Investing in quality electrical components is one of the proactive ways to avoid electrical malfunctions. However, there’s usually the other bit of determining how, when, and where to use these parts.
In this article, we narrow our focus to one of the most commonly used electrical components – electrical cords. Read below as we provide a definitive guide on how to buy and use heavy-duty extension cords.
Introducing Heavy-duty Outdoor Extension Cords
There are multiple reputable electrical suppliers like Ameri Cord, where you can get a quality heavy-duty outdoor extension cord. But before you hit the stores, you’d want to know what these components are.
Now, the best way to describe heavy-duty outdoor extension cords is to split the phrase into its constituent components and then define each part separately.
What Is An Extension Cord?
An extension cord is a length of flexible electrical power cable designed with a plug on one end and one or multiple sockets on the other end.
Extension cords are also known as extension leads, power extenders, or drop leads. And while the term is commonly used for mains extensions, it may also be applied in different contexts to denote extensions used for other types of cabling.
What Is An Outdoor Extension Cord?
Extension cords differ across several parameters. One of the primary distinguishing factors is the environment in which the cables are meant to be used.
In this respect, we have indoor and outdoor extension cords. The names are pretty much self-explanatory.
An outdoor extension cord is typically used to power outdoor electrical machinery. These include equipment used in residential homes, offices, construction sites, and factories.
What Is A Heavy-duty Outdoor Extension Cord?
A heavy-duty outdoor extension cord is an outdoor power extender designed for use with heavy-duty appliances.
Electrical appliances are typically considered heavy-duty if they have an ampacity of 15 amperes. Notable mentions include space heaters, lawnmowers, water plasters, weed eaters, and power tools.
Factors to Consider While Shopping For a Heavy-duty Outdoor Extension Cord
Length is one of the key considerations when looking for heavy-duty outdoor extension cords. That’s for the simple reason that most of the equipment to be powered are usually situated a considerable distance from the nearest power outlets.
Most heavy-duty outdoor drop leads measure around two to thirty feet (0.6 – 9.1 meters). However, the actual length will depend on the location of the equipment to be powered. Some cords can be as long as 300 feet. For mobile electrical machines like lawnmowers, you’ll need to also factor in the maximum radius you can move the equipment while powered on.
The conventional wisdom is to buy a longer heavy-duty outdoor extension cord than you need. Longer cords are remarkably convenient. They’re also safe since they eliminate daisy-chaining, a highly discouraged practice in electrical connections.
Needless to mention, do not forget an extension reel if you’re buying very long cords. The reel will help prevent entanglements by ensuring only the required length of the wire is strewed around.
Length and thickness usually go hand in hand when selecting heavy-duty outdoor extension cords. Thicker wires are better equipped to carry more power over longer distances, which makes them preferable for heavy-duty power extenders.
It’s important to remember that smaller numerical values typically denote thicker wires. For instance, a 12-gauge extension cord is thicker than a 14-gauge one.
If you can’t seem to reconcile the correct wire thickness with the distance, you can use the below guideline;
- 14/3 (14 AWG) for 25-feet cords
- 12/3 (12 AWG) for 50-feet cords
- 10/3 (10 AWG) for 100-feet cords
NOTE: AWG is simply an abbreviation for American wire gauze, a thickness standard used for electrical cables in North America.
We’ve already indicated that heavy-duty electrical appliances typically have an ampacity of 15 amperes or over. So, it goes without saying that you’ll require an extension cord that can match the same amperage.
A good thumb rule is to avoid extension cords rated for 10A or 13A as these are unideal for use with heavy-duty machines. Instead, insist on power extenders rated for at least 15A.
- Number of Outlets
It’s intuitive to buy a power extender that comes with a maximum number of outlets. After all, you want to plug in as many electrical appliances as possible, right?
Well, wrong. When it comes to extension leads, experts strongly discourage drop leads with multiple outlets (commonly known as banana taps). That’s because such cables are easier to overload.
Heavy-duty outdoor extension cords can also vary in flexibility.
Flexible cords are easier to stretch out across a workspace. They’re also easier to coil and normally take up limited storage space. Besides, you can use them in tight outdoor spaces, such as along narrow corridors.
However, remember that flexibility shouldn’t replace the other key aspects like gauge and amperage. You also don’t want to overstretch flexible power extenders as you could accidentally strip the jacket.
- Protection against Electrostatic Discharge
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) refers to the spontaneous release of static electricity when two objects make contact.
When working outdoors, it’s best to insist on heavy-duty electrical cables that guarantee complete protection from ESD and other electromagnetic forces.
Be sure to check with a retailer if their extension cords come with proper electromagnetic shielding before purchasing it.
- Waterproofness and UV Protection
Working outdoors exposes extension cords to considerable risks of moisture and ultraviolet (UV) damage. That makes it necessary to consider heavy-duty outdoor drop leads whose jackets feature robust protection from the elements.
An excellent place to start is to choose a power extender with a thick jacket to shield the cable from mechanical damage.
Most importantly, ensure the jacket features polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or reinforced rubber. These materials have demonstrated a tremendous ability to guard against various elements that diminish cord durability, including moisture, temperature changes, and UV rays.
Proper Usage of Heavy-duty Outdoor Extension Cords
Buying the right outdoor extension cord is only half the hassle. The other half entails using the product properly to enhance its durability while also reducing electrical malfunctions.
One of the best practices when using outdoor extension cords is never to leave the cable outside. Experts also discourage daisy-chaining as this could significantly affect the cord’s voltage and current-handling abilities.
You also want to ensure you’re using the drop lead bearing in mind its ampacity. And as a parting shot, use heavy-duty outdoor power extenders with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
Heavy-duty outdoor extension cords are a great asset when you need to take care of outdoor errands like lawn mowing. Just be sure to follow this guide when buying and using an outdoor drop lead.