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What's the Difference Between a Two-Prong and Three-Prong Extension Cord?

Do you know the functional difference between a two-prong and three-prong extension cord? Other than "one has two prongs, the other has three." If not, don't worry - you're not alone! A lot of people don't know the difference, but it's an important distinction to make.

If you can't determine one of these major differences off the top of your head, then this article is worth reading. With how easy it is to get into electrical accidents using everyday appliances, it's astonishing that basic electrical safety isn't standard knowledge. It's one thing if you use the same trusted cords for the same appliances, but one change to your routine could put you in trouble.

In this blog post, we'll talk about the differences between these two types of extension cords and what safety precautions to take when deciding.

Two-Prong and Three-Prong: An Overview

First, let's talk about what each type of extension cord is used for. A two-prong extension cord is typically used to plug in small appliances, like a toaster or a blender. A three-prong extension cord, on the other hand, is meant for larger appliances, like a lawnmower or chainsaw. Three-prong extension cords are in high demand because most of the appliances that use them need the extra length to receive the power it needs.

Two-prong extension cords are not seen as frequently because they aren't as universal as three-prong extension cords. Being used for small appliances only, they just don't have a wide array of purposes. You typically don't need to extend the length of your toaster oven's cable; you simply plug it into a kitchen outlet and start making toast. So, if you happen to see one laying around and are not sure where it's from, it probably has a very specific use with another appliance nearby.

Major Differences Between Two-Prong & Three-Prong Extension Cords

Now, let's talk about the differences between these two types of extension cords. The most obvious difference is that a three-prong extension cord has three prongs, while a two-prong extension cord has only two prongs. But what does this mean?

The three-prong extension cord has a third prong that provides grounding. This is an important safety feature because it helps protect you from electric shock in the event of an accident. If you're using an appliance that isn't grounded, you could get shocked if the extension cord touches water or something wet - but a three-prong extension cord will protect you.

Grounding

What does "grounding" mean? When an appliance is grounded, it means that it's connected to the earth. If there's a problem with the appliance, like a short circuit, the ground will help protect you from getting shocked because it will divert any excess current into the ground instead of through your body.

A three-prong extension cord provides a grounding, while a two-prong extension cord does not. If your appliance's plug makes use of three prongs, the rule of thumb is that you'll need to use a three-prong extension cord every single time. Just because a two-prong plug will technically fit, doesn't mean it's supposed to!

Gauge

Another important difference is the gauge, or thickness, of the extension cord. A three-prong extension cord has a higher gauge than two-prong extension cords, which means it can handle more power and will be less likely to overheat when you're using an appliance that requires a lot of electricity. The thicker the extension cord's wires are (which corresponds to lower numbers on its "gauge"), the better!

Length

The third difference between these two types of extension cords is their length. Two prongs extension cords tend to be shorter than three-prong ones because they're meant for smaller appliances that don't require as much power; however, this isn't always true - so make sure you know what kind of extension cord you're using and what it's meant for.

Safety Precautions

So, which extension cord should you use? If you're using an appliance that isn't grounded, or if you need a longer extension cord, then you'll need to use a three-prong extension cord. Otherwise, a two-prong extension cord will work just fine.

Remember to always use the appropriate extension cord for your appliance - otherwise, you could end up with a dangerous safety hazard!

What Happens If You Use a Three-Prong Extension Cord On a Two-Prong Toaster?

If you use a three-prong extension cord on a two-prong toaster, the toaster will work just fine. However, it's important to note that you won't be grounded and you could potentially get shocked if the extension cord touches water or something wet.

So, while it's technically okay to use a three-prong extension cord on a two-prong appliance, it's extremely dangerous. Stick to using two prongs for small appliances and three prongs for larger ones to be on the safe side. 

Vice Versa...

If, on the other hand, you're trying to use a two-prong extension cord on a three-prong appliance, chances are that it will simply not work. The appliance likely won't receive enough power to even turn on. However, note that you should never attempt this because it could be potentially dangerous. If it does power on, don't be fooled -- it might overheat very quickly.

An Overview

In conclusion, there are three main differences between two-prong and three-prong extension cords: grounding, gauge, and length. Three-prong extension cords are always the safest option, but make sure you know what you're using them for before making your final decision.

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