Extension cords are valuable electrical tools, making power available in unreachable areas, facilitating multiple device use, promoting safety and convenience, and saving money. Also, they are useful in various locations and structures and can handle intensive applications and complex devices.
A significant benefit of extension cords is powering outdoor activities and events. Whether you want to use your electric mower, decorate your home for the holidays, power patio appliances, or erect a bounce house for your child’s birthday party, an extension cord is handy.
However, you can’t use your indoor extension cord to amp up your indoor events; it is catastrophic and increases the risk of fire, injury, and electric shock. In fact, incorrect extension cord use results in approximately 3,000 house fires annually.
It would be best to have an extension cord purposely designed for outdoor use for optimal outcomes. Read on to learn how to use extension cords to power up your outdoor events safely and efficiently.
Choosing an Extension Cord for Outdoor Use
Different types of extension cords are on the market, and choosing the best one for outdoor use can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips for choosing the right outdoor extension cord.
It refers to the amount of power a cord can carry safely. Outdoor cords have higher amperage ratings than indoor ones, thus suitable for powering devices requiring high voltage. For instance, an outdoor extension cord can safely power your patio heater on a cold winter evening.
Typically, most extension cords for outdoor use are green, yellow, and blue. Nonetheless, others are brown or black, so they blend in with your event décor or outdoor space. You can use these cords permanently to power your patio and deck appliances and lighting.
Insulation and Covering
Whether you are hosting a pool party, BBQ, or potluck, choose an extension cord with thicker insulation to withstand rough outside conditions. The covering is mainly made of heavy-duty plastics, rubber, or vinyl to shield against the elements, from sunlight to moisture, and temperature fluctuations, which wreak havoc on the cord.
Extension cords for outside use come with the letter ‘W’ on the cord or packaging. The letter signifies weather resistance, indicating the cord can withstand outdoor use.
A feature that differentiates standard and outdoor power cords is the plugs. Basically, outdoor cords have three prongs, while indoor ones have two or three prongs. The third prong in the outdoor variant serves as a grounding wire to minimize electric shock and fire risk.
Outdoor Extension Cord Safety
Besides choosing the right outdoor extension cord, you must observe several vital safety measures when using an extension cord for outdoor events.
- Before using a cord, inspect it for signs of damage or wear, like cracks and exposed wire.
- Choose the appropriate cord length to avert tripping hazards.
- Pick the right amp for the cord. Opt for a high-amperage extension cord if you intend to use power-intensive appliances or multiple devices.
- Opt for brightly colored cords since they are visible to everyone for safety.
- Ensure you insert the extension cord fully into the outlet
- Keep extension cords away from wet conditions like rain and snow
- Unplug cords when not in use
- Store cords correctly after use. Coil them neatly and store them away from extreme temperatures.
- Don’t nail or staple cords to the ground
- Keep kids and pets away from outdoor extensions
Outdoor Extension Cords and GFCI
It is best practice to ensure any outlet outside your home has a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for optimal safety. The GFCI is a circuit break that disconnects power to the outdoor extension cord when it senses irregular electricity flow. For example, it shuts off power when the cord is exposed to water or a human.
GFCI is crucial in protecting extension cords from adverse weather conditions outdoors. When holding outdoor events in winter, your extension cord may get soaked in water or melting snow. The GFCI-protected cord lowers the chance of electrocution. If your outlets are not connected to a GFCI, you can opt for a GFCI adapter. It is an easy and inexpensive way to enhance safety at an outdoor event.
Long-term Outdoor Use
Extension cords are meant for short-term outdoor use, such as a one-day event. They are a temporary solution and should not be a long-term extension to a home’s electrical system. Some cords deteriorate with time, increasing the likelihood of fire hazards.
If you need frequent outdoor power -perhaps for running your patio, you may require a permanent power solution. It could mean adding an outdoor outlet or wiring for the outbuilding. Outdoor outlets should be weather-proofed and GFCI-equipped to protect against the elements.
A professional electrician can advise on the best approach for meeting outdoor power needs.
An extension cord is an excellent option for powering outdoor events. Nonetheless, you must choose a cord designed for outdoor use as well as use it safely to avoid injury and protect your home and guests.
Power your event without compromising yourself, others, and your property with the abovementioned tips!