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While cord length is an important factor to consider when choosing an extension cord for use with a high-powered machine, including power tools, it is not the only factor to consider. Improper use of extension cords can result in appliances overheating and can result in a fire.

Prior to selecting an extension cord, it is important to check the gauge of the wire, which relates to the total wattage rating and thickness that the cord is able to handle. Thicker cords are able to power higher wattage appliances and will contain a marking reflecting a lower gauge rating. It is also important to note that the current capacity of the cord will become diminished with length.

The amount of wattage required to power a tool should be noted in the manufacturer’s booklet or on the tool. When using a single extension cord to power more than one tool, make certain that you add the wattage of both tools to determine the gauge required for your extension cord.

Additionally, make certain that the extension cord you choose is suitable for work outdoors. Using an indoor extension cord in an outdoor setting could create a fire hazard or lead to electric shock.

Below are safety cord tips provided by the National Safety Council:

  • Check for an independent testing laboratory’s certification mark when choosing an extension cord. This indicates that the extension cord has been tested to ensure safety.
  • All extension cords should be stored indoors when not in use. Over time, outdoor conditions could result in deterioration.
  • Extension cords should always be unplugged when not in use. This is because the extension cord will continue to conduct electricity when it is plugged into an outlet.
  • Extension cords should be inspected before use. Any cords that are damaged or cut should be discarded. An exposed wire could result in a potential fire or severe burns.
  • Most extension cords feature polarized plugs where one blade is wider than the other blade. These plugs are designed to prevent the potential for electric shock by ensuring that the circuit conductors are properly aligned. If you notice that a plug does not fit, do not attempt to force it. A new outlet should be installed by a qualified electrician.