No matter what kind of projects you like to work on, there are going to be times when a simple extension cord is needed. Unlike most tools, there aren’t many frills that can be added to an extension cord, so buying the best extension cord should be based on the gauge of the wire, the length of the cord, and whether it’s heavy-duty enough for the tasks and conditions you want to work in.
Although you may not always find them in the cord you need, look for cords with lighted ends or safety devices to make your work go faster. Sure you can always head over to the local big-box home improvement store and get whatever cord is on sale, but like other tools, being picky and maybe spending a few extra bucks can go a long way.
If you simply want one of the best extension cords on the market, the US Wire 65050 is a great choice. Not only does this heavy duty cord support up to 15 amps of current, each strand is individually double insulated 12 gauge wire. It’s UL and OSHA approved, which means you are warranty protected for defects or cord failure, even on heavy industrial jobsites.
Unlike many “heavy duty” extension cords, this one remains pliable even in cool weather, so laying out the cord and then rolling it up again will not challenge your patience. The ends are factory molded, not assembled, and that means the prongs remain in place through years of usage and the potential for dead shorts related to improper handling are greatly reduced. If you are dedicated to tools made in the USA, this is the 50 foot cord for you.
On the downside, a double insulated heavy duty extension cord is going to be bulky and heavy. There really is not much that can be done, because the shortcoming is also the most important benefit. On the other hand, purchasing a handy extension cord reel will make handling easier and keep your cord better organized so that it will always be ready to use when you need it. Aside from the bulkiness, about the only problems you may experience will be degradation of the female socket over time, especially in situations where workers handle the cord roughly or forcing poorly fitting plugs into the outlet.
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For many people, an extension cord has to be long enough to reach from one end of the house to the other, and US Wire has just the cord for that. The 74100 features the same double insulated conductors as the 50 foot version, but twice the length. The lighted cord ends mean that you quickly verify power to the cord, plus the fact that it makes the business end of your power source easy to find in poor lighting conditions. The 12 gauge conductors mean that you can safely pull up to 15 amps of current without worrying about burning out the cord or causing power tools to drag or lose performance.
The most common complaint with the US Wire 74100 is that it can be difficult to roll up when the job’s done because of the heavy wire gauge and thick insulation. To avoid this, a cord reel is the best option, but you can also roll the cord into a 5-gallon bucket to achieve the same results without spending extra money.
Coleman Cable’s 02308 is an excellent budget extension cord for light to medium duty usage. Even though it is rated at 13 amps, the 16 gauge wire may be a little too small for heavy usage such as trying to operate multiple high power tools at the same time.
This cord is ideal for small and medium jobs around the home, but may not be suitable for use on a jobsite, especially one where power has to be pulled from a central power pole, as trying to pull too much current has the potential to cause excessive heating of the conductors and could potentially melt the insulation. But for a nice little (almost) all-purpose extension cord for around the house, it’s a good choice.