Many people view extension cords (also known as extension cables, extension leads, power extenders, or drop leads) as low-involvement purchases that do not require serious considerations. However, buying the wrong extension cable can be a costly affair, both financially and safety-wise.
Fortunately, choosing the right extension cord is possible even with little or no electrical know-how. Below are the top five tips to help you narrow down your search for a perfect extension cable.
Determine Whether You Need an Extension Cord
The very first question to settle before shopping for extension cords is whether you need these cables in the first place.
It’s worth noting that not all electrical appliances will require extension cords. Some of these devices, such as hairdryers and treadmills, may simply need additional power outlets. Using an extension cable on an appliance that doesn’t require electrical extensions may reduce the equipment’s overall longevity. That’s regardless of whether the cord comes with features indicating it can support the amount of current needed for these appliances.
For instance, electrical appliances need specific wattage to function correctly. When used with extension cords for a while, these devices may start to heat up due to resistance. Ultimately, they could explode and cause severe electrical fires, shocks, or electrocution.
Another scenario where you may not need an extension cord is if an electrical appliance can be moved nearer to the wall sockets or other power outlets. For instance, why would you buy an extension cable for your iron when you can set up an ironing table near the wall socket?
Choose the Right Wire Length
After determining that you need an extension cord, the next step is to choose a wire of the right length.
Ideally, you want a cable that can effectively bridge the gap between your electrical appliances and the wall sockets.
The cord should be long enough to leave considerable allowance. Too tight wires increase the risks of tearing and melting, while too loose wires can easily cause entanglement.
The good news is that numerous extension cord suppliers deal in power extenders of different lengths. All you need to do is sample their product collections and select a cable that suits your needs.
Choose the Right Wire Gauge
Gauge is another crucial consideration when shopping for extension cords. Gauge is simply another term for diameter or thickness. It refers to the thickness of the actual copper wires carrying the electrical currents and not that of the entire sheathing material.
Note that the diameter of a power extender determines its current-carrying abilities. Thicker wires have better current-handling capacities, which make them ideal for heavy-duty electrical appliances like cookers and ovens. Thinner wires are better suited for light-duty devices like woofers, televisions, and DVD players.
Another essential thing to note about electrical wire gauges is that they’re measured in inches and the numerical values assigned are inversely proportional to the diameter size. For instance, a 10-gauge extension cable has a thicker diameter than a 14-gauge cord.
Lastly, it’s essential to understand the relationship between the length and diameter of extension cables. Longer cords usually have thinner wires, which makes them less suitable for heavy-duty appliances. So, you’ll need to strike a perfect balance between length and thickness before buying a power extender.
Select the Right Plug Type
Most electrical cords have two or three-prong plugs. The type of plug you choose depends on your appliance’s current requirements.
If you’re using heavy-duty equipment, you’ll undoubtedly desire an extra layer of safety. In that case, you’ll be better off with a 3-prong outlet.
Three-prong outlets come with a ground wire, while two-prong plugs do not. The extra wire can help control erratic power surges, preventing the additional currents from damaging your electrical appliances. It also minimizes the risks of electrical shocks or electrocution in the event of direct contact with naked copper wires.
In addition to choosing three-prong plugs, you may also consider cables that come with the following extra safety features;
- Built-in GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter)
- Twist & lock mechanism
- Light indicator
- Several sockets
- Consider Environmental Suitability
Lastly, the environment you’re working in can help you hone in on the proper electrical cord.
Are you looking for a cable for indoor or outdoor usage? And if working outdoors, what are the prevailing weather conditions in your region?
Power extenders designed for outdoor usage usually have the outer layer made from weather-resistant material. But how can you tell for sure?
Well, you’ll need to keep your eyes out for the following designations;
|S||For general use.|
|W||For outdoor use, the letter stands explicitly for weather-resistant.|
|J||Denotes a 300V insulation wire; without the letter, the wire automatically includes a 600V insulation.|
|P||Denotes parallel wire construction, typical in air conditioners.|
|T||Indicates a cord jacket made from vinyl thermoplastic.|
|E||Indicates a cord jacket made from thermoplastic elastomer rubber.|
There are numerous things to bear in mind when shopping for the right extension cord. Ensure you’re buying a duly-standardized wire. And while you’re at it, insist on a cord that bears either an IEC or NEMA mark of quality.