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The Best Extension Cords for Outdoor Use: How to Choose Safely

Choosing the best outdoor extension cord requires knowledge and care. There are a few things you need to consider, such as the weatherproofing, the type and condition of the extension cord, and the gauge of the wire.

When you're working outdoors, you need to have the right extension cord to get the job done safely. Not all extension cords are created equal - some are designed for indoor use only, while others are made for outdoor conditions. In this blog post, we will discuss all of those factors so you can make an informed decision about which extension cord is right for you.

How Do I Know If My Extension Cord Is Safe For Outdoor Use?

Extension cords are a necessary evil - they're often needed to assist power tools or appliances, but can be dangerous if not used correctly. There are a few things you need to look for when choosing an extension cord for outdoor use.

Weatherproofing

Make sure the cord is made of weatherproof materials so it doesn't get damaged in bad weather. An extension cord that is weatherproof will be protected against water, snow, mud, and will also be safe from the threat of abrasion caused by rough terrain.

The extension cord should have a thick, heavy-duty jacket to protect it from damage. Additionally, the plug should have a watertight seal to keep out moisture and prevent electrical shock. Outdoor extension cords have stronger insulation than indoor cables and will be made from a material like vinyl. All LifeSupplyUSA extension cords are manufactured with a thick, vinyl jacket rated for outdoor use.

Finally, check the label to make sure the extension cord is rated for outdoor use. You can tell if the cord is rated for outdoor use if the label says "Outdoor Use" or uses the letter indicator "W" -- not to be confused with "O". A letter grade of "W" stands for "weather-resistant" and is meant for outdoor use, "O" on the other hand, simply means that it is oil-resistant. Although, an extension cord that is oil-resistant is typically suited for outdoor use as well, check the label.

Classification

Some cords are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, including those manufactured by LifeSupplyUSA. These cords are rated "SJTW", which means it is suitable for indoor and general use (S), the insulation is a standard 300-volts (J), it is made of a vinyl thermoplastic material (T), and it is suitable for outdoor use (W).

How To Spot Extension Cord Hazards

With all this in mind, please also note that an extension cord is never safe for use if the cable:

  • Is frayed or damaged
  • Has exposed wiring
  • Shows evidence of overheating

 

Indoor extension cords should never be used outdoors because do not have the proper insulation or protection against moisture. If you use an indoor cord outside, the following dangers are possible:

  • The cord could short out, causing a fire.
  • The insulation on the wires might melt, which could lead to electrical shock.
  • The plastic coverings on the plug might melt or crack, exposing the metal contacts and resulting in an electrical shock.

 

Additionally, extension cords should never be used to plug in appliances like air conditioners or refrigerators. These large appliances require a lot of power, and using an extension cord can overload the circuit and cause a fire. No extension cord is made for constant 24-hour use, indoors or outdoors. Extension cords are meant to temporarily assist the transfer of power from an electrical outlet that cannot be reached. When not in use, they should always be unplugged.

Which Gauge is Better For Outdoor Use?

When choosing an extension cord for outdoor use, you might be wondering what the difference between a 16-gauge and 12-gauge extension cord is. The answer is that the thicker the gauge of wire, the more power it can handle. A 16-gauge extension cord is good for up to 13 amps, while a 12-gauge extension cord can handle up to 20 amps. If you're using an extension cord for a high-powered appliance, like a lawnmower or weed eater, you'll need one with a thicker gauge wire.

AWG Chart

You can refer to this chart on the left for the best gauges ("AWG") suitable for various appliances. In this case, a 16-gauge cord is not the best option, favoring low-powered indoor appliances. 14-gauge is a good option for outdoor use on small outdoor appliances like leafblowers, while a 12 or 10-gauge is used for heavy-duty/high-powered appliances or consistent use outside.

The safest gauge options for any outdoor use of extension cords are 14, 12, and 10. If you are using something like a chainsaw, opt for a 12 or a 10 gauge cable.

LifeSupplyUSA Extension Cords for Outdoor Use

If you're using extension cords outdoors on a regular basis, it might be worth upgrading to a LifeSupplyUSA extension cord. LifeSupplyUSA has extension cords available in lengths of 3 feet up to 200 feet for both indoor and outdoor use (among those including the most popular lengths such as 25, 50, and 75 feet.) In addition to being able to find any size, you can order the desired size in any gauge you need from 10 to 16!

All LifeSupplyUSA extension cords are rated for outdoor use. If you're interested in a high-quality outdoor extension cord, you can start shopping our catalog here!

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