Are you looking to ‘amp up’ your outdoor extension cords experience? Whether you need a bit of extra juice for the day or over the long haul, our experts have you covered. For those in need of power outdoors for a short time, such as to trim your bushes, power a bounce house for your kid’s birthday, or provide lighting for a party, an extension cord will get the job done for a day or two.
According to studies, outdoor extension cables enable the use of many equipment and tools outdoors. The functional lawnmower and the decorative string lights depend on these cords for power. However, continuous exposure to the weather may cause those objects to deteriorate, weakening their structural integrity and making them potentially hazardous while shortening their service lifespan.
Thus, weatherproofing outdoor extension cords is crucial for their safety and functionality. On that note, therefore, your goal should be to select the quality power cord that could meet your needs in all these environments, hence the need for some guidelines and safety tips to meet your needs. The greatest challenge and commitment should be to select quality and the correct power cords.
In particular, you must purchase extension cords that best suit your home and electrical safety. That should not be a challenge if you focus on the specific features. Once you have your power cords ready, the next thing is to ensure maximum safety. This detailed article covers ten inventive ways to protect your outdoor extension cords from the environment and extend their longevity.
Getting To Know The Topmost Common Outdoor Extension Cords By Their Types
It’s important to realize that the general category types of extension cords are divided into three—indoor (occasional), outdoor (frequent), and rugged cords. Be that as it may, given the three general categories of extension cords, picking the one that’s right for you may depend on the situation in which you are using it. To elaborate, let’s first consider the role of indoor extension cords.
These are meant for light-duty applications and low voltage. Perse, they are the sort of thing you might use to power a single strand of Christmas lights, a box fan, or perhaps a tiny household coffee maker. Outdoor extension cords are more robust than their indoor-rated siblings. Specifically, they are made from thick gauge wire and are coated with a durable coating of rubber, plastic, or vinyl.
There are even a few heavy-duty outdoor extension cords that are rated for special situations—they can be used around flammable liquids, chemicals, or in extreme temperatures. At the same time, rugged outdoor extension cords are the most robust and are designed to be used at commercial job sites and to handle high-amperage power tools. They’re also superior in weather resistance.
Eventually, the superior weather resistance rugged cables element makes them a better choice for running a small campsite generator. Essentially, Occasional Use (outdoor extension) Cords are meant to power electric power tools for a short period. Equally important, Frequent Use (outdoor extension) Cords are designed to handle more extensive tools and equipment and heavier use.
The Different Power Extension Cord Plug Types You Should Know About
Realistically, just like there are different extension cord types, there are also other types of plugs that you might encounter. For example, the two-prong socket plugs are more familiar with light-duty interior extension cords. They are not as safe and should never be used for high-voltage appliances. In comparison, the three-prong plug extension cords are the most common for outdoor use.
The third prong essentially serves as a superground for carrying high voltage. It dramatically reduces the risk of electric fire caused by short circuits. Still, it does need to be plugged into a three-prong outlet to work properly. If you don’t have a three-prong outlet, or you are attempting to plug it into a two-prong extension cord, you should not attempt to alter the cord plug or remove the ground.
NB: The image above illustrates a CADEAU 2-meter long and heavy 5A Multi Extension Cord With 4 Socket and 1 Switch Power Strip with Power—plus an Indicator Powerstrip Extension Cord Without USB Port (White) 4 Socket Extension.
Most outdoor extension cords have an AWG rating stamped on the jacket—it indicates the maximum amperage of current that it can convey from the outlet to the device before it starts overheating. Sometimes, a cord can deliver a higher amperage than this rating. However, resistance in the cord can cause it to gradually overheat, short circuit, fail, or even start a dangerous electrical fire.
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It’s also worth noting that the gauge of the extension cord and internal wire will influence the amount of amperage it can deliver. During the manufacturing and packaging process, this is usually stamped on the plug or the wire’s jacket tag. On that note, if you see something like a 14/3 on the cord jacket, the extension cord is made from 14-gauge wires and has three wires inside.
Regarding the impact of the length on the amperage capacity, the greater the distance that the current needs to travel, the more excellent the resistance. In other words, this can impact the current delivered to the end device. On the contrary, in certain circumstances, it can also lead to heating throughout the length of the cord. Ideally, you want to use the cord for as long as you need.
Topmost Recommended Methods To Weatherproof Outdoor Extension Cords
As a rule of thumb, using outdoor extension cords to supply energy to all your electrical devices is paramount. However, you cannot mount electrical sockets everywhere inside/outside the house due to the clutter. Your best option is to locate them strategically—where you need electrical supply the most. Hence, when designing the home, consider the location of essential equipment.
Despite all these limitations, one of the best strategies is to use suitable outdoor extension cords, which enable you to disseminate power supply to all the home points without much clutter or tethering. Remember, these extension cords are not only for indoor uses; they are necessary for outdoor services, too. Mainly DIY outdoor actions such as repairs, welding, and lawn maintenance.
For maximum efficiency, use outdoor extension cords marked for external use, designed to withstand moisture, temperature changes, the sun, and a bit of foot traffic. Never use indoor extension cords outside; they are not built for such rugged use. Do NOT leave your outdoor extension cord outside for over a day or two. Left out over extended periods, cord materials can break down.
Potentially, this may result in cases such as sparking, fire, and shock. Always follow outdoor electrical precautions. For lighting, lawn tools used regularly, or outbuilding power needs, you need a permanent power solution for safety, whether that involves an outdoor outlet addition to your home’s main structure or wiring running remotely to an outbuilding. There are still a few other safety measures.
Consider these safety tips:
- Pick the right cord for the job. Cords are NOT one-size-fits-all.
- Choose a cord rated to handle the wattage of all connected devices.
- The larger the wire, the more current it can safely handle.
- Always plug outdoor extension cords into a GFCI outlet.
- These can be identified by TEST/RESET buttons and are typically found in the kitchen, bath, and garage.
- Such devices protect your family from shock if the cord is exposed to water.
- To ensure safety and prevent tripping hazards, select a cord that is the correct length, neither too short nor too long.
- Always unplug your cable, storing it properly indoors when not in use.
In addition, for lines not off the house, you must wire the cable to a separate GFCI indoors. Bury it quite deep (18” below patios/paths; 30” below lawns). And then encase it in PVC conduit that is solvent-welded to ensure a continuous run (no leaks)—not a DIY-friendly solution for most (it requires an electrician). Now, below are the best ways to weatherproof outdoor extension cords.
1. Use Weatherproof Extension Cords
Weatherproof extension cord covers protect cords from nature’s whims. These clever coverings protect your outdoor extension cords from Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation, rain, and snow. Encapsulating the connecting points creates a robust and reliable barrier that keeps your cords dry and impenetrable, even in bad weather. These protective coverings are very convenient.
Notwithstanding, they also come in various sizes to fit different cords. They are a diverse and essential part of outdoor electrical installations. Remember, when adding an outdoor outlet, look for a conveniently located indoor outlet to connect to with the wiring. After that, drill a hole through the house wall and feed the wiring close to the indoor outlet.
Fit the mounting box for the outdoor outlet over that hole. Draw in the wiring and connect it to the outlet terminals, then put the faceplate on the main box, ensuring all waterproof seals are correctly positioned. Run the wiring indoors to its connection point, adding a separate GFCI if none exists. To carry current for 20 feet, a 100-foot-long extension cord might not be a good idea.
2. Wrap With Self-Fusing Silicone Tape
Self-fusing silicone tape presents a highly adaptable approach to weatherproof extension cords effectively. When strategically enveloping the designated junctures and traversing the entirety of the cord’s extension, it engenders a resilient and waterproof barrier against water ingress. Significantly, it exhibits a remarkable propensity for self-adherence devoid of adhesive substance.
Thereby, this renders it highly amenable to users and facilitates effortless detachment and subsequent reapplication. As a result, this also makes it a highly efficient and economically viable solution for fortifying your extension cords against inclement weather. At the same time, it guarantees their durability and dependability in diverse outdoor environments.
3. Harness The Extension Cord Connectors
Cord connectors safeguard cord connections against dampness. They have rubber gaskets and screw caps to prevent moisture and damage. Elongated chord spans increase water permeability, making this characteristic more critical. Cord connections ensure a robust and impenetrable connection, improving the safety and durability of outdoor electricals even in harsh weather.
In layman’s language, if you aren’t sure of the amperage of a device or power tool, you should check the stamped metal plate on the back or bottom. Usually, most will have the amperage or wattage on the label or stated in the owner’s manual. If it only gives you the wattage, some simple math can be used to determine the amperage. You need to divide the number of watts by 110.
4. Install Some Extension Cord Grommets
Cord grommets pass extension cords through walls or other constructions and can occur in many scenarios. These beautiful devices ring the electrical line with a weatherproof shield. Thus, they keep moisture out of your home. They protect your extension cord and keep your indoor spaces sturdy. Because of this, you can power your electronics confidently, regardless of the weather.
It’s worth mentioning that if you look at the packaging of quality power cords or tags on the extension, you might see some letters or initials. Remarkably, these features help in denoting the characteristics and intended purpose of the outdoor extension cord.
They are as follows:
- S – Notes a general-use extension cord that is flexible.
- W – Notes that the extension cord is rated for outdoor use.
- J – Designates that the cord has a standard 300-voltage insulation coating. Its lack indicates a thicker cord (600-volt insulation) for heavy use.
- P – Most often found in air conditioner power cables and household extension cords that must be wired in parallel.
- T – It is displayed on an extension cord with a vinyl thermoplastic jacket.
- E – Is displayed on an extension cord with a thermoplastic elastomer rubber jacket. This is sometimes written as TPE.
- O – Notes that the extension cord is oil-resistant
As such, understanding some of the above and other features of the outdoor extension cord designations is also essential.
5. Elevate Your Extension Cords
Elevating extension cables protects them from water collection, such as puddles and stagnant bodies, reducing the risk of injury and electrical hazards. To preserve them, cord hooks, stakes, or reels can lift cords over damp terrain. Cord hooks are elegant, allowing cords to be suspended from fences, hooks, or other architectural frameworks.
This prevents water buildup and splashing. Conversely, stakes are ideal for securing cords at a high position to avoid soil or grass wetness. Elevated cord reels make cord handling easy and organized. These solutions protect extension cords from water damage, reduce the chance of stumbling, and create a safer outdoor environment for electrical equipment and activities.
6. Apply Protective Cable Lubricant
Cable/wire-pulling lubricant helps protect extension cords well. It successfully prevents cable damage by blocking moisture intrusion when appropriately used. However, outside applications demand carefully selecting an oil lubricant to meet their unique needs.
Using this procedure, one secures the lubricating substance’s durability in harsh ecological situations, including precipitation, freezing precipitation, and UV radiation. The meticulous process improves extension cord durability, endurance, and reliability, making it a good alternative for outdoor electrical installations.
7. Wrap With Heavy-Duty Electrical Tape
Wrap the connectors of waterproof extension cables in durable electrical tape—it can be done in several ways. The unique sticky tape is carefully designed to resist moisture. Thus, it is ideal for outdoor uses. It produces a strong barrier that protects the nexus points from rain, snow, and other environmental forces. This extra safety feature allows the wires to survive all conditions.
Heavy-duty electrical tape protects against moisture or physical damage and degradation. It does this by strengthening links, reducing the chance of the system unraveling, and exposing electrical conductors. This adhesive tape enhances the life and dependability of extension cords. Thus, it allows the power consumer to enjoy various outdoor activities without interruption or risk.
8. Utilize Extension Cord Covers
Cord coverings like pliable conduits protect extension cords from weather and physical danger. These covers protect the cords from rain, snow, and external stresses. They maintain the cords’ structural integrity and safety. Installation is easy and requires little effort.
Markedly, it takes many forms to meet many needs. At all costs, the power extension cable covers help strengthen extension cords in practical and adaptive ways. As a result, this makes them crucial in outdoor electrical arrangements. Overall, these essential power extension cord measures or protective encasements ensure endurance and reliability in harsh outdoor conditions.
9. Seal Cables With Waterproof Sealant
Seal extension cord connection points with silicone caulk or outdoor adhesive to make them waterproof. This procedure is hermetically sealed against moisture and harm. This precaution is essential for outdoor electrical installations exposed to rain.
As well as snow or other damp conditions. Likewise, using a hydrophobic sealant to enhance electrical conduit connectors keeps them dry and safe outdoors—a simple but efficient way to strengthen extension cords.
10. Invest In Outdoor-Rated Extension Cords
On the one hand, the easiest way to be weatherproof is to buy outside extension cords. Weather-resistant materials, increased insulation, and UV protection make these cords durable in harsh outdoor environments. On the other hand, when running power outside, a GFCI-equipped outlet ensures safety and is required by code in all areas exposed to moisture, like the outdoors.
When adding an outdoor outlet, choose an outdoor-rated, weatherproof model with built-in, high-sensitivity GFCI. Whether single or duplex, all exterior outlets should have spring-loaded covers to protect them from weather, pests, dirt, and moisture. Notably, GFCI protection is a brilliant addition and inexpensively and quickly added in moisture-prone areas where electrocution is a higher risk.
Specific Extension Cords Special Features:
- A Green Coating on an extension cord has been tested and rated by UL for safety.
- GFCI Extension cords have a built-in Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.
- Automatically, the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter shuts down power to the extension cord if there is a temporary short circuit.
- The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter acts very much like a built-in fuse.
- A Lighted Plug indicates when the cord is powered.
In addition, there may also be a Connector Box surrounding the extension cord plug and the plug on the intended electrical device. As such, it helps keep the cord and device connected when pulling it through a junction or lifting the electrical device on a ladder.
By all means, whether indoor or outdoor, extension cables and cords play a critical role in delivering AC power from an outlet to a remote appliance that needs it. However, it’s important to note that not all extension cords are the same. Some have essential features, and some are rated for indoor or outdoor use. Failing to heed these characteristics could lead to a serious safety hazard.
Regarding outdoor extension cords, occasional use cords are something you might need to power a circular saw during a construction project. One thing is sure: They aren’t meant to convey power constantly for long-term use. At the same time, frequent use cords are something you might use to power a 110-volt table saw in your workshop. That’s why most warehouses prefer using them.
Likewise, as mentioned, rugged outdoor extension cords are the most robust and are designed to be used at commercial job sites and to handle high-amperage power tools. In addition, they also tend to have superior weather resistance, which makes them a better choice for things like running a small campsite generator. So, the choice of outdoor extension cables to use is highly on you.
Other Related Resource References:
- Simple DIY Fixes For Common Extension Cord Issues
- Pros And Cons Of Indoor Vs. Outdoor Extension Cords
- The Pros And Cons Of Different Outdoor Extension Cord Lengths
- Steps For Installing An Outdoor Extension Cord For Your Yard
- Uncovering The Benefits Of Heavy-Duty Extension Cords
All waterproofing methods strengthen outdoor extension cables against environmental hazards, ensuring their longevity and reliability as outside power choices. In producing power cords and similar items, three main factors affect the final cost: oil price (insulation manufacturing), copper price (wiring), and the U.S. dollar value (it determines the capacity to purchase these resources).