Buying Extension Cords: Top Safety Tips


Arguably, not all electrical outlets at our home or offices can satisfy our needs. Some spaces do not have sufficient outlets. Other areas that do have them are likely to be covered by furniture or home appliances or are insufficient in providing for all our power extension needs. Hence, we resort to using extension cords. 

There is no question that using one can make our lives easier. However, what many people fail to realize is that there are risks involved when using it. This is why it is important to follow some safety tips when using extension cords. 

Buying The Best Extension Cord

Ensuring the best safety starts with the purchase. It is essential to buy one that has been approved by regulators or an independent testing laboratory. One also has to keep in mind that they can serve many different functions. Whether intended for indoor or outdoor use, buy the best one that is marked as such.

Reading instructions are equally important, too. One should know the amount of power it can carry and it’s very important to look at the rating of the cord to know the wattage of the devices it can power.

Determining Your Needs

Before heading out to buy one, inspect the space and the outlet to determine the cord length needed. Keep in mind extension cords that are longer are incapable of handling as much current as a shorter one.

Plus, if you are buying one for your bigger appliances, then a round, thick and low-gauge power cord is the best option.

If you are buying for small electronics and appliances, then flat or thin cords will do. 

The Different Types of Cords to Know About

One often thinks that buying an outlet extension cord is simple until they reach the store and see the many choices available to them. Today cords come in various kinds, lengths and capacities. It is important to know whether the intended use is either for hand power tools, using the best leaf blowers or larger appliances.

Determine Length and Gauge Required

An extension cord, as the name suggests, extends the power from the outlet. There are two factors on whether a cord can do its job as you need, namely, the length and the gauge. The gauge is the diameter or thickness of the cords wire and there are different sizes such as 18, 16, 14, 12 and 10.

One has to keep in mind that the smaller the gauge number, the thicker the wire will be. A cord that is 18-gauge may have a wire that can reach up to only 25 feet and has a rating of five to seven amps. On the other hand, a cord at 10-gauge can probably extend up to 100 feet and has a rating of up to 20 amps.

Voltage Drop and Length

Keep in mind that the voltage drop is affected by the length of the cord. Voltage drop is when the resistance of the electricity that flows through the cable is excessive. One has to avoid a voltage drop by buying a cord with the shortest length with the correct size of gauge.

Light or Heavy Duty Needed?

Furthermore, an extension cord can be marked as either light-duty or heavy duty. It is essential to choose either depending on the intended use. A person looking for an indoor extension cord that can handle small devices like clocks and lamps should opt for the light-duty.

A light duty cord has a range of 14 to 18 gauge with lengths that can go as far as 100 feet. The length varies depending on the gauge size. Another option is to purchase a power strip with multiple outlet connections.

Heavier devices or appliance that naturally need more power will require a heavy duty extension cord. Heavy duty ones typically range from 10 to 14 gauge with lengths that can go as far as 100 feet using an retractable extension cord reel. However, one has to remember that it is highly recommended to buy an extension cord with the shortest distance possible for big appliances. Keep in mind that choosing the right length and gauge can avoid electrical accident or damage.

If you are unsure of the kind you need, then it is highly recommended you first determine the use, whether for indoor or outdoor use to determine the right one to buy.

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How to Use Extension Cords Properly

Many people plug into an extension cord without much thought to safety precautions. Many fail to realize that there is a need to handle them properly and safely.

Grounded extension cords are such and one should never remove the grounding pin making it into a two-prong outlet. One should also refrain from using just one cord to power up multiple appliances. Indoor extension cords are intended for indoor use and outdoor extension cords are used for outdoor use.

Some people make the mistake of connecting several together. This should not be done, and instead, users should buy one with enough length to reach the outlet. 

Where you place one is just as important. Placing them under furniture or a rug is not safe. Some people also make the mistake of taping them to surfaces or using staples or nails to keep it in place. Never use items like nails, tape or staples with securing extension cords.

Sharp bending when they are not in use is not recommended. Also, never use one if it is damaged or frayed.

Additional Care Tips

Store extension cards indoors in a dry location. Always keep unplugged when not in use. If damaged, it is best to throw them out rather than keeping them. 

How you unplug them from the outlets is also critical. Many people make the mistake of pulling the cord instead of the plug from the outlet, which arguably can cause some damage.

If you find yourself needing a lot of cords at home, then it is time to consult with an electrician to check how you can improve the electrical wiring of your home. Always be responsible when using extension cords on a leaf chopper or other types of gardening tools. Otherwise, you are putting yourself and the people around you in danger.

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