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Whether you’re powering heavy machinery or just making sure your smartphone is charged, there’s probably a good chance you have more than a few extension cords and power strips around the house. And while you might not have put too much thought into the extension cords since you first plugged them in, you probably should. That’s because different cords are rated for different loads. Despite built-in protections, overloading a power strip or extension cord can potentially result in fire. If you’re using an extension cord to power any appliances or devices that draw a lot of power, you’ll have to make sure that you’re using the right cord for the job.
What to Consider Before Buying Extension Cords
All wiring is categorized by gauges and the gauge of your extension cord is arguably the most important factor to consider. Any cords or wires in the US are rated using the AWG, or the American Wire Gauge system. A smaller gauge number makes for a thicker wire and thicker wires are more capable of powering larger appliances or machines. You also want to consider the length of the wire. The longer the wire, the greater the voltage drop. That means that in general, if you’re using a long extension cord, you’ll need to choose one with a lower gauge than you would for a short cord.
It’s also important to factor in the material of the cord. Many cords have a vinyl jacket, which resists water and sunlight, making them better suited for outdoor use. These are great, but they can be overkill if you just need a cord to extend from behind the bed to the lamp on your nightstand.
What We Looked for When Choosing the Best Extension Cords
Whether you need a light-duty cord for your desk lamp or a powerful outdoor cord for heavy machinery, we’ve rounded up the best extension cords you can buy right now. These include simple options for indoor use, as well as heavy-duty vinyl-coated cords that can be used for machinery or outdoor equipment. We’re focusing primarily on extension cords, which lengthen the reach of your electronics, rather than power strips, which are primarily used to expand the number of electronics you can plug in. These are some good options to pick up.
1. Southwire Outdoor Extension Cord
This pick from Southwire is one of the most heavy-duty options on this list, making it a great pick for outdoor use. The wire is 12 gauge, which is thicker than most of the other 14 or 16 gauge options on this list. At 50 feet long, it’s a good option for outdoor yard work. The wire has a high-visibility yellow jacket that is protective against wear and weather. The outlet has a transparent housing with a light that indicates when something is plugged in.
2. Cable Matters 16 AWG Extension Cord
You never know when you’ll need another extension cord, which is why it’s always a good idea to stock up. This option from Cable Matters consists of a two-pack of cables of equal length, and you can choose between eight sizes from this listing. The shortest is one foot long while the longest is 50 feet long. The price shown below is for the 10-foot cable. The cable is 16 gauge, making it a good light-duty option. The extension cord can accommodate three-pronged plugs.
3. Iron Forge Cable 100 Foot Extension Cord
For a power cord that literally goes the distance, we recommend the Iron Forge Cable 100 Foot Outdoor Extension Cord. Iron Forge has a wide selection of extension cords, including shorter cords and even a 200-foot option. This water-resistant extension cord is covered in flexible vinyl that protects against damage from moisture, sunlight and abrasions, making it appropriate for both indoor and outdoor use. The 12-gauge, three-wire extension cord includes prongs that are made with reinforced blades that protect against bending or breaking.
4. GE Designer Extension Cord With Surge Protection
BEST BEDSIDE OPTION
For times when you need extra length and extra outlets, we recommend the GE Designer Extension Cord With Surge Protection. The extension cord includes three grounded outlets that enable users to charge multiple devices at once. The flat plug design won’t cover the second wall outlet and the UL-listed extension cord includes surge protection with a 250-joule rating. The braided design of the cord looks modern and combats tangling.
5. Woods 50-Foot Extension Cord
BEST FOR GARAGES
If you need a lot of reach, this option from Woods is a good pick. The cable is 14 gauge, making it suited for most applications. The 50-foot length gives you wide reach if you’re working in your yard or on an outdoor project. The cord is coated in black vinyl to protect it from hot or cold weather when working outside. It takes three-prong plugs and also plugs into the wall using a three-prong plug.
6. AmazonBasics 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord
Amazon’s in-house brand makes affordable versions of just about everything, ranging from motor oil to toilet paper. This extension cord from AmazonBasics is 50 feet long, giving the user ample reach for outdoor use. There are other sizes available from this listing, ranging between 15 feet and 100 feet. You can get it in high-visibility orange or a discreet green (which is great for hiding in the yard). The 16-gauge cable is suitable for lighter applications.
7. Philips Extension Cord with Footswitch
BEST FOR HARD-TO-REACH OUTLETS
This extension cord from Philips has a unique design that sets it apart from most other cords. Instead of a plug on one end and an outlet on the other, the end of this extension cord features a button. The back of the plug has an outlet for any two-prong device, plugging directly into the wall (that means it doesn’t actually extend the source’s reach). The button on the end of the cord can be used to cut power to the plugged-in device, making it ideal for plugs in hard-to-reach places. In effect, it creates a remote for your wall outlet. For example, if you’re turning off your Christmas lights but don’t want to crawl under the tree, the switch on this plug allows you to do so.
8. Anker PowerPort Cube
BEST FOR DESKS
If you’re mostly looking for a power strip, rather than an extension cord, consider this option from Anker. It has a five-foot cord, so it’s best for indoor settings near the outlets. Instead of the traditional strip shape, this extension cord features a cube with three outlets and three USB ports. This makes it better suited to accommodate oddly shaped and oversized plugs, such as those for the Google Nest speaker. There’s also an adhesive plug that can attach to the bottom of a desk, for example.
9. W4W Twin Extension Cord Power Strip
This extension cord is the kind of genius product that you can’t help but wonder why it didn’t exist before. It’s kind of like a two-headed snake; there are two separate cords that run from the wall to the three two-prong outlets on each end. Each cord is six feet long. The flat plug sits flush with the wall and doesn’t obstruct the use of the other outlet. Both ends of the extension cords have covers to protect them. The outlets are polarized as well.