5 Ideas To Tell If An Extension Cord Is for Outdoor Use

One of the greatest mistakes you can ever make is using the wrong extension for the wrong purpose and needs. This is one of the biggest causes of fires or damage to machinery.

The first rule you ought to know is that indoor extension cords can never be used for outdoor needs. The reason is that indoor extension cords have lower voltage capacity to meet all outdoor needs.

Even if you are adamant about buying an extension cord for outdoor needs, you must do so for safety and device protection.

When you walk to the electrical stores, only some of the extension cords you get suit your outdoor needs. You must take time selecting the best one based on external conditions, intended use, the surroundings, and other factors. All these may need to be clarified; hence, you may end up wrong.

If you want to avoid bothering the storekeepers, let’s learn to select the right one.

1. Focus on the Labels and The Suitable Environment for Use

Whenever you walk into the store to buy the cables, the labels are the first thing to consider.

A perfect outdoor extension cord should have either of the following labels:

  • WJTE or O. W, which shows that it is weather resistant and, hence, suitable for outdoor uses.
  • O is oil-resistant and thus good for factories, warehouses, and other uses like driveway repairs.
  • T shows that it has thermoplastic elastomer rubber insulation. T indicates T (Vinyl Thermoplastic) insulation; hence, it is a perfect heat-resistant cable.

Check for at least two of the listed labels.

Quality extension cords must have a label to help you select the perfect environment for use and other applications.

Outdoor extension cords are perfect for welding, heating, and repairs; hence, select one with labels suited for these needs. Carefully selecting the cords based on the labels will ensure durability, safety, and power supply to meet all your needs.

2. Focus on the Insulation

Most amateurs argue that any cable thickness has potential for outdoor needs if it is long and insulated.

Due to the external conditions, mainly heat and temperature changes, the outdoor cords must be properly insulated. This is why they tend to have thicker cables and are made of materials like rubber.

The aim is to reduce heat loss due to external conditions and insulate or protect inner wires from external conditions. Also, note the effects of friction on the cable since they are vulnerable to people or cars stepping on them.

3. Plug Design and Number of Prongs

A plug design and type should be one of the key interests when selecting a cable for your backyard and outdoor needs.

There are different plug types and designs, and each is designed to withstand certain uses and needs.

A two-plug extension cord is perfect for indoor needs since the safety threats are minimal and the energy demand is limited.

The three prongs must be working for outdoor uses since they are meant for hot, neutral, and ground wire. Due to the higher voltage capacity, you need the ground wire to provide some extra security. This is ideal for avoiding sudden fires and short-circuiting in case of a power surge. To ensure safety, these cords also have thick insulation to handle potential voltage fluctuations.

4. The Cord’s Length

How long should an extension cord be?

Indoor extension cords are shorter since they are used at stationary points rather than power distribution over a distance.

The outdoor ones are longer to enable you to transmit power over long distances and cover nearly all your outdoor needs. They are designed to be versatile and flexible; hence, the length matters to ensure flexibility. Most of them have a cable reel to wrap the entire cable.

The shorter outdoor Cord should be about a minimum length of 100 feet. Depending on your need, you can ask for a cord-length extension.

Normally, the voltage capacity would determine the cable’s length, i.e., a 10-amp cable tends to be a minimum of 100 feet to allow energy dissemination to long distances without loss.

5. Extension Cord Ratings for Outdoor Use

How do you identify the extension cord ratings? Focus on the amps (A) or watts (W).

Extensions used for indoor and outdoor needs vary based on the ratings. You only need a little energy supply for indoor needs since digital electronics consume little energy. Those used outdoors require more energy; hence, you must buy an extension cord with higher ratings.

Before getting these extensions, consider the machines you plan to use for outdoor needs. Also, ensure the voltage capacity is higher than supplied through the main power sources, i.e., sockets.

When an extension requires more energy than the power socket can supply, there is a probability it will not work.


Consider an extension cord that supplies about 10-amp or 1200 watts and above for outdoor needs.

Normally, these details are in the manual or the packaging. Besides that, please focus on the labels to ensure they can withstand all conditions. For flexibility, ensure it is insulated and long enough to cover the distance without further extension.

Related reading: Power Through the Negativity: Promoting Positive Home Electrical Safety Habits with Kids


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