The evolution of power cords started in the mid-1800s when Thomas Edison devised a way to safely distribute power to appliances. Edison used jute to coat a copper rod, and then placed it into a pipe containing a bituminous substance. Edison’s invention would eventually become the blueprint for the design of modern power cords. Nowadays, power cords come in many shapes and sizes and are available in several different insulations.
The gauge rating is another important factor to consider. This simple number indicates the wire thickness of the cord. A 120-volt cord with a gauge rating of 12 is 12 AWG, while one with a lower number indicates a thicker wire. The longer a cord is, the greater the voltage drop and decreased capacity. A shorter cable, on the other hand, retains the same power level from the outlet to its end. Therefore, power cords should be chosen with safety in mind.
Standards for power cords differ between countries, but the UL and CSA standards are generally accepted by most. North American power cords are generally NEMA L14-30P with a NEMA 60 amp fuse L6-30R receptacle. The plug is also called hospital-grade and is evaluated to a higher standard than non-hospital grade cords. Make sure you choose the right plug and receptacle combination when shopping for a cord.
Another important feature of a power cord is its connector. The connector is the temporary attachment point between the outlet and the appliance. These connectors are standardized by IEC 60320. The rest of the interconnection cord set consists of a flexible cord or cable. The cable links the plug and connectors. The length of a power cord can range from two metres to ten metres depending on the standards used in its manufacturing. You can also use power cords for devices that use USB or RCA ports.
Another common type of power cord is the lug/ring terminal. This type of terminal is designed to attach the stripped end to an electrical receptacle. It features a metallic ring that fits over a post or screw and attaches to the stripped power cord’s wire. There are two types of cords available: male and female connectors. If you’re purchasing a power cord for sensitive equipment, you’ll need a male and female crimp tool.
IEC 60320 is the internationally recognized standard for power cords. Different countries use different standards when it comes to power cords, but these are generally recognized for universal use. Most common types of power cords use a “C” connector code standard, which specifies the different voltages, currents, and temperature. Generally speaking, a C13 power cord is the most common and universal power cord. But you can also get cords that meet local standards by reading labels.
The amperage and wire gauge of a cord are directly related. The wire gauge will be higher as the cord gets longer. Color-coding is an added convenience and safety feature. Power cords sold in the US and Europe follow these color codes. While the US and European color codes are the same, these standards may vary a bit for applications that require a different amp rating. The same rule applies to extension cords. So, be sure to choose the right one before buying a new appliance.