Extension cords offer a means of connecting appliances, tools, or gadgets to a nearby power source. In most cases, the wires attached to these appliances are too short, so they can’t connect directly to the outlet. Apart from that, you can conveniently power heavy equipment without the need to move them close to the power outlet. Many users are not aware that these gadgets have different ratings. In other words, you can buy any available cord in the market; it needs to meet your usage requirement.
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Purchasing an electrical cord with the wrong specifications and sizing can pose safety hazards at workplaces, homes, or wherever you intend to use it. To avoid unpalatable occurrences, you must take consider factors like sizing, power rating, and the environment you intend to use the device before buying the product. The fact is that you can avoid most electrical cord accidents by going for a product perfect for the job.
Factor to Consider When Buying an Extension Cord
Electrical cords are of diverse types and specifications. Two essential factors that you must not overlook when selecting this product include the power capacity and ability to transmit current safely. Pay attention to the following parameters when choosing an extension cord:
The current-carry capacity of a cord hinges on the diameter or thickness of the wire. Apart from that, it also determines how much the cord heats up when in use. You can identify the wire gauge through a rating called the American Wire Gauge (AWG). For instance, a 12 AWG 120V extension cord indicates that the cord has 12-gauge wires and can be safely connected to a 120 V electric source. In the AWG rating system, the cord thickness varies inversely as the number.
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The voltage drop across the wire is dependent on its length. In other words, it is the amount of voltage lost due to the cord resistance. The voltage drop tends to increase with the wire’s length. In other words, short cords have a higher capacity than longer ones. Furthermore, you can reduce the voltage drop across a wire by reducing its length.
You also need to consider the environment you intend to use the device. The cord insulation, known as a jacket, protects the wire from the direct impact of cold, sunlight, moisture. The products come with different letter designations. For example, letter A means flexible cord ideal for general use, O indicates that it is resistant to oil, while W depicts that the product is perfect for outdoor use.
How do Extension Cords Work?
You will understand the cause of most electrical cords accident better if you know how this device works. Electrical cords consist of a plug and a length of insulated wires. When you connect the plug to the electrical outlets, power flows through the wire down to the power strip. The wire gets hot as a result of electric flow.
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Excessive heating can occur due to overloading. When this happens, the insulation melts, and the wire gets damaged. This situation causes a short circuit and can eventually lead to a fire. You can avert this problem by buying the right extension cord that can meet all your power demands. Apart from that, you should not exceed the cord’s load capacity.
Best Extension Cords for Different Load Capacities.
Electrical loads can be categorized into three – light, medium, and heavy. It is worth mentioning that you need different cord specifications for each category.
Light Duty Appliances and Devices
A low-capacity extension cord is suitable for this category of electrical loads, including lambs, DVDs, clocks, etc. Using this wire with heavy equipment can lead to overheating and other electrical hazards. Light-duty cords have two prongs, meaning that they do not have the third wire meant for grounding. This device power of about 7 A; so, it is not suitable for power-demanding gadgets. Light duty cords of lengths 25, 50, and 100 feet use 18, 16, and 14 AWG wires, respectively.
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The gadgets that fall into this group include computers, television, and appliances with a power rating of less than 10 A. A 25 feet cord capable of powering these devices will use 16 AWG wires, while 12 and 14 AWG wires are suitable for 100 and 50 feet medium-duty extension cords, respectively.
Heavy Duty Appliances
A high-capacity cord is ideal for appliances that draw high currents, ranging from 10 to 15 Amperes. Unlike light-duty electrical cords, they have a third prong for grounding. And, they can also be connected to grounded equipment.
A 100 feet cord in this category uses a 10 AWG wire, while those having lengths of 25 and 50 feet can use 14 AWG and 12 AWG wires, respectively.
Selecting a safe and reliable electrical cord is not guesswork. You need to understand different parameters and specifications that relate to the product. Before you make your purchase, find out your electrical load requirement and select the appropriate cord based on your understanding of the length and AWG rating of the product.