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Extension cords are among the most usual household items, however there are countless different type of extension cords developed for various purposes. Here’s what you should know about extension cords and also when they can and can’t be used.


The various Gauges (aka AWG)

The wires inside an extension cord come in all various thicknesses, which is denoted as “gauge”. It’s additionally sometimes referred to as “AWG”, which stands for American cable Gauge. However, don’t get this puzzled with the really thickness that the cord itself (though the thicker the gauge, the more thickness the cable, to an extent). Instead, gauge refers to the thickness that the wires inside the expansion cord.

Extension cords selection anywhere from 18 gauge come 10 gauge, with 10 gauge being the thickest. Lower gauge (aka thicker) wires allow much more electrical existing to circulation through the extension cord, do lower-gauge cords far better for bigger appliances and tools that require a the majority of juice.

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Most higher-gauge expansion cords are pretty thin and also compact (like this one), and also made to be supplied with electronic devices that don’t require a most power, favor lamps, alert clocks, fans, and also more. These are likewise known together “light duty” expansion cords.

Thicker-gauge extension cords in the variety of 10-14 gauge are known as “medium duty” or “heavy duty” extension cords (like this one) and usually look prefer a really-thick ethernet cable of sorts. They also usually have actually bulkier connectors at the end to safeguard the contents on the inside. However, you deserve to sometimes discover light-duty expansion cords that look like heavy-duty people (like this one), for this reason be sure to double check the gauge, which have the right to sometimes be found printed top top the cord itself.


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Thicker-gauge expansion cords space suited for much more demanding appliances and tools, like space heaters, refrigerators, and more. There’s a most controversy about using expansion cords v demanding appliances, so we’ll talk more about the in a moment.

Grounded vs. Ungrounded

The moment you collection eyes on different extension cords, you’ll notice one glaring difference: the plug will either have actually two or 3 prongs. The 3rd prong is a ground connection, which offers a return course for overabundance electrical present to prevent damage to the appliance, or also worse, electric shock come the user if there’s a short.

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You’ll greatly see light-duty expansion cords sport just two prongs, i m sorry is additionally known together an ungrounded extension cord. These can be supplied safely v items that don’t draw a most power (lamps, fans, clocks, etc.). However, if an appliance has actually a three-pronged plug, you’ll have to plug it into a three-pronged (aka grounded) extension cord.

You have the right to plug an appliance through a two-pronged plug right into a grounded expansion cord without a problem, but do no plug in a three-pronged plug right into an ungrounded extension cord (by making use of one these adapters), mostly because anything with a soil prong is generally high-powered and also should no be plugged right into a light-duty extension cord in the first place.

Outdoor vs. Indoor

Just by looking at an expansion cord, you may not be able to tell if it have the right to be offered outdoors or just indoors, but the insulation that the expansion cord provides makes all the difference.

Most at home light-duty extension cords (like the one pictured above) have tiny insulation, and also would ultimately deteriorate as soon as exposed come the outdoor aspects for any significant amount that time. Outdoor expansion cords, however, have much far better insulation and more of it. They’re maybe to withstand the warm sun, and the freezing winter without causing any kind of problems.


However, numerous outdoor expansion cords don’t provide a water-tight seal where the plug is, because there’s yes, really no method to attain that in the very first place. For this reason it’s tho recommended the you it is in careful about wet areas and elevate the plugs if there’s any type of standing water in the area. It’s likewise a great idea come wrap the link in plastic to protect against rain water from making its method inside.

When and Where you Shouldn’t Use extension Cords

Contrary to what you might think about extension cords, there room some instances whereby they shouldn’t it is in used, depending on the appliance and how much away it is.

First off, expansion cords have the right to only be so long. In general, the more thickness the cord is (gauge-wise), the longer it deserve to be (up to approximately 150 feet v the thickest cords). This is why friend hardly ever before see light-duty extension cords much longer than 25 feet or so, because the voltage would certainly die down before it reached the appliance, result in gadgets not getting enough power and also possibly developing safety hazards. This is additionally why friend shouldn’t daisy chain expansion cords.

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Furthermore, extension cords have to not be set up inside of walls and also used permanently, because they’re unshielded and not heat-resistant, conversely, true romex electrical wire is.

As because that using expansion cords to power high-wattage appliances prefer a space heater or a hair dryer, it’s normally frowned upon. Many appliance manufacturers will certainly tell you not to perform this, because it’s really straightforward to use an expansion cord that isn’t rated because that the power needed from the appliance. However, it’s usually not a trouble if you usage the correct type of expansion cord.

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For instance, if your space heater traction 15 amps, you’ll desire an expansion cord that can handle at least 15 amps. This way you’ll probably end up through at least a 14-gauge extension cord, however even 10- or 12-gauge cords will occupational as well. What girlfriend don’t desire to perform is use a light-duty extension cord the isn’t rated for the power attract a an are heater pulls—that’s asking for trouble.


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Craig LloydCraig Lloyd is a smarthome experienced with practically ten year of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and also GottaBeMobile. Read complete Bio »