How to Tell If an Extension Cord Is for Outdoor Use | Mr. Electric

As you prepare to hang up the lights outside this holiday season, it’s important to know how to tell if an extension cord is for outdoor use. Choosing the right cord for the application is essential to ensure electrical safety and prevent home fires. In this guide, you’ll get expert advice from the team at Mr. Electric®, ensuring you have the information and safety tips necessary to get the light-hanging job done right the first time this season.

Which Extension Cord Is Right for Outside?

Extension cords have three categories of use: occasional, frequent, and rugged. In order to find the one that’s right for your project, you’ll need to check the cord packaging or the cord itself for the specific letter designating the intended use. The following information will help you to know if an extension cord is appropriate for outside use to power the lights on your house:

  • The letter “W” on the packaging or the cord itself indicates a cord that is designed for use outside.
  • The primary difference between an indoor extension cord and an outdoor cord is the insulation. Cords rated for outdoor use also have bright orange rubber, vinyl, or plastic covers that protect against moisture and the natural changes in temperatures that occur outside, as well as sunlight that can break down the insulation on typical indoor extension cords.
  • While many indoor extension cords have two-prong plugs, outdoor cords always have three-prong plugs. The third prong serves as a grounding wire, reducing the risk of fire or electrical shock.
  • Because outdoor devices often require more amperage than indoor devices, an extension cord that is appropriate for outside use will have a high amperage rating.

How to Protect Outdoor Extension Cord from Rain

If you don’t have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected outlets installed on the exterior of your house, use a GFCI adapter along with your outdoor extension cord. It’s a smart way to provide an added layer of protection for your holiday light display. The GFCI plugs directly into your outlet, and then the extension cord plugs into the GCFI. It works as a circuit breaker that will automatically shut off if it senses power is flowing through water, a person, or anything else it should not be flowing through. Remember to always plug the GFCI into your outlet first before plugging in your outdoor extension cord to avoid electric shock.

Safety Tips for Using an Outdoor Extension Cord

Although choosing the right extension cord designed for outside use and using a GCFI extension are excellent safety measures, there are other things you can do to keep your family and your home safe.

  • Store extension cords properly. When you are finished with the outside lights for the year, unplug the extension cords, carefully rolling them back up as they were when you opened the package. Then, hang them somewhere safe from the elements until you need them again.
  • When taking extension cords out of storage, inspect them for cracks in the insulation and exposed wire. If you notice any problems, do not use the cord.
  • Always keep extension cords away from spots that accumulate water or snow.
  • Do not overextend extension cords by attempting to power too many appliances at once.
  • Use brightly colored extension cords to help you locate them, to prevent tripping, and to help notify people who may be working in your yard or mowing that extension cords are present.

If you are still unsure whether an extension cord is for outdoor use, reach out to your local experts at Mr. Electric. It is always best to err on the side of caution and trust the professionals with your electrical services. Submit an estimate request online now or call (844) 866-1367 to speak to one of the experienced electricians at Mr. Electric today.

Want to know more about extension cord selection and safety? Our friends at Rainbow International have shared some great information about proper extension cord use. We know we can always count on them and all of our other Neighborly colleagues for good advice, and so can you!