Trying to choose the correct gauge extension cord for outdoor electrical equipment is a common problem, and it can be confusing. If you buy an extension cord that isn’t thick enough for the tool you’re using, it can affect the performance of your snowthrower and even burn up the motor. Worst case, you’ll have an electrical fire as the extension cord burns.
To determine what gauge extension cord to buy, you need two pieces of information:
- How many amps does your snowblower need?
- How many feet is it from your outlet to the farthest point you will snowthrow?
Basic Information About Extension Cords
Most people know that extension cords are intended for either indoor or outdoor use. Extension cords intended for indoor use are thinner and have parallel wire construction with two prong plugs. Indoor cords will overheat and can cause electrical shock if used outdoors with electrical equipment.
Extension cords intended for outdoor use have thicker, flexible, rubber, vinyl, or plastic casings and three wire construction with a three prong plug. The third prong connects to the ground wire in your home’s electrical circuit, reducing the risk of fire and electrical shock.
Outdoor extension cords can be divided into three groups.
• Cords intended for smaller projects and tools.
• Cords intended for larger tools and equipment and heavier use.
• Heavy-duty cords intended for continuous use on job sites, in extreme weather, and for high-amperage tools.
Printed on extension cords are letters that provide the following information.
• S means that the cord is flexible and designed for general use.
• P means the cord has parallel wire construction used for household extension cords and air conditioner cords.
• W means that the cord is designed for outdoor use.
• J means the cord has 300 voltage insulation.
• No J means the cord has thicker, 600-volt insulation and is designed for heavier use.
• T means the cord covering is made from vinyl thermoplastic.
• E means the cord covering is made from thermoplastic elastomer rubber (TPE).
• O means the cord is oil-resistant.
Determining Amperage, Cord Length, and Gauge for Your Snowblower
Look at the metal information plate on your snow blower to find how many amps (A) it requires. If your snowblower states the wattage (W) instead of stating the amperage, then divide the wattage by 120 and you will have the amperage.
Now decide how long you need the cord to be to reach all the areas where you want to use your snowblower. Try to calculate the shortest possible extension cord length you will need. The longer the cord the more resistance the electricity has to travel through to get to the snowblower. This results in reduced power level reaching the snowblower, and heat production in the cord.
Here is a handy chart to help you determine what gauge outdoor extension cord you need. Gauge is the thickness of the wires in the extension cord. The smaller the gauge, the thicker the wires, and the more electricity the wires will conduct.
Outdoor extension cords have a maximum amperage that they can conduct. Using a cord that does not provide enough power can cause your snowblower to work less efficiently and even burn up the motor. It can also lead to fires as the cord will heat up, and could melt the outer protective covering.
Snowblowers range from ten to 15 amps with most being around 13 amps. That means you need a 14 gauge, 50 foot cord or a 12 or 14 gauge, 100 foot cord. Make sure you check your blower for it’s own particular rating.
Will the Extension Cord be Flexible in Cold Winter Temperatures?
Winter temperatures are an additional consideration for extension cords for snowblowers. The cold temperatures can cause normal outdoor extension cords to be stiff. However, various companies have outdoor extension cords designed to be flexible in extreme cold weather.
For a made-in-America high-quality flexible cord, try this one from US Wire. If you need 100 feet, you can buy 12 and plug them in back to back.
Additional Features Available on Outdoor Extension Cords
Additional features available on outdoor extension cords include a connector box that keeps the cord plugged into the snowblower, multiple sockets, a lighted plug that shows when the cord is connected to an outlet, and a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) that shuts off power due to a ground fault.
How Can I Keep the Cord Out of My Way as I Am Working?
One last item that can make snow removal easier is an automatic retractable outdoor extension cord management system. There are many models available depending on gauge of the cord and the distance you need. There are also bring-your-own cold systems. You can head to your hardware store to take a look at the different options, or check out this summary page on Amazon for an idea of what’s out there. This product will work with all snowblowers rated 15 amps and lower – and I haven’t seen one yet that’s higher.
For snowblowers, you need an outdoor extension cord that will supply the power needed at the cord length required to clear all the surfaces in your yard. Most snowblowers require between 10 to 15 amps. In addition, the recommended extension cord for snowthrower requires the ability to be flexible in the winter.
To summarize, we have included this video about choosing an outdoor extension cord. If you have any questions or comments, please share them.