Can You Use an Extension Cord with a Generator [The Full Explanation]

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Kyle Whitley

Can You Use an Extension Cord with a Generator

A generator is great for emergency situations, but most of us don’t live in areas where we can run our generators 24/7. If you have multiple devices that need charging or power, you might be wondering can you use an extension cord with a generator.

In this post, I’m going to share how you can use an extension cord as a power source for your generator. This will allow you to charge your phone, tablet, laptop, and even your car battery while using your generator.

Hooking Up a Generator

If you live where power outages occur often, it makes sense to invest in a generator. Generators provide backup power during blackouts and brownouts.

They allow you to continue operating essential equipment such as refrigeration units, freezers, air conditioning systems, computers, and medical devices. If you do decide to purchase a generator, there are several things to consider.

First, what size generator do you need? Second, how much power does your home use? Third, what type of fuel source do you want? Finally, what safety features do you prefer?

Connecting a portable generator to a home requires some planning. To protect against power outages, it’s important to understand how generators work and what equipment you’ll need to hook up.

A portable generator plugs into a standard 120V outlet. You can use one to run appliances like refrigerators, freezers, air compressors, electric stoves, etc., but there are certain limitations. For example, a portable generator won’t provide enough power to run a dishwasher, clothes dryer, or washing machine.

Even though a portable generator doesn’t produce electricity directly, it does provide backup power. This allows you to keep running critical equipment during a blackout without worrying about losing everything.

The best way to connect a portable generator to a house is to install a transfer switch. Transfer switches allow you to disconnect power from the main breaker box and move it to another location. When the power goes out, the transfer switch automatically turns off the power coming into the house.

This keeps the lights on and the refrigerator humming while you figure out what happened. Once you know what went wrong, you can turn the power back on through the transfer switch.

There are several transfer switches, but the most common ones are manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic. Manual transfers require you to manually flip a switch whenever you want to change the power source. Semi-automatic transfers let you select the power source with a dial or remote control.

Fully automatic transfers do away with the manual controls and automatically switch sources based on the status of your electrical system. There are typically used in commercial applications where maintaining a constant power supply is essential.

red portable electric generator with extension cord

Cords vs Power Transfer Systems

Extension cords are great if you’re looking to connect multiple outlets. They come in different lengths and sizes. Generators are ideal for those who want power without having to rely on utility companies. They’re typically large and heavy. A transfer system combines both extension cords and generators. It’s a good option for anyone who wants to use power from multiple sources.

Connecting Your Generator to Your Home

Always check the owner’s manual for proper hookup instructions. If you’re unsure about how to connect a portable generator to a house, don’t attempt it without professional help. There are many safety hazards involved in connecting a generator to a home power system. You could damage the electrical wiring, cause fire or electrocution, or even start a house fire.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends using a qualified electrician to install a generator properly. This ensures that all connections meet code requirements and that the generator operates safely.

If you do decide to operate a generator yourself, make sure that you know what you’re doing. Read the owner’s manual thoroughly and follow all manufacturer’s recommendations. Make sure that you understand how to turn off the electricity supply to the building before starting up the generator. Don’t overload the circuit breaker panel. And remember to use ground fault interrupter (GFI) breakers whenever possible. GFI breakers protect against dangerous situations like shocks and fires caused by faulty grounding systems.

Be careful not to back feed or plug a portable generator into an outlet. Doing so can cause serious injury or death. Backfeeding occurs when current travels from the generator back into the electrical grid. Plugging a generator into an outlet causes an arc flash hazard. Arc flashes occur when high voltage arcs form during short circuits. They can ignite flammable gases inside the home and cause burns, eye injuries, and property damage.

Extension Cords

There are many different types of extension cords, including three common ones: “A”, “C” and “G”. They differ in size, price, and how much current they carry. Extension cords come in several lengths, ranging from 10 feet up to 200 feet. A good rule of thumb is to buy one that is long enough to reach where you want to plug it into, and short enough to fit into your home.

If you plan on running multiple circuits through a single extension cord, you’ll want to make sure that you purchase a 3-pronged plug. This will prevent you from accidentally connecting the ground prong to another circuit. Also, if you’re planning on powering anything that requires 240 volts AC, such as air conditioning units, you’ll want to look for a GFCI outlet. These outlets protect against electrical shocks by automatically shutting off electricity to the appliance if there is a problem with the wiring.

Generator Cords

If you’re looking to add power to your home without having to run long electrical lines outside, consider investing in a Gen-CORD. This handy little device lets you connect multiple appliances together via one convenient cable, allowing you to plug everything directly into your generator.

The Gen-CORD works like regular extension cords, except it plugs into a standard 20- or 30-amps outlet on your generator. At the opposite end, the Gen-CORD splits into several household outlets — perfect for starting up additional devices inside. Plus, since there are no exposed wires, you won’t have to worry about tripping over those pesky cords while running around trying to find the source of the thunderstorm.

yellow electric gas powered generator with extension cord

What is the big deal with gauge and length?

The size of the wire used in an extension cord determines how many amps it can carry. This affects the amount of electricity that flows through the cord. A thinner cable allows less current to flow through it, while a thicker cable carries more current. If you’re looking to buy an extension cord, look for one with a thick enough cable to handle what you plan to do with it.

An extension cord contains copper wire throughout its entire length. The thickness is rated according to American wire gauge (AWG) measurements. Common sizes include AWG 16, AWG 14, AWG 12, AWG 10, and AWG8, with the smaller the number, the thinner the wire, or individual strands.

As the thickness of the wire increases, so too does its wattage rating. For example, an 18 gauge (AWG) wire with a two-pronged plug would be good enough for most lamps.

Devices need to get the proper amount of power, so they run correctly. You might be able to damage the device if you’re not careful.

If the resistance caused by the cord’s size prevents the device from receiving enough power, then you need to use thicker wires (lower AWG) or shorter cords. The thicker the wire, the longer the length of cable you can use to deliver electricity to similar electronic equipment.

However, for the same appliance, if you had a cable made out of 10 gauge wires, then you could only have a cable up to 250 feet. Most homes do not have extension cables this long, but on-location jobs may require that the portable generators be placed hundreds of feet from the electrical outlet.

Lower gauge extension cords are much more expensive than higher gauge ones. So you will have to make a decision about what is best for your situation.


Extension Cord Length

The length of an extension cord is one of those things that many people don’t think about much. But there are some very good reasons why you might want to consider how long your extension cord needs.

If you plan on using the cord to power tools or appliances, you will want to make sure that the cord is long enough to reach where you need it to be. You will also want to keep in mind the wattage rating of the cord and whether or not it is rated for outdoor use.

If you are planning on running the cord outside, you will want to choose a cord that is rated for outdoor use rather than indoor use. This way you won’t have to worry about getting shocked by an electrical surge.

Length is one of the most important factors for any electrical cable. A long cable has more resistance than a short cable. As the resistance increases, so too does the voltage decrease.

Another thing to consider is the length of the cords. If they’re too long, then the cords will generate more heat than if they were shorter.

Will an Extension Cords Length Affect the Cords Rating?

Length can affect the ratings of a product in several different ways. The longer an extension cord is, the more voltage that drops off the farther you are away from the power source. The greater length causes more resistance. There is a formula that can be used to calculate the electrical resistance of a specific wire.

As far as the actual rating of an extension cord goes, there isn’t a standard way to determine the maximum amperage a cord can handle. However, the most common method is to measure the current flow through the cord and multiply that figure by the rated amperage.

The reason why length matters is that the longer the cord, there is more room for error. A short cord might work fine, but a long one could potentially burn out. Also, the longer the cord is, the heavier the load on the cord itself. This could cause the insulation around the wire to break down faster.

Extension Cord Gauge

An extension cord should always be sized correctly. This includes both the size of the wire and the number of conductors within it.

A larger gauge will provide more electrical capacity, but also increases the risk of overheating and possible fire.

The correct extension cord size depends on what you are trying to do. For example, if you want to plug in a lamp, use a 20 AWG cable. If you want to run power to multiple outlets, consider using a 14 AWG cable.

The gauge of your extension cord can make or break your ability to use it. A thicker gauge will allow you to run longer distances without worrying about overheating your appliance. However, a thinner gauge will allow you to move around more freely while maintaining a safe distance from your device.

Make sure the cord does not become damaged during installation. Insulation can be damaged over time. If the insulation becomes exposed, it can short-circuit and start a fire.

A good rule of thumb is always to choose the largest gauge possible. If you decide to go down a size, always check out the temperature rating of the cord. You don’t want to burn yourself because you didn’t realize the cord could get hot enough to cause damage.

Are There Guidelines for Generator Extension Cords

NEC ( National Electric Code) has rules on the amps that determine the size of the extension cord you will need. If you want to get through long distances without losing too much power, you need to increase the size of your wires.

When working with electrical connections, it is important to follow safety guidelines. If you used a 16AWG extension cable to power an appliance that requires 15A, the cable could become too hot and cause a fire. Look for the UL label which is permanently affixed or molded onto the extension cord. Please read the instruction manual carefully. If there is a “W” symbol on the plug, then it means that it is suitable for outdoor use.

blue portable electric gas powered generator with extension cord


Portable Generator Outlets

There are several different types of outlets available for powering various devices. A generator can be used to power many different kinds and sizes of electrical equipment.


You can use multiple types of connectors for various kinds of electrical devices. Sizes range from grounded and ungrounded (twist lock) or straight blades. They’re rated by the number of amperes they deliver and the voltages they provide.


What are the Types of Extension Cords That Can be Used with Generators?

The right types of cords are quite essential for your generator and the appliances it powers. As mentioned above, the majority of generators are used outdoors and exposed to elements like rain, snow, and wind. This makes them susceptible to damage caused by exposure to water, dirt, and dust.

Consult a licensed electrician if you have concerns about specific extension cords. A good rule of thumb is to go for heavy-duty, durable, and weather-resistant cords. These are the three main things you’ll need to look for when selecting the right cords for your generator.

Heavy-Duty – Durability and strength are key factors when choosing the right cords for your generators. You don’t want to choose a cord that is too thin and weak. Make sure you select one that will stand up to the rigors of daily use.

Weather Resistant – Weather resistance is another factor to consider when choosing the right cords. Look for ones that are designed to resist moisture and extreme temperatures.

Durability – Finally, durability is something to keep in mind when buying cords for your generators. Choose one that won’t break easily over time.

Cord Varieties

There are many types of generator cords available, and most people don’t know what they are used for. They use one type of cord for everything, even though it doesn’t make sense. This article explains the difference between the three main types of generator cords and how you should choose the correct one for your needs.

OK, here is the nomenclature that most don’t need to know, but we pride ourselves on providing all of the information that you could possibly use. There is a letting system that describes the properties of generator extension cables. Each letter represents a different type of cord used to make the cable.

Each cord has an application and material associated with it. Thermoset cords are thicker and have a rubberized coating that makes the cord very durable. Thermoplastics have thinner jackets and are better suited for cold-weather applications.

S = Severe Service Cord – 600 volts

SJ = Junior Severe Service – 300 volts

T = Thermoplastic

H = Heat Resistant


Power Y-Splitter Cord

If you are looking to buy a generator, it might seem like a good idea to go ahead and purchase one without thinking about what else you might want to do with it. However, there are some situations where you may find yourself needing to power more appliances than just the ones you have plugged into your generator. For example, you may have a refrigerator, freezer, oven, microwave, coffee maker, stovetop, etc.

If you don’t already have enough outlets on your generator, you may find yourself in a position where you need to power even more appliances than you have plugs on your generator. In this case, you may find yourself wanting to add a cord with a y-splitter on the end.

A y-splitter allows you to connect multiple cords together and split off each outlet individually. So, if you have three cords coming out of your generator, you can plug in three different appliances and each appliance gets its own outlet. This way, you can power even more appliances than just those that you originally had plugged into your generator.


The Size of the Appropriate Power Cord?

Power cords usually come in different sizes, lengths, and thicknesses. This makes choosing one quite difficult. To make things even harder, there are some factors that influence how the power cord resists the flow of electricity. If you want to determine the appropriate length and size of your power cord, here are some tips that might help you out.

  1. Determining the Resistance Factor -The resistance factor indicates how much the power cord resists the electrical flow. There are three main types of power cords: thick, thin, and medium. Thick power cords are best used for heavy machinery such as generators. Thin power cords are good for small appliances like fans and hair dryers. Medium power cords are recommended for most household devices.
  2. Determining the Voltage Rating – Voltage rating refers to the amount of voltage required to run a device. A 12 V battery requires a 12 V power cord. However, a 240 V AC wall outlet needs a 120 V power cord.
  3. Determining the Amperage Rating– Amperage rating refers to the maximum amperes that the power cord can handle. Most power cords have a 15 amp capacity; however, some high-powered tools require a 20 amp power cord.

Do extension Cords have Limitations?

Extension cords are handy little devices used to connect appliances together. They’re great because you can move items around without running multiple wires across your home. However, there are some things extension cords aren’t ideal for. Here are three ways extension cords limit what you can do.

  1. Possibility of Damage – Since portable generators are usually a good way away from your home. The extension cords need to be run through outdoor areas into your home. This might lead to damage to the extension cord. Damaged extension cords can lead to safety issues, like shocks or fires.
  2. Not Permanent Power – While portable generators are great a providing power to devices that use power plugs, they aren’t very useful with appliances or devices that are hard wired into your home. Unless you wire in a transfer switch, you will not be able to power any of the major appliances in your home, such as HVAC, water heaters, and overhead lighting.


Summing it Up: Can you use an extension cord with a Generator?


Yes, you can use an extension cord with your generator. However, there is some specific information like how many devices, how far away they are from the generator, and the size of your extension cord that you need to keep in mind. Make sure that you read through you’re device’s instructions carefully before plugging anything in, because you never want to end up damaging your equipment.


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