Extension cords are an essential element for any home and workplace. They enable connectivity to electrical appliances without having to depend entirely on wall sockets. But choosing an extension cord is not as easy as one would think. Identifying the appropriate cord is essential to increase safety while using them. It reduces the risk of electrical accidents and increases the efficiency of the operating appliance.
When you walk into a store, you will witness several extension cords with different ratings, letters, color codes mentioned on the label, and certificates. So how can we pick the right choice for our needs from this pool of options? Here are five tips that will help you make the right choice.
1. Know The Amperage Rating
One of the essential steps while evaluating any electrical appliance is to check the amperage rating. It is a critical part of the electrical specification that refers to the maximum amount of voltage, current, or power the device can handle. Extension cords also carry these ratings that decide the type of application they are most suitable for.
Wattage ratings specified on the cord refers to the value derived by multiplying the maximum amperage rating by the maximum voltage rating. Extension cord designs can hold only a certain amount of current as specified. Plugging appliances that demand a much higher current could lead to damage to the appliance or the cord. These appliances will typically require high voltage and heavy capacity cords like 220 extension cords. Therefore inspect the ratings mentioned on the label and match them with the devices you intend to connect. Remember, if you are plugging in multiple devices, there is an increase in energy you need to account for.
2. Evaluate The Wire Gauge
The wire gauge indicates the size of the copper wire used for carrying power within the extension cord. You can see an AWG or American Wire Gauge specified on the device. A small number indicates that the copper wires within the inside are thick and hence express higher power delivering capacity. For example, extension cords with a ten gauge value can provide higher power compared to 16 gauge.
16 and 14 gauge are helpful for light-duty and everyday applications like connecting lights, fans, hedge trimmers. Workplaces requiring connecting power-intensive appliances such as saws and drills need to use ten gauge cords for safety. Another essential fact about cords with low gauge value is that they can carry power over long distances with minimal voltage drop. It is a necessary trait while working with motor or motorized equipment to ensure operational efficiency and increase the life of the device.
3. Examine The Letters
Understanding the various letters specified on extension cord labels or certificates is essential to ensure you make the right purchase. The letters indicate the suitable applications of the cord along with providing the safety ratings that can prevent accidents caused by misuse.
S – Flexible extension cords, suitable for general purposes.
W – Outdoor extension cords
J – Indicates the type of insulation used. The letter J indicates a 300 voltage insulation in the cord, whereas the absence of the letter indicates a 600-volt insulation cord. Cords with J are appropriate for heavy-duty applications.
K – Wires are oil resistant
T – The cords have a thermoplastic vinyl topcoat
E- They have a thermoplastic elastomer coating on the top jacket.
P – Intended for air conditioners or other parallel electrical applications.
4. Do Not Confuse Indoor And Outdoor Cords
One of the most important factors to keep in mind while choosing extension cords is where you intend to use them. The insulation specifications of extension cords vary for indoor and outdoor usage. If you plan to use a cord to connect devices in your garden, you should look for outdoor cords with thick insulation. The materials typically increase resistance against environmental factors like sunlight and rain, which reduces the rate of degradation. It will ensure that the cords sustain the temperature, dust without experiencing damage or breakage for a long time.
Similarly, if you plan to use the extension cords near the water or swimming pool, double-check the material’s water resistance before choosing one.
5. Frequency Of Use And Type Of Device Matter
Light duty cords are typically two-prong with no ground connection. They can deliver a maximum of 7 amps current and help connect simple appliances like lights and clocks. But the frequency of usage is often overlooked while using light-duty cords that could lead to damage.
If you plan to use the cord actively for long hours in a day, it is best to switch to medium-duty cords. They are capable of accommodating the high heat dissipation from long use without causing damage. Also, appliances that contain heating elements like hair dryers should never be plugged into light-duty cords.
Medium and heavy-duty cords have a three-prong system with a dedicated ground connection. Heavy appliances like space heaters, refrigerators will require this type of extension cord. Remember, you can plug in a two-prong appliance into a three-prong cord but not vice versa.
Understanding the various specifications of extension cords helps to know the best places to use them. Apart from choosing the correct ratings, avoiding common extension cord mistakes such as plugging too many appliances into the outlets or cascading them can help prevent accidents at home and workplaces.
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