Extension Cords: Why Skimping on Them Is Risky


Father’s Day is right around the corner and you may think you know what dad wants for a gift this year. All the same, something you may be overlooking if you were intending to give him something electrical is also gifting him with the proper extension cords to go with it.

A very popular gift category for father’s typically is tools. Now if you are intending on buying dad power tools ask yourself this question. Will dad be able to plug into the outlets he will use easily?

Most people go to the home center and browse the tools on display without thinking electrical safety and extension cords, only the new tool dominates their attention. Regardless, we often don’t believe extension cords matter all that much as long as we can plug into the socket.


If you’re like me, you ask questions in stores and hopefully the sales person in the store handling what you need has the skills to give the right recommendation. But sometimes they don’t.

We recently ordered a lawnmower with a cord. We had a very hefty cord for years but it started not supplying power. There must have been a bad connection. Both ends looked fine but it was really old so time to toss it.

So then I see all these choices. People are tempted to buy extension cords that are the right length and reasonably priced. Ok, you skimp on the extension cord because it may be a lot more money or entirely too long for your needed purpose. Though it doesn’t sound like a big deal, this is not a good idea.

Most extension cords have labels and the packaging should tell how much power you need. If you go with too small a grade of wire, you could run into a problem. Although your brand-new power tool will work, the life expectancy of the tool will be less. And you don’t want to try and draw too much power through a small cord because it could be dangerous. Think of it as a fire company hooking your garden hose up to the fire truck. What would happen? Well nothing since the hose wouldn’t fit. But let’s say it did. The hose would burst really fast.

You may have a tool drawing 13 amps and intend to use a cheap, no-name 16 gauge cord. The tool may work, but over time the motor will die faster. Wearing out an expensive power tool is one thing, but the cord itself could heat up and potentially create an electrical safety risk.

Always read your manual that comes with the tool. And the price difference isn’t that great between some of these extension cords. You are better off erring on the side of larger gauge cord. For example, if the cord is rated for 15 amps and your tool is 13 amps, then buying a 12-gauge wire over the smaller 14 gauge wire would be better since you are not spending that much more.

Finally, consider the length you need to use as well. A longer length usually pushes up the requirements for a heavier gauge extension cord. Stay safe because the right extension cords really do matter for electrical safety and those important father’s day gifts.


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