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Python

Extension Cord Rating

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I know everyone is probably busy finishing up their display, but it's cold, rainy and nasty here so I can't do anything and I had something pop into my mind about extension cords.

 

One of those thick, green outdoor cords like you get at any hardware or big box store is rated for 13 amps (some more that that, obviously). We all use these to tie in smaller extension cords like the indoor/outdoor brown ones that lead out to different individuala elements of the display. That's how I do it anyway. But even the small cords are rated for 13 amps, same as the heavey duty expensive cords. Aside from the fact that the big green cords are much longer, is it safe to say they are interchangeble? Couldn't we use a small brown cord to tie in different elements and save money? I also realize they aren't supposed to be used outdoors, but we use them anyway.

 

Another question. And let me preface this by saying I don't do this because I realize it isn't safe. It's just a hypothetical. If I wanted to run a cord inside, under a door...again, very unsafe...and the load on the cord would be 8-10 amps (again, tying in several display elements that would normally all go to a big, green cord rated for the same 13 amps), couldn't I use a plain old little brown cord? What would be the difference?

 

Edit to add: 3rd prong on the bigger cords is probably the key to this question, I would think.

Edited by Python

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This is a good question I would like to see the answer to also. I have wondered this but never asked. My father is an electrician but I never learned from him much. Ifnwe dont get an aswer here I will contact him and get his input on the discussion

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Contact him anyway. I'm curious as to what he will say. BTW, my Dad was also an electrician, which is probably why I don't know much. He did everything for me.

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The Ground is the key difference as well as that big green one is designed for exterior use with its rubberized coating..  Even though we all use the regular extension cords outdoors its still important to make them moisture resistant by taping up the unused outlets, putting tape around the connections, having them if possible located to where water wont sit, or even putting plastic bags and sealing the bag to help in areas that tend to get more than its fair share of the elements to keep them safe and your display free of shorting out.  If the question is can you reverse the use ....just buy an adaptor and it converts the  three prong to a two prong but I think your question is more as to is it necessary to use that 3 prong expensive outdoor extension cord as the first connection to the power source rather than just using the cheaper household grade for the whole process...I do sometimes just use the household extension cords if my route to the power source is not extensive, but again its  crucial that you take the time to seal the areas with tape to prevent moisture entry and because they are thinner and the exterior coating is not as thick.. shorts can occur much easier making them riskier (thus the rating for indoor use only).

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The Ground is the key difference as well as that big green one is designed for exterior use with its rubberized coating..  Even though we all use the regular extension cords outdoors its still important to make them moisture resistant by taping up the unused outlets, putting tape around the connections, having them if possible located to where water wont sit, or even putting plastic bags and sealing the bag to help in areas that tend to get more than its fair share of the elements to keep them safe and your display free of shorting out.  If the question is can you reverse the use ....just buy an adaptor and it converts the  three prong to a two prong but I think your question is more as to is it necessary to use that 3 prong expensive outdoor extension cord as the first connection to the power source rather than just using the cheaper household grade for the whole process...I do sometimes just use the household extension cords if my route to the power source is not extensive, but again its  crucial that you take the time to seal the areas with tape to prevent moisture entry and because they are thinner and the exterior coating is not as thick.. shorts can occur much easier making them riskier (thus the rating for indoor use only).

Forgot to say...by having a ground it shuts down the current if the cord should get a short thus in theory saving your house from getting set afire or you getting electrocuted but I'm not an electrician just somebody that has gotten shocked a few times.

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 I put out a ton of the indoor cords and never overload them. I use to wrap the ends, but they would build up a lot of moisture. I use a Kill A Watt tester while running where they go works great! http://www.p3international.com/products/p4400.html and every year I have to check them to see if they have any cracks or rips if so I fix or discard. You can also use this formula http://www.planetchristmas.com/figuring-power-needs/

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Yep, I got a Kill A Watt last year and it's fantastic. No need to guess or do math. Math is hard and I was told there would be no math.

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?..... its still important to make them moisture resistant by taping up the unused outlets, putting tape around the connections, having them if possible located to where water wont sit, or even putting plastic bags and sealing the bag to help in areas that tend to get more than its fair share of the elements to keep them safe and your display free of shorting out.

I would be cautious of this. I have found that tape and plastic bags tend to hold water and moisture in and do a relatively poor job of keeping it out. Raise your connection points off the ground (I pound a small stake in the ground and zip tie the cord to it) and point your open female ends down as best you can and you shouldn't have any issues.

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I would be cautious of this. I have found that tape and plastic bags tend to hold water and moisture in and do a relatively poor job of keeping it out. Raise your connection points off the ground (I pound a small stake in the ground and zip tie the cord to it) and point your open female ends down as best you can and you shouldn't have any issues.

True, one has to be cautious about using plastic bags because of condensation but I've tried successfully when my cords have limited protection . I do also try and raise them off the ground at the connection points and keep the female ends down. I do recommend the black electrical tape to cover any open ends and joining connections as I've never found it to retain the moisture and it helps to secure the cords together.

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are the orange cords rated higher? I have 16 amps on one and ran it half the day Sunday with no issues to make sure i did not pop breakers. Is that safe or should i go buy a heavier one? I run a static display so the power is constant

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The color of the cord does not always correspond to the gauge or amp rating.  If you look really hard, the insulation around the cord should be engraved with the AWG (American wire gauge) of the wire.  This is true of all cords.  Rule of thumb I go by on my display is under 100 feet 12 AWG-20 amps, 14 AWG-15 amps, 16 AWG-13 amps, 18 AWG (spt 1)-8 amps.  Also, if you pick up a cord and it feels really hot, it's over loaded.  12 AWG will feel a little warm with 15 amps, so I'm talking more than just a bit warm to the touch.  Beyond that you are risking an electrical fire.

 

Also another tip I've learned....Unless you used a Kill-o-watt or other amp meter to measure your current draw precisely, you are probably over estimating your power usage.  Most of those amp ratings on tags of light strings are about 120% of what they actually pull.  It's still nice to have that built-in safety net though. 

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No!  13 amp rated cords are all 16AWG.  The difference is the jacket and the connections.  Your typical green cords have better connections than the brown cords.  If you ask me, both of them are junk. 

IMG_0640.JPG

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The only difference with the grounded and non-grounded is the ground prong, which carries no current unless a fault happens.

 

No matter the thickness of insulation, here's the maximum ratings: (SPT-1, SPT-2, SJ, SO, etc.)

5 Amps   - 20AWG

10 Amps - 18AWG

13 Amps - 16AWG

15 Amps - 14AWG

15 Amps - 12AWG with 5-15 connectors

15 Amps - 10AWG with 5-15 connectors

20 Amps - 12AWG with 5-20 connectors

20 Amps - 10AWG with 5-20 connectors

30 Amps - 10AWG with 5-30 or TT-30 connectors

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As an electrician, I will offer up a little information in hopes of helping clarify things.  First and foremost, controllers should always use grounded plugs into GFCI receptacles or circuits protected by GFCI breakers.  After that, it becomes your choice as to how strictly you wish to adhere to the NEC (National Electrical Code).  The NEC is written primarily in the interest of safety and satisfaction of requirements for insurance purposes.  As soon as you elect to use a product outside of it's rated use (ie:  SPT outdoors)  a code violation occurs and you have, in essence, given your insurance company a reason to deny a claim in the event of a related incident.  I'm not saying it happens, only that it could.  The things I've seen in the real world would give a code purist ulcers.  Unfortunately, it's usually us as homeowners who show the most disregard for our own personal safety by creating our own violations in the interest of cost cutting.  I bit the bullet for my display & have 100% outdoor rated 3-prong cords of appropriate wire gauge for all elements.  Having said that, it has been one of my biggest expenses against the budget & I won't begrudge the SPT users of their decisions particularly those in non-snow and drier regions.  The rest of the info already posted here on ampacity & wire gauge should answer most of the other questions.  To add my two cents on waterproofing, I tape nothing.  I use a product called Scotchcote by 3M (#43906) on permanent joints.  It's ugly, messy, & smells bad (think molasses colored rubber cement), but it works real well.  For on the ground joints, I buy 6' lengths of 1" ID self seal polyethylene pipe insulation from any home center & cut it to length to slip over the connections http://www.lowes.com/pd_21416-1410-S12XB/6_4294765361__?productId=1060007&Ns=p_product_qty_sales_dollar|1&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNs%3Dp_product_qty_sales_dollar%7C1&facetInfo=.  While not waterproof, it sheds rain and eliminates snow penetration while elevating the connection slightly off the ground as well.  The open ends and mild porousness allow it to breathe and dry out quickly once wet.  No nuisance trips yet!

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