Extension cords are a necessity in almost every home or office. You will always need an extension from a nearby outlet to your location when an outlet is not close enough for access.
Wire gauge is the power carrying capacity of the wire and the physical size. The higher the gauge or AWG number, the smaller the conductor. If the wire gauge number is small, it will have a larger diameter. The gauge also determined its weight per unit length and the resistance of the wire.
A study by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that improper use of extension cords is hazardous. The agency advises consumers to use special, heavy-duty cables like the 10 gauge extension cord for high wattage devices. This is essential for freezers, air conditioners, and portable electric heaters. Not using the right extension can increase the risk of fire or electrocution hazards.
Each wire gauge has a safe Ampacity, the maximum electrical current it can carry. As such, the measurements dictate the current that can safely pass through the wire without causing damage.
Here are some reasons why you might want to use a 10-gauge extension:
1. For Power Hungry Devices
A 10-gauge extension cord is Ideal for heavy-duty devices. As such, it’s the thickest available extension on the market. A 10-gauge extension cord can power up to two 15-amp power tools or appliances.
Most home appliances will run well with 12-gauge extension cords. However, heavy-duty electronics such as machines and lawnmowers need a lower gauge or Ampacity such as 10AWG. It’s best to use a heavier cable than one too light for the appliance or tool. Besides, the cord may get hot if it’s too light, and cords heating up signifies danger.
The longer the extension, the lesser amps capacity. Here’s a breakdown of the different extensions and their capacity:
- 16-gauge extension – light duty
- 14-gauge extension – medium duty
- 12-gauge extension – heavy duty
- 10-gauge extension – super heavy duty
2. To Handle Over 15-amps
To measure the relationship between cord thickness and length, check the amperage rating on the cord’s packaging. The cord should list a maximum amperage. Avoid extensions rated for ten amps or 13 amps. Instead, get one rated for at least 15 amps. With maximum amperage, you can plug in any household tools or equipment. Besides, most residential electrical panels have 15A breakers or fuses to cut off the power before the cord can’t handle the load.
3. Helps Prevent Joining Multiple Extensions
It’s advisable to buy longer cords than you think you’ll need. The extra length leaves you room for error. Besides being more convenient, a longer cable is safer too. Experts advise against daisy-chain extension cords – connecting one to another. Multiple cords plugged into each other may cause a resistance between the outlet and the appliance you’re trying to power. There can also be additional heat build-up along the way, increasing the risks of fire due to one of the cords melting.
Added resistance can, in turn, cause voltage drops in equipment like saws, drills, and vacuums, causing them to run at lower power.
4. Useful When You Need the Thickest Wire
Thickness is another aspect that dictates how much power a cord can carry. When connecting power, a long-distance, thicker wires can take higher power. Though most cords will meet the minimum requirements to run lower-power gear, they won’t be able to run power tools like saws, drills, or vacuums safely at peak power.
In the US, manufacturers usually list cord thickness in terms of gauge. A large number means smaller wires and, consequently, less power. Experts recommend a cord measuring 14 AWG at lengths of 25 feet as the thinnest you can go for. The 10 AWG is probably is one of the thickest gauges you’ll get, and it’s perfect for those power-hungry devices.
How Many Amps & Watts Can a 10-Gauge Extension Cord Handle?
A 10-gauge aluminum extension cord typically has a 3600 watts rating or 30 amps at an ambient temperature of 167°F.
This amp capacity can power a large air conditioner, apartment range, electric dryer, or a built-in single oven. You can only use it with over 30 amps.
Here’s a breakdown of the wire use-rated capacity for each gauge for choosing electrical wire size.
- 18-gauge – Low-voltage lighting and lamp cords in 10 amps
- 16-gauge – Light-duty extension cords supporting 13 amps
- 14-gauge – Light fixtures, lighting circuits lamps with 15 amps
- 12-gauge – 120-volt air conditioners and for the bathroom, kitchen, outdoor receptacles, supporting 20 amps
- 10-gauge – 240-volt window air conditioners, electric water heaters, electric cloth dryers supporting 30 amps
- 6-gauge – Cooktops and ranges carrying 40-50 amps
- 4-gauge – Electric furnaces and large electric heaters protected at 60 amps
Like AWGs, extension cords are in different types and forms. 10-gauge extension cords are thicker and offer more power. When buying extension cords, you have to consider factors such as how power-hungry the device is, how much power the cable carries, and how long of an extension you need.