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What is the Right Size Extension Cord

What is the Right Size Extension Cord

Three reasons I need to buy the right size extension cord.

Coming Up Short
If you have ever decorated your house for Halloween, Christmas, Hanukah or any other holiday then you know it can be like playing Tetris on your lawn. Not only do you have to think of where you want to place every light, inflatable decoration, bow or sign, but then you have to make sure you have power to all the things that need it. The most frustrating thing that can happen is setting your decorations perfectly in place and at the very last moment realizing your extension cord is too short to bring the power where you need it. BLAH!!!

More is Not Always Better
For most objects and things more is better, Right? More money, more donuts, more vacations of course, but for extension cords there can become a point where it can be too much. If you have ever worked with an extension cord that is thirty feet too long, you would realize these things are heavy and can become tangled easily. We recommend the three bears approach, not to long, not to short but just right. It’s probably better to have a little more than not enough.

Another common problem with using a longer cord is the fact that depending on the gauge of the cord it may drop in amperage. Some people want to string different extension cords together, even using an indoor rated cord with an outdoor cord, this is not recommended and can cause issues for the user. If indoor cords are used outside for decorations, it can spell electrical trouble. Indoor cords do not have the same rugged outer jacket as an outdoor rated cord and have only two prongs where most outdoor cords have a thicker plastic jacket, heavier copper wiring and three prongs, all to protect your devices and the user from electrical shock. Different gauge cords carry different amounts of electricity to the end product. For example, a 50ft, 16-gauge extension cord carries 13 Amps of power to any device. A 100ft, 16-gauge extension cord carries only 10 Amps of power. If you have a 13 Amp drill and use a 100ft 16-gauge extension cord that drill is starving for power and may not function properly.

Some people want to keep that extra length of cord in a coil or a cord winder to lessen the cord size or ugliness of it when it is out in the open, this is a big NO NO. If you read the warning on any extension cord label it specifically says that the cord needs to be fully extended.  There is a reason for this warning. An extension cord carries electrical current and where there is current there is heat. The heat from a coiled cord stacked on top of each other could cause the jacket material to become soft and actually fuse the jacket layers together rendering the cord useless after its first use.

Just Right
I know what you are thinking, just right should be JUST RIGHT. However, that is not the case when it comes to extension cords. You should always have a bit of extra cord traveling from the wall where the plug of the cord is inserted to and the device the cord is connected to. The extra slack of extension cord allows you wiggle room in case you need to move your tool on a jobsite, appliance, or yard decoration without pulling it away from the wall or device. It also allows you to work freely without tugging because let’s face it, cords have zero give. If the cord were to pull away from the wall even the tiniest bit it opens you up to disaster. When a cord pulls away from an outlet and isn’t completely pulled out there is still electricity flowing from the wall to the plug. If the connection is not a sealed connection, it will cause the electricity to arch and try to find that complete connection. Kind of like after a good windstorm everything in your home is full of static and once in a while when you go to push on a light or touch someone or something it snaps and sparks when you get close that is an arch on a small scale. The cord arching can and will causing a hefty dangerous spark.

If the cord is not just right it could also come up off the ground causing a tripping hazard for someone walking by where you are working. Nobody wants to play limbo or jump rope in a shop or working on a project. The cord should always stay on the ground not above ground where it could knock things over or someone could run into it.

Summary

Now that you know three reasons why you need to buy the right extension cord here are some helpful tips before you buy your next cord:

  1. 1. Measure where you are placing your tool, decoration or appliance to the nearest outlet.
  2. 2. Make sure to purchase a cord that is longer than the distance you need. For example, you are having a party and you have a Crockpot you want to keep powered for a family get together but it is 8ft from the cord of the appliance to the outlet. You would not choose a 9ft cord, you want to buy the 12ft or 15ft cord which will allow the cord to lay flat on the ground and give yourself a little room.
  3. 3. When you buy a cord remember to check the amp and watts of the tool or appliance you’ll be using it with to make sure you buy the correct length and the cord conducts enough power to your tool. Do not buy two 50ft 14-gauge cords, plug them together and expect it to hold the 15 Amp 1875 Watt. The power drops on 16-gauge and 14 gauge after 50 feet. The name of the game is to get the correct power where you need it and the place you need it. If you’re not sure, consider buying a heavier duty extension cord, like a 12-gauge, especially if you are not sure of all the different uses you’ll put it through, that way you won’t have to worry about Amperage and Wattage changes.
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