These days, everyone has an extension cord somewhere in their home. They use these devices to operate freezers, computers, microwaves, TVs, and the like. But what happens during Christmas? If you’re the kind of homeowner that prefers to cover your house with Christmas lights, what do you do when the power cord is too far to reach the outlet? Many people solve this problem by bringing their indoor extension cord outside. But is that practice safe?
Can You Use An Indoor Extension Cord Outside?
I don’t recommend using an indoor extension cord outside because indoor extension cables are too weak to withstand the extreme conditions in exterior settings. The sunlight, rain, and freezing temperatures will break the insulation down. On top, they are too short and thin to run heavy-duty outdoor appliances.
This means can’t you technically use an indoor extension cord outside?
Yes, you can. No one will stop you. Most outdoor appliances and devices have plugs that can connect to the outlets of an indoor extension cord.
In fact, people use indoor extension cords outside all the time. However, can you safely use an indoor extension cord outside? Not really. This practice is dangerous.
Indoor extension cords are given the ‘Indoor’ descriptor for a reason. The manufacturers know that indoor and outdoor extension cables serve different roles, which is why they labeled them accordingly.
Again, you can use an indoor extension cord outside. But you have to realize that it doesn’t have the same molded weather-resistant female socket you find in an outdoor extension cord.
Additionally, the insulation is lacking. Indoor extension cables are more likely to malfunction in external settings because they don’t have the strength to resist the elements.
If you must use an indoor extension outside, make sure the device is temporary. Many people use indoor extensions outside because of emergencies. But once that emergency passes, try to invest in an outdoor extension. They are safer and longer-lasting.
Why Can’t You Use Indoor Extension Cord Outdoors?
1). Thin Layer Of Insulation
Hunker has identified the insulation as the most notable difference. Because outdoor extension cords work outside, manufacturers have given them a stronger outer layer that defends against moisture and extreme temperatures.
Don’t underestimate the temperature. Sunlight can peel the insulation off an indoor extension cord. However, the outdoor option can withstand that UV light, not to mention freezing conditions. They can also resist the destructive consequences of chemicals.
An outdoor extension cord will give you peace of mind because you know that it can survive whatever the weather throws at it. Indoor extension cords do not offer the same confidence. They will fail within a few weeks or months.
2). Thin Size
Outdoor extension cords are typically thicker than their indoor counterparts. The gauge matters because it can affect your safety. Electrical wires oppose the flow of electricity.
The smaller the cable, the greater the resistance, the more heat a current generates as it crosses the conductor. If the resistance is too high, the heat could melt the insulation, starting a fire and burning your house down.
Additionally, the voltage drop may destroy your equipment, especially if the wire in question is too long. You can reduce the resistance by raising the gauge. In that regard, outdoor extension cables are safer because they have higher gauges. They can accommodate more electricity without starting any fires.
Manufacturers expect outdoor extensions to operate heavy-duty items, which is why their gauges are so impressive. Some people use outdoor extensions inside for that very reason. They know that an outdoor cord is more likely to run appliances such as freezers and microwaves that have heavy electrical requirements without starting any fires.
3). Short In Length
Outdoor extension cords are typically longer. You can blame this attribute on the gauge. You can’t increase the length without raising the resistance, not unless you elevate the gauge as well.
Outdoor extension cords have thicker conductors. Therefore, you can still use them to operate heavy-duty equipment even though they are longer. The best indoor extensions are just 25 feet long. This is because keeping the cable short allows the extension cords to carry large volumes of current without overheating.
But you can find outdoor extension cords in lengths as impressive as 150 feet or more. In that regard, you are better off using an outdoor extension cord inside. It can stretch from one room to another without jeopardizing the health and safety of your friends and family.
4). High Risk Of Fire
Outdoor extension cords use three-pronged plugs that have a grounding function. They minimize fire and electrical hazards. If that wasn’t impressive enough, these devices have larger amp ratings. They can run heavier equipment.
But Indoor extension cords are too short and thin to run heavy-duty outdoor appliances. They will either destroy your electronic assets because of the voltage drop or catch fire because they have a low gauge and amp rating.
What Should Be Considered Before Using Indoor Extension Cords Outside?
Consider the gauge. You can get indoor extension cords in various sizes. Get the thickest and shortest cable you can find. The goal is to reduce resistance and voltage drop.
If the equipment you want to run is too far away, don’t daisy chain your extension cables. Install new outlets within the vicinity of your outdoor devices. Better yet, don’t use indoor extension cords outside.
Buy outdoor extension cables with a ‘W’ label. The ‘W’ proves that the product in question is rated for use outside.
What If I Have To Use It, How To Safely Use Indoor Extension Cords Outside?
If you can afford to buy an indoor extension for outdoor use, you might as well buy an outdoor extension. Indoor extensions are only acceptable if you have an emergency and don’t have the time to buy an outdoor extension. Or maybe you have the time but not the money. In that regard, you should keep the following in mind:
- Don’t pair the indoor extension with heavy appliances. Stick to lighter devices that are less likely to strain the indoor extension cord.
- If you’re determined to operate heavy-duty items outside, look for extension cords whose amperage matches the rating of your appliances. Indoor extension cords with a high amperage rating are not that difficult to come by.
- Use GFCI technology. GFCIs respond to ground faults. They prevent fires and electrocutions by cutting the power whenever the current strays from its path into a person, water, the metal casing of an appliance, etc.
- Use extension cords with three-pronged plugs. Do not remove the third prong because you want the plug to fit a two-pronged outlet. The third prong acts as a security feature. It provides a path for excess current to follow when a surge, short circuit, or malfunction occurs.
- Hang the extension cord in a dry space. Don’t prolong its exposure to hot or cold conditions. Also, you shouldn’t coil the cable.
- Investigate the health of the extension cord. Avoid cables with obvious signs of damage such as knicks and cuts on the jacket, burn marks, warped insulation, etc. A damaged extension cord can kill regardless of whether it is an indoor or outdoor model.
What About Using Outdoor Extension Cord Inside?
Outdoor extension cords are better than indoor models in every area. Therefore, you can use them inside. People only avoid outdoor extension cords because they are more expensive, which makes sense because they have higher gauges and amp ratings.
Best Extension Cords for Outdoor
Some attractive extension cords for outdoor use that people should buy include:
This is a 13A 125V extension cord that people can use for outdoor lighting. Though, it is powerful enough to run other devices. The double-insulated product is UL listed. It comes with a 16-gauge cable, durable PVC insulation, and three outlets.
This is a powerful 13A 1250W product with a 16-gauge cable, vinyl covering, and a 3-prong plug. The heavy-duty insulation defends against abrasion, sunlight, and moisture. It will run landscaping equipment and power tools.
This is a water-resistant 15A 125V 1875W extension cord with a female end that lights up when you connect a power source. Expect a slip-resistant design and reinforced blades. The item includes a Lifetime Replacement Warranty.
This is a 50A 12500W 250V extension cord with a UL certificate. It has a 10AWG cable with three wires, an STW rating, and weatherproofing. The item has a wide variety of uses. It will operate heavy-duty devices such as welding machines. You can also pair the product with generators and RVs.