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Extension Cords

Most appliances that plug into the wall have a power cord that ranges up to 6 feet in length. When you need to position the appliance a greater distance from the closest electrical outlet, you need an extension cord.

When buying an extension cord, consider these characteristics:

  • environment - most extension cords are made for indoor use. If you plan to use the cord outdoors, make sure that you buy one designed for outdoor use (you can use an outdoor cord indoors without a problem).
  • length - get the minimum length necessary but avoid too small of a length that would require you to connect multiple cords to get the length you need.
  • capacity - cords are marked with their safe wattage rating. Pick a cord with sufficient wattage for the appliances you will be plugging into it (if you are going to plug in several, make sure the cord can handle the total amount). The wattage required for an appliance is usually marked on the appliance, often near where the power cord attaches.
  • voltage - most extension cords are designed for 120 volt appliances. Some appliances, such as electric stoves and washing machines, may require 220-240 volts and so use a different style plug (a three bladed plug with the blades angled); if so, you will need to buy the appropriate cord.
  • polarized, grounded outlets - many appliances require an outlet that accepts polarized plugs (where one blade of the plug is wider than the other) and/or grounded plugs (which have two flat blades and a third, rounded prong). For simplicity and safety, always get extension cords that accept grounded plugs.
  • plug style - most cords have plugs that are in line with the cord; however, if you need an extension cord to fit behind furniture or appliances, consider one with a flat plug

    that is at a right angle to the cord and thereby allows the cord to hug the wall.
  • safety - electricity can be dangerous so pick a cord that allows the unused outlets to be closed or covered and that comes with the Underwriters Laboratories' (UL) seal of approval.

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