rv education 101 - understanding extension cords
Hi, I’m Mark Polk with RV Education 101, and I would like to welcome you to RV 101: Understanding Your RV. Today’s topic is understanding RV extension cords. This information can be helpful at home and on RV trips. Let’s get started.
Extension cords are convenient when the RV’s power cord is not long enough to reach the power pedestal. But understanding what type of extension cord to use on your RV is important.
A couple points I would like to make before we really dig into the topic are always make sure you have good connections when you’re using an extension cord, and always keep in mind you should only use an extension cord when it is absolutely necessary. Extension cords are for temporary use and should not be used permanently.
Regular household extension cords are manufactured for either indoor or outdoor use. Avoid using an indoor extension cord outside. Outdoor extension cords have a thick covering of additional insulation like this one.
First, let’s talk about how you can determine the capacity of an extension cord. If you look right here, you see the letters AWG. AWG stands for American Wire Gauge Rating. The lower the AWG number is, the thicker the wire used in the extension cord is, and the higher the rated capacity is. And vice versa, the higher the AWG number is, the wire thickness is less and the rated capacity is lower. So, for RV applications, you want a lower AWG number with a higher rated capacity to get the electrical power to the RV.
Now that we know AWG is the gauge of the wire, let’s go a little further. If you look at this label, you see 14/3. The way you read this is the number 14 represents the gauge of the wire, what we just discussed. And the number three represents the number of wires
there are in the cord.
Any extension cord you use on your RV needs to have a ground wire, which on a 30-amp cord, the ground wire is here. And on a 50-amp cord, the ground is here. The ground wire helps reduce the possibility of electrical shock. The gauge of the wire or the AWG number we discussed and the length of the extension cord both affect the cords amperage rating. For example, a 16-gauge cord that is 25 feet long is rated for 13 amps, whereas a 10-gauge cord that is 25-feet long is rated for 30 amps. So, it is clear to see how the wire thickness, the length of the cord, and amperage rating are extremely important when using the cord at home or on your RV. What you really want to take away from this is to never use an extension cord with a lower wattage or amperage rating than what you’re trying to power.
Now, let’s look at some tips for using the extension cord. There are extension cords like these made specifically for use with RVs.
You can see how heavy the cords are with added insulation and molded ends for outdoor use. When you use the extension cord, always try to use the shortest cord possible. This is why I recommend keeping a couple different length RV extension cords in your RV.
Prior to plugging the cord in, inspect the cord and the ends. The prongs on the plugs should be cleaned for good connections. Periodically use a light grit sandpaper to clean the prongs. Make sure none of the prongs are bent or loose. Look for any damage to the cord itself. If there are cuts in the cord that reach the wires inside, do not use the cord. If a cut is superficial, you can use electrical tape to repair the cord. Make sure all of the connections are tight and secure. When you disconnect the extension cord, never pull on the cord itself, pull on a plug to separate the cords. Some cords have handles like this to make it easier to unplug.
Try to keep any connections in the cord off the ground. Connections on the extension cords should never be exposed to moisture or standing water. If you use electrical adapters like these, make sure you have secure connections. Try to limit the number of adapters you use, and if the cord or the adapter ever feels hot, discontinue using it. When adapters like this get too hot, they can melt and short circuit.
As you can see, there’s more to an extension cord than meets the eye. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of choosing, using, and maintaining an RV extension cord.