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Picking the Right Cord for the Job

December 1, 2017

It seems as if everything in today’s modern world needs electricity to make it function.


Electrical extension cords can be a great aid when trying to power many of these items. They can move that needed item just a little closer to where it is convenient, such as a light. They can even allow you to expand the number of items you can use from an electrical outlet. But did you know there are limitations to what and how many items can be plugged into an extension cord?

For an electrical item to work properly it uses a measurable amount of electricity. This amount is measured in units called amperes (Amps). The number of amps needed to run an item can be found printed or stamped on the item. This number is accumulative, meaning a 2-amp item and a 3- amp item will require 5 amps to make both items work properly. This is an important bit of information that is often overlooked or forgotten with dangerous consequences.

Electrical extension cords are designed to safely support a certain number of amps based on their design and function. As the electricity flows through the copper wires in the extension cord, friction is created while the electrons travel through the wires. This friction creates heat. If enough heat is created it can and will melt the extension cord. In return this may cause items close to the cord to possibly catch fire. This scenario has played out thousands of times, not only causing the loss of property but many lives.

Be smart and choose wisely, make sure the cord you use is rated for the amps needed to operate your electrical items.

Make sure the cord is not covered by other materials. Those items can include rugs, flooring, clothing or debris. Your cord uses the surrounding air to cool itself. Never leave the unused sections of an extension cord rolled or balled up when plugged in. Being stored in such a way will not let the cord breath (cool) properly.


Some larger electrical items are not designed to be used with long extension cords i.e. air compressors, welders or appliances. This is due to their large demand for amps during start up and their continued operation.  

Also, remember there is a big difference between outdoor and indoor extension cords. Indoor cords don’t do well in wet environments. And tend to be more fragile. So, make sure you pick the right extension cord for the job, it really does matter.


Count those amps!


Contact us for more information on this and other safety topics or for a safety review.


•    National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 921
•    National Electrical Code (NEC)

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