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Thread: Please Explain Small Gauges of Extension Cords

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  1. #1
    DIY Senior Member molo's Avatar
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    Default Please Explain Small Gauges of Extension Cords

    I know that a general rule is to not reduce the size of wire, so then why are extension cord sizes for appliances so small? Are they sized to the appliances demand?

    Thanks in Advance
    "Any American who is prepared to run for President should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so."
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    Electrical Contractor/Instructor jwelectric's Avatar
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    Are you talking about the supply cord that comes on an appliance or are you talking about the cord that has a male and female end cap? Table 400.5(A)(1) gives the ampacity of cords

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Ampacity is always a concern. And especially when you say "appliance". Small 16 or 18 gauge general purpose extension cords are intended for a lamp, a TV, etc etc. and lengths are limited....6 to 12 feet usually. When you are talking about a device which is rated at 12 to 15 amps......refrigerator, air conditioner, microwave, etc. while a light duty cord may be "rated" for that, continous use will tend to overheat the cord, and especially the end fittings which are applied with light duty crimp manufacturing techniques. For such applications, you should get a cord rated for appliances, "heavy duty" , 12 amps, etc. And EVEN THOSE, I happen to use them for my 1500 watt oil filled portable radiators. I always cut off the manufactures end fittings, and replace with "heavy duty" cord ends. This always eliminates the "hot plug" which you experience on the factory ends.

    In terms of your question about wire size......the answer is distance ( length). For example, our 'rule of thumb' is 14 gauge wire in the wall for a 15 amp circuit. But that is based on the very long total length of wire in the wall. It IS ok to reduce to say 16 gauge for 6' on an extension cord. That gauge will carry the current without overheating the wires.
    Last edited by jimbo; 11-08-2012 at 05:40 AM.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    You buy the extension cord based on the length of the cord and the load you are going to plug into it. Often, the very lightest cords have a polarized two slot configuration which will not accept the plugs for the "heavier" devices which have a three prong plug.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    The maker and the seller does not know what sort of appliance you will plug into an extension cord. They make different gauges in different lengths for a variety or uses. It is up to the buyer to know what to get but the buyers all too often use price as their main deciding factor. Makers and sellers know that and tend to make and stock more of the smaller gauge cords.

  6. #6
    DIY Senior Member molo's Avatar
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    I am referring to things like space heaters. I had a 1,500 watt space heater plugged in yesterday and the plug and cord were getting quite warm!
    "Any American who is prepared to run for President should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so."
    Gore Vidal.

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