How to Pick the Right Extension Cord

Choosing the right extension cord


When choosing a heavy duty extension cord for outdoor use, safety should be your priority. This is especially true when buying an extension cord to use with your power tools and electrical equipment. Getting the best outdoor extension cord can make your job easier, but any benefits are lost if you create an unsafe situation, both for yourself and your tools/equipment. There are four things that you must keep in mind when choosing the best outdoor extension cord: length, gauge, rating and jacket color.

In many cases, you can find outdoor extension cords that range from 25 feet to 100 feet. The length that you need depends on your project, the layout of your work area and the location of your electrical outlets. We recommend you purchase the shortest length that you can use in order to get the job done. In other words, the shorter the cord ,the better. This is because a cord that is too long can overheat and also presents a safety hazard  (i.e., someone may trip and fall). If you occasionally need a longer cord but don’t want to risk having too much, join shorter extension cords together.  This assumes you match the proper gauge to the power requirements.

After you have calculated the length of the cord required, you will need to determine the gauge of the extension cord. Do not use an undersized cord as this could present a fire hazard and damage expensive tools and equipment. The most common gauges you will come across include 10, 12 and 14. The lower the gauge number, the larger the wires (conductors). Of course, the cord becomes heavier and heavier as the gauge gets smaller. Keep in mind that larger wires allow you to deliver more power safely over a longer distance. For example, a 12 gauge cord carries 15 Amps up to 100 feet while a 14 gauge only carries 13 Amps to 100 feet.

In general, extension cords are rated with alpha-numeric characters. These numbers are based on the environment that they were designed to be used in. This rating can be found on the outer cover (usually stamped or printed). To get the best outdoor extension cord, you will want to look for a rating such as SW-A, SOW-A, STW-A, STOW-A, SJA-A, SJOW-A, SJTW-A or SJTOW-A. You will also need to look for key ratings. These include outdoor use (W), heavy use (J), vinyl thermoplastic cover (T) and oil resistant (O).

The color of the outdoor extension cord is another important factor.  Many contractors use different colors for different lengths, departments, work crews, etc.  This makes cord selection and inventory control much easier. For example, Bad Ass 12/3 Industrial Grade Extension Cords are available in 8 different colors.

After you select the right outdoor cord for your application, add the final touch: custom print. you may find the need for printed extension cords. Personalizing extension cords with a name and phone number has proven to cut losses on the job site and at family reunions!


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