The Ultimate Guide to Extension Cords

Extension cords provide power to indoor and outdoor devices that cannot reach nearby electrical outlets. Hence why extension cords make the life of many homeowners much easier. Most traditional and online stores sell a wide range of extension cords that you can use for different purposes.

You can see a variety of extension cords in a hardware store, ranging from cheap to expensive, and you may even get confused about which one to go for. Hence it is always challenging to find the right product. Also, it is essential to understand that using the wrong extension cord may cause problems like equipment failure (or even worse) or a severe safety hazard in your home.

Not all the extensions are suitable for you. If you are buying it for the first time, you can follow the guide below to better determine which ones suit your needs.

Basics of Buying an Extension Cord

1. Amps, Volts, and Watts

Amps or amperes means the current of electrons that passes through an electrical conductor. The higher electrons that pass through the conductor, the greater is the current. The conductors in an extension cord are the copper wires within the cord.

Voltage, also knowns as volts, is the measure of electrical forces that causes the electrons to move. The higher the voltage, the greater the electrical energy. Wattage or watts is the unit of measurement for the amount of electricity consumed. Watts are commonly used to measure the power consumption of lights, appliances, and other electrically powered devices.

Make sure to look for the amperage, voltage, and wattage value on the extension cord’s packaging. Choose a cord rated for at least the same total amperage, voltage, or wattage as the appliance or device you need to power using it.

2. Length

Another most important thing to consider when buying an extension cord is its length. Specifically, it is a good idea to buy an extension cord that is longer than you will need. If you are confused about whether to go for a shorter, less expensive cable, remember that nothing is more inconvenient than barely reaching the outlet at your workspace. 

A longer cord is not only more convenient but also much safer. Also, you don’t have to create a “daisy chain” of extension cords which is more likely to fail. A longer cord is also helpful because it allows you to get rid of buying another one for your next project.

3. Gauge

Other than the length, it would be best to consider the gauge of the extension cord, which is the diameter of the wires or conductors within the cord itself. The thickness of the cord is measured in American Wire Gauge or AWG. It is abbreviated to “gauge” and expressed numerically.

Most extension cords for households come in 16 gauge, 14 gauge, 12 gauge, and gauge. The lower the number, the bigger the gauge and the greater the amperage. An oversized gauge cord can also deliver electricity over extended distances without suffering voltage dips. A voltage drop means the loss of voltage as it travels down a long wire, and this is more likely to happen in a narrower gauge extension cord.

Therefore, if you have appliances with motors, it is better and more practical to use an extension cable with a larger gauge. If you try to connect such appliances to an extension cord with a smaller diameter, it can cause irreparable damage. Hence you must look for the gauge of the cable on the product package. It is also printed on the cord’s outer insulation or jacket.

4. Plug and Connector

Plug and the connector are among the common parts of the extension cord. In a two-prong or non-grounded extension, the male end has two parallel blades. Both ends are “polarized,” meaning one edge or slot is broader than the other. 

The thicker prong of an extension cord plug carries the neutral conductor, while the narrower prong carries the “hot” conductor. It is a safety feature that helps ensure that the extension cable’s neutral and hot conductors always match the outlet’s circuit conductors into which it is plugged. 

In a three-prong extension cord, the male and the female ends are also polarized. The cord also has a third prong known as a grounding pin. You should use this type of extension cord only with appliances that have a three-prong plug. Avoid removing the ground pin from the plug or circumventing the ground feature.

You can plug a non-grounded cord into a grounded outlet. Most extension cords have a lighted connector or a lighted locking connector for visibility and signal that the cable is powered. This feature is handy if you work in a dim light environment.

Indoor and Outdoor Extension Cords

Indoor extension cords are available in both non-grounded and grounded types, and in lengths ranging from three to 15 feet. Sixteen-gauge cords tend to have the lowest wattage, making them suitable for small appliances such as alarm clocks, electric fans, floor or table lamps, and chargers for mobile devices. Fourteen-gauge extension cords, on the other hand, are intended to use with higher-wattage light bulbs and appliances. But no matter the gauge, indoor extension cords are not weather-resistant and thus are intended for the indoors only.

As for certain devices like flat-screen televisions and desktop computers, they should be connected to a surge protector.

Outdoor extension cords, in comparison, are weather-resistant. They are meant for outdoor use but can also be used indoors. Outdoor extension cords are generally flexible because they are engineered to withstand sub-freezing temperatures. They are available in various lengths and gauges.

Our Top Picks

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
GE Flat Plug Extension Cord
FDTEK Flat Plug Extension Cord
GE Pro 7-Outlet Surge Protector Power Cord
Good Year Extension Cord Reels
Coleman 14 Gauge Outdoor Extension Cord
Coordinate Designer Extension Cord
Iron Forge 100 Foot Outdoor Extension Cord
US Wire and Cable Extension Cord
Voltec Pro Outdoor Extension Cable
FIRMERST Extension Cord
Champion Power Equipment Extension Cord
Ultrapro Extension Cord


1. GE Flat Plug Extension Cord


This one is an 8-foot extension cord. It has a braided cover in three different designs that make it easy to adapt to your existing décor. Moreover, it has three female plugs to power various appliances. 

The flat male end also has a significantly less bulky look than other models’ straight plugs, making it easier to fit behind furniture or appliances. However, this extension cod might not be suitable for outdoor or garage use.

Salient Features

  • Provides 250 Joules of surge protection
  • Has three grounded, three-prong outlets
  • 8ft. braided power cord
  • Tangle resistant


2. FDTEK Flat Plug Extension Cord


This extension cord has a unique shape that makes it both compact and multi-functional. It has four outlets surrounding the device and three USB ports on top. Its small footprint makes it suitable for desks or entertainment areas where several objects need plugging. 

Ideally, this is helpful, especially for travelers who don’t want to deal with the chargers and outlets while staying in a hotel room or rental house. It has a relatively short 5-foot length, yet it is preferable for people who don’t want to deal with extra cable length.

Salient Features

  • It has four AC outlets and three USB charging ports
  • Built-in smart IC charging technology
  • Safety features: over-current protection, overload protection, over-voltage protection, circuit breaker, and ABS PC fire-retardant material
  • Compact and portable design


3. GE Pro 7-Outlet Surge Protector Power Cord


This one by GE is a seven outlet extension cord with twist-to-close safety outlet covers that help prevent injury. It is also UL approved and has power ratings of 2.1 Amps and 10 watts, with a protection rating of 800 Joules.

With this low-cost extension cable, you can add 7 more outlets up to 3 to 4 feet from the nearest plug. 

Salient Features

  • A combination of an extension cord and a surge protector
  • Twist-to-close safety covers
  • Comes with two USB ports as well to charge your smartphones


4. Good Year Extension Cord Reels


This retractable extension cord is significantly more expensive than standard extension cords, but its convenience and organizational benefits may be worth it for the right user. It’s designed to effortlessly secure the 40-foot cord at whatever length you want and retract it when done with your activity. 

The Good Year extension cord is also suitable for outdoor applications like open garages. It retains its temperature elasticity in temperatures as high as 221° Fahrenheit and as low as -58° Fahrenheit. A light-up LCD brightens up the three-prong female end, so you never have to guess if your machines are turned on or not.

Salient Features

  • Reel design with a long 40ft cord
  • It can be used for various purposes, including indoor/outdoor, industrial, DIY, etc.
  • Cables are resistant to acids, alkali, ozone, and kinking


5. Coleman 14 Gauge Outdoor Extension Cord


The Coleman 14 gauge is a 100-foot extension cord. It is long enough to help you with anything, whether running a vacuum inside, running a saw outside, putting up Christmas light outdoors, or connecting a speaker for a garden party. 

The blades are water-resistant, and its exterior is resistant to moisture, sunlight, and abrasion, making this extension cord suited for outdoor use in all weathers. If you look at it in terms of price, it is very reliable and reasonable.

Salient Features

  • It can be used for various applications
  • The cord is highly visible indoors and outdoors, so no one trips over it
  • Flexible vinyl jacket covering is waterproof
  • 100ft long cable


6. Coordinate Designer Extension Cord


The Coordinate designer 3 is an excellent option for low-power equipment like lamps, portable fans, or charging gadgets. Unlike other low-cost indoor extension cords, this one is grounded. It also has a third prong for added safety against electrical shocks and shorts. It also has a flat plug that will not be bent or get dragged out of the outlet.

Salient Features

  • Perfect for indoor use
  • The cord is braided, so don’t worry about the bends and wrinkles
  • Low-profile flat plug


7. Iron Forge 100 Foot Outdoor Extension Cord


Even though this cable looks a bit flimsy, but don’t get misled by its appearance. This grounded indoor extension cord is made of high-quality materials and has worked well for many years for its users. It also has a lifetime replacement warranty, demonstrating that the company stands behind this product completely. 

This extension cord comes in various lengths, starting from 6 feet to 100 feet. 

Salient Features

  • Durable cable for outdoor use
  • Comes with a lifetime replacement warranty
  • Solid blades that protect the prongs from getting damaged


8. US Wire and Cable Extension Cord


This one by US Wire and Cable is a 100-feet long extreme all-weather extension cord. Due to the durable construction and high power rating, this is one of the best extension cords on the market right now. It is capable of doing any task around the house, garage, or garden safely and efficiently. 

Furthermore, this extension cord is quite flexible and adaptable as you can use it in freezing temperatures too. It comes in lengths, ranging from 25 feet to 50 feet to even 100 feet, so you can get the one that suits you best.

Salient Features

  • A heavy-duty cord that can withstand even the harshest weather conditions
  • Comes with a lifetime limited warranty
  • Oil resistant TPE jacket


9. Voltec Pro Outdoor Extension Cable


This extension cord gives you the perfect balance of power capacity, solid construction, and great value. It combines the flexibility of a lengthy, expensive cord with a 15-ampere power capacity to ensure that any item of gear using electricity from a standard socket does so securely. 

This thick and heavy cord is wrapped in a yellow and blue jacket that feels robust and durable but never fragile. It is a solid and reliable instruction that does the job pretty well.

Salient Features

  • Heavy-duty extension cord, excellent for outdoor use
  • The end is illuminated when the cord is powered
  • 100ft long cord that supports up to 15 amperes and 1875 watts


10. FIRMERST Extension Cord


This ten-foot extension cord by FIRMERST has a 14 AWG gauge rating and a power capacity of 15 amps, 125 volts, and 1,875 watts. It is UL-approved and can withstand temperatures of up to 167° Fahrenheit. Furthermore, the flat plug shape is ideal for the small spaces between outlets and furniture, bookcases, and desks. 

The thick and hefty wire is wrapped in a robust but flexible heavy-duty plastic. Comparing it to similar products with smaller 16 or 18 AWG wires, this cord can support more amperage and wattage with less possibility of overheating.

Salient Features

  • Heavy-duty extension cord
  • Thicker wire diameter
  • It won’t get hot that easily


11. Champion Power Equipment Extension Cord


This is a 25-foot extension cord that can support up to 30 amps, 125 volts, and 3,750 watts. It provides three 15-amp outlets and extends a single 30-amp lockable outlet 25 feet away from the generator. 

This extension cord is also abrasion and water-resistant and comes with dust covers to keep the outlets clean when not in use. It is also cold and heat resistant because of the 10-gauge wire that stays flexible even in freezing temperatures.

Salient Features

  • Cold and heat resistant
  • An excellent choice to get power from your generator from a safe, 25ft distance


12. Ultrapro Extension Cord


This UL-listed extension cord includes three powered outlets and a host of features to suit power-extension requirements for outdoor areas. It has a power capability of 13 amps, 125 volts, and 1,625 watts, making it suitable for general purposes. 

The cord is double insulated and has molded plugs for increased durability, lifespan, and safety. It comes in lengths, ranging from 9 feet to 100 feet. 

Salient Features

  • Offers a 16-gauge cable wrapped in a durable PVC insulation
  • Features three grounded, three-prong outlets


Comparison Table

  GE Flat Plug Extension CordFDTEK Flat Plug Extension CordGE Pro 7-Outlet Surge Protector Power CordGood Year Extension Cord ReelsColeman 14 Gauge Outdoor Extension Cord
Amps13102.1 (USB)1513
Watts1625125010 (USB)1875N/A
Length (feet)85340100
Gauge16N/AN/A1214
Safety FeaturesYESYESYESYESYES
Outlets34 AC + 3 USB7 AC + 2 USBNEMA 5-15R/NEMA 5-15P 3-prong plug3 pronged female plug
UsageIndoorIndoorIndoorIndoor/ OutdoorIndoor/ Outdoor
 
  Coordinate Designer Extension CordIron Forge 100 Foot Outdoor Extension CordUS Wire and Cable Extension CordVoltec Pro Outdoor Extension CableFIRMERST Extension Cord
Amps1310151515
Watts16251250187518751875
Length (feet)156/8/10/15 /25/50/75 /1001001003/10/15
GaugeN/A16121214
Safety FeaturesYESN/AN/A-YES
Outlets3 AC3 pronged female pluglighted female plug5-15P 3-prong plug3 pronged female plug
UsageIndoorOutdoorOutdoorOutdoorOutdoor
 
  Champion Power Equipment Extension CordUltrapro Extension Cord
Amps3013
Watts37501625
Length (feet)259/15/25/50 /100
Gauge1016
Safety FeaturesYESYES
Outlets5-15R3 AC
UsageOutdoorIndoor/ Outdoor
 

Extension Cords – A Must Have in Every Household

Extension cords are something everyone should have in their house. It not only provides you outlets to plug in appliances but also saves time by joining everything together in one place. In addition, some extension cords even feature surge protection to protect your expensive appliances from getting damaged due to voltage spikes. 

Depending on the size and length of the extension cord, you can stretch it as far as 100 feet. Hence we suggest reading this guide thoroughly before going ahead and making a purchase decision.