1. Home

Discuss in my forum

Extension Cord Choices

Choosing the right gauge extension cord for the job.

By

Extension Cord Choices

Extension Cord Choices

Photo: Getty Images

Homeowners often need to use extension cords to extend circuits to the places they need to use many different types of power tools. These power tools are in need of varying amounts of power to run them. The amperage draw of each of them is usually labeled on a tag attached to each. However, this information is not always available for you to determine what size extension cord is recommended for use with each individual tool.

Extension cords vary in rating based upon the amperage it can carry, the wattage it can handle, and the gauge of the wire. You may be wondering, “What size wire do I need?” Well, the fact of the matter is that the smaller the number of wire gauge, the more wattage and amperage it can handle safely. What’s important when choosing an extension cord is to determine the amount of the wattage and current draw the tool needs to run.

Extension cords should at least have a rating equal to or greater to the requirements needed to run a tool effectively. Extension cord lengths 50 feet or less can be used based upon the following chart, but runs over 50 feet should implement the next heavier sized cord to accommodate voltage drop in the cord due to the natural resistance of the wire.

* Warning!

Special caution should be taken with electric space heaters. You should never use an extension cord to plug one of these heaters into a power source. There have been numerous house fires due to such heaters having been plugged into extension cords due to the extreme amount of wattage they carry and the amount of amperage they use. Instead, they should be plugged into separate outlets I your walls, but be careful not to exceed the amperage rating on that circuit. If the circuit breaker trips or the fuse blows on the circuit you are plugged in to, unplug the heater at once and try another circuit with heavier wiring.

* Safety Reminder

Discard or repair extension cords that are missing ground connections, show signs of extreme wear, or have cuts and bare wires exposed from the outside coating of the cord. Drop cords without ground connections can be dangerous to the user. Nicks and bare, exposed wires can cause electrical shock when the user picks up the cord with their hands or winds an extension cord up to put it away.

Extension Cord Wire Gauges, Amperage Rating, and Wattage
Wire Gauge Amperage Rating Wattage Rating Power Tool Used
#18 5 Amps 600 Watts Detail Sander, Drill, Jig Saw
#16 7 Amps 840 Watts Belt Sander, Reciprocating Saw
#14 12 Amps 1,440 Watts Circular Saw, Miter Saw, Router
#12 16 Amps 1,920 Watts Table Saw, Radial Arm Saw
Related Video
Wrap an Extension Cord

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.