cord.