Photo courtesy of abrunglinghaus at Flickr.com.
Many of us have a blind spot for extension cords. We tend to treat these power cables as interchangeable parts, but not all extension cords are the same.
Length is important. The longer the extension cord you use, the more energy is lost in transmission. If you only need to add 5 feet, it doesn’t make any sense to use a 100′ cord!
The thickness of the wire is also important. Thin cords lose power faster, and they can also heat up dangerously with heavy power loads. When using extension cords, it’s important to make sure that the wire is thick enough to safely and efficiently conduct electricity. Wire thickness is often referred to as “gauge”.
Gauge numbers are rather tricky. Even though it seems counter-intuitive, thicker wires have a low gauge, and thin wires have a high gauge. Many power cords are available in 18, 16, 14, and 12 gauge sizes. Of these choices, 18 is the thinnest and 12 is the thickest. Thicker wires are generally more expensive, but they can save substantial amounts of electricity. Thick electric wire can also handle higher amperages than thin wires without bursting into flames. That’s good to know if you want to avoid burning your house down or melting your tools.
So, know your cords! Pay attention to cord gauge and length, and they’ll pay you back with a reduced electric bill.
Photo courtesy of ClintJCL at Flickr.com.