If you take a look around your house, you will notice that you have quite the collection of extension cords. We all do, and we all know why. What world would we live in if there was an outlet every three feet? Not to mention the number. I am not going to start and count, but I suppose you can imagine all by yourself.
Choosing the best extension cord may seem easy at first sight. And it is, nobody says it is hard. However, you must still have a clue about what you are doing. For example, you cannot use an inside extension cord outside and use it on your leaf blower. Why? For that, I am going to have to teach you a few things about electricity and resistance.
Why do you need to consider resistance?
When you buy an extension cord, you must know what you buy it for. That way you can establish the proper amperage rating for the cord. The flow of the electrical current, or the intensity, is measured in amps. You need to know how many amps you need. Just to give you an example, a lamp will draw less electricity than an electric oven. What does that mean? That you need a cord with more amps for the oven than for the lamp. Clear as day.
Another thing that you may notice is that whatever you plug into an extension cord will not produce as much power as when you plug it directly into the wall outlet. Why? Because wires come with resistance, and as the power travels along the wire, the energy will dissipate. If you do not know what that means, allow me to explain. A wire that is very log will need more resistance, and the thicker gauge wire will have much less resistance. You may be wondering what happens with energy. I do not know if you remember, but inschool, we were taught that energy cannot die, it just transforms. That is precisely the case. The dissipated energy will turn to heat, which is why wires are always insulated.
If you do not follow the required number of amps, you may expose yourself to danger. For example, if you use a tool that has more amps that the wire can carry, the insulation may melt or crack. Not only that has the potential of damaging your tool, but it can also cause shots, shocks, and fires. That is why it is very important to use a cord that is rated according to your use.
Length and thickness
Now that you got familiarized with amps and resistance, we can move to thickness. One thing you always need to remember is that if all things are equal, it is better to use a thicker and shorter wire than a longer and thinner. In the US, wire thickness is measured in American Wire Gauge. Do not let it fool you, though. When the wire is smaller in diameter, then the gauge is larger, and when the wire is thicker, you will have a smaller gauge. It kind of goes the other way around, but that is just how things are.
The smaller gauge you can find is the 16-gauge cable. It is among the cheapest extension cords, but there is the danger of not handling the power. A lot of fires started that way. Do not get me wrong, the 16-gauge extension cord is just fine if you plug in a lamp or a small appliance, but I would recommend that you always use a 12-gauge or thicker for your safety. It may b thicker and heavier, but that is a small price to pay for safety, is it not?
How to choose the best extension cord
When you are out for purchase, you need to know a few things. It is not rocket science to go extension cord shopping, but there are still a few things you should consider. Buying a random product is not the best idea. Otherwise, you may end up buying a 16-gauge extension cord for your leaf blower, which is not desirable.
- ü Outdoors vs. indoors extension cord – that is, in fact, something that you should take into consideration. That is because outdoors cords are designed for that purpose. They are more resistant than the other kind, and the plug is usually protected from the elements. You still should not keep your extension cord outside over night, but if you do, at least you know it will survive. An indoors extension cord will surely not.
- ü Outlets – when I buy an extension cord, I usually look at the number of outlets. I actually count how many outlets I need. You should do that too because it will spare you another trip to the store or another order. I find it quite frustrating when I do not have enough of them. Taking something out to plug something in is not my favorite activity. And for some reason, I like all my appliances to be connected at all times. Whenever I need one, I just push a button and not unplug something else to plug this one in.
- ü Size – the number of feet on the label depend on what you need the extension cord for. If you need to vacuum your house without unplugging the vacuum cleaner, then you may need a longer wire. But if you are just trying to transform one outlet into six so that you can set up your computer, you do not require more than 5 feet.
- ü On and off button – not many people like that button on an extension cord. Honestly, I love it, which is why all my cords have one. I find it useful, but not for the reasons you may think. I just had an experience a few years back that convinced me of the utility of the red button. I was not getting any power into the outlets, but I did not know that. However, the red button can be used not only for switching the cord on and off, but it will also let you know if it receives power.
- ü Materials – I am not sure if you know this, but the best material for wires is copper. It is an excellent electricity conductor, and at the same time, it is highly resilient. You may have heard someone talking that they are installing copper pipes and what not. That is because the copper will look just as good in 50 years as it looks now. You cannot fail with copper. It is true that this metal is a little bit more expensivethan other metals, but I think it is worth it.
What are the best extension cords?
Nobody can give you a clear answer to that question. There are hundreds of models on the market, so knowing exactly which one is the best is kind of impossible. However, what I can do is give you some suggestions. I chose three excellent products among the best extension cords. One of them ought to do the job.
Woods SlimLine 2241 Flat Plug Extension Cord
What I like about this cord is that it is actually flat, and not round. That may make a difference if you put it under the carpet or behind a desk. It was designed to save space, which is always something useful when it comes to extension cords. Also, the angled plug does not block the entire wall outlet (that is if you have a double wall outlet.)
The SlimLine was designed for indoor use only. It will allow you to place the furniture against the baseboard easily, and you can avoid accidents from a cord that sticks out from a wall. The manufacturer recommends that you use this cord for small appliances like clocks, lamps, holiday lights or other small devices. The reason behind that is that the extension cord from Woods is a 16/3, which means it has three 16-gauge wires. It is the slimmest of them all.
The cord has a length of 8 feet, which is not too much or too less for indoor use. My recommendation is that you use this cord in case you want to set up your computer or desk somewhere where you need more than one outlet. Overall, this product is perfect for the money you pay. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
AmazonBasics Outdoor Extension Cord
I am not trying to put Amazon on a pedestal, but their products are pretty good considering what is out there. Theymake high-quality products that can easily compete with some of the best brands. This extension cord is no different. I actually own this extension cord, and I use it in my garage. I usually use it so that I can take my car out on the driveway and vacuum its interior. So far, it has not let me down.
One of the things I noticed is that no matter how hot the driveway gets in the summer, the cord is resistant and it holds. It comes as no surprise since the vinyl cover protects the wires against abrasion, moisture, and direct sunlight. I have the 50 feet model, but you can also find it in the 100 feet version.
The AmazonBasics extension cord has three 16-gauge wires. Honestly, I thought it would give in. It has not, and that just proves that Amazon values quality no matter how little money you spend. Well, that and the fact that the wires are made of copper. You can never go wrong with copper. I also like the color and the fact that I can see it at all times. That orange is not easy to miss. Other features include a 3-prong grounded plug for your safety, 13 amp, 1625 watts, and 125 VAC. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip
Believe it or not, I own this model as well. I bought it after I tried the previous model for outside. This is an indoor extension cord, and I use it for my computer setup. It only has 6 feet, which is the perfect length for that. It is not as much as an extension cord, but more of an outlet multiplicator. It is a 6-outlet, surge protector power strip with one transformer outlet.
This model has the design I like. It comes with the red button that lets me know if the outlet gets any power. I can also unplug everything with a push of a button. It may come in handy when you go on vacation and want to disconnect everything. That is just an example, but many people do it.
The product at hand is designed to protect small appliances. It comes with a 790-Joule 3-line surge protection rating. It actually has a red LED light that will let you know if you are protected or not. Few models do that. And believe it or not, this extension cord has a better wire than the previous two models. It comes with a 14-gauge wire, which means it can survive shorts and shocks any day. Click here to read more reviews and buy on Amazon.
I only have two products of the three above, but the AmazonBasics 6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip is my favorite by far. I have just the right amount of outlets, it has the red button, and the protection LED light. An extension feature cannot provide many features, but this model provides more than enough. It is precisely what I needed.
Buying the best extension cord is not difficult, and it should not be treated as so. However, you need to have some knowledge about anything that you buy. I could not go shopping blindly not matter what it is. And if you think about it, extension cords are a serious thing. People suffer from all kinds of accidents and injuries because of them, so we would better treat them seriously. Click here to buy on Amazon
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