Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without an extension cord. That indispensable little cord that powers your Christmas lights every year. However, all extension cords are not created equal, and it’s important to make sure that you choose the right extension cord.
Here are a few important steps for choosing the right extension cord for your Christmas Lights.
Plan and measure the length of extension cord you will need.
It’s important to plan where you will be placing your lights. Make sure that you measure the distance you will need to run the extension cord so that you purchase the right length of extension cord.
Choosing the right length and gauge of extension cord
Extension cords are offered in many lengths and sizes or “gauges”. These lengths can range from 6 to 80 feet. Always choose the shortest length of cord that will meet your needs. This is because some electricity is lost due to resistance as it travels down the length of the cord. If the cord is too long, it may not provide the amount of power necessary to run the equipment efficiently. Making sure you have the right length will reduces any possible tripping hazards and will use your wire most efficiently.
For example, a 16-gauge extension cord less than 50 feet can power an appliance needing up to 1625 watts. But 16-gauge cord that is longer than 50 feet can only power an appliance needing up to1250 watts.
When comparing extension cords, remember that a heavier gauge wire will have a smaller number. For example, a 14 gauge wire will be heavier and thicker than a 16 gauge wire, so the 14 gauge wire can power larger wattage appliances than the 16 gauge wire.
Outdoor Lighting Extension Cord Safety Tips
- Outdoor Christmas lights should be plugged into GFCI (or “ground fault”) outlets as an added safety measure.
- Indoor extension cords are not designed for use outdoors. Extension cords that can be used outdoors are clearly marked “Suitable for use with outdoor appliances.” Using an indoor cord outdoors can result in an electric shock or fire hazard. Purchasing the proper outdoor rated cord is a small price to pay for safety.
- Avoid overloading circuits with plugs and extension cords. This can create overheating and result in a fire. Fuses that frequently blow and circuits that trip can be a sign that too many items are on the circuit.
- Never remove the third prong on plugs—this “grounding pin” prevents shock in the event of electrical equipment failure.
- Keep outdoor connections above-ground and out of puddles. Make sure that you don’t run them across driveways or walkways creating tripping hazards.
- If you have any questions about your Christmas lights or the proper use of extension cords, always be sure to consult with a qualified electrician.