Three Things to Consider Before Buying an Extension Cord
Not all power cords are the same, so make sure yours won’t fail when you need it most.
It’s incredible how often we need an extension cord—to run a shop vac in the garage, power holiday lights, or help with lawn chores like weed-eating and hedge-trimming, among other tasks. There are tons of options available, in varying lengths, power ratings, and colors. It’s not a one-size-fits-all-jobs choice, so here are some ideas to help you figure out exactly what you need to keep things powered up.
Most extension cords are made with three prongs, or blades, instead of just two, so make sure your cord can handle the third ground wire, a critical component of safety. And for all but the most basic uses, get an extension cord built with reinforced prongs to keep it from bending or breaking
The diameter of the wire in an extension cord relates to how much power the cord can safely handle. The smaller the number, the thicker the wire gauge. For general, light household duty, a 16-gauge cord will suffice. But for commercial applications and major appliances that require a lot of electricity, step up to 12-gauge wire to avoid overheating and melting a cord.
The outside layer of an extension cord is called the jacket, and there are several types. Some are made for outdoor use, while others are primarily for indoor applications. Generally, the heavier the wire gauge, the thicker the jacket. If you’re using an extension cord to plug in power tools for household applications or indoor construction projects, look for a jacket that won’t mark up floors and walls.