So here it is, part 2 of the buyer’s guide series for buying the right generator cords. Last time I briefly touched upon the importance of being prepared for the future by owning a generator and power cord set. Especially those in high disaster areas. This episode will help you figure out what to look for when purchasing a power cord, as well as the different configurations you see.
To start things off let’s look at what a generator Cord is:
The majority of generator owners will have a portable generator; they range from very small (800w) that can power only small devices, and very large (10,000W) generators capable of powering many different things at one time. A generator cord will plug directly into the outlet panel of your generator, to power small appliances in your house. And will normally come with 15 / 20A outlets for you to use. See below.
What is the difference between that and a Power Cord?
A power cord on the other hand, is a cord that will be used to connect to a Transfer Switch. These switches are used to transfer power from a generator through your existing power system in your house to turn on appliances. (And you should always have a licensed electrician install it for you.)
Got it? So let’s move on to determining the configuration you need.
The outlet panel can contain many different outlets to plug into depending on what you need. I am not going to go over the specifics of power ratings for appliances and cords; instead I want to show you the different plugs and connections typically found on a portable generator that uses a Generator Cord. By looking at the outlet panel on this generator we can see what appears to be a 30A, 4-Prong Locking Style connection (left side); as well as 4 15/20Amp outlets. The 15/20A outlets are compatible with a regular household extension cord with a ground, or a 20A end. The 30A Twist lock end is very specific,and it is important to spot the difference between other types before you waste your hard earned cash buying a cord that will not work. Below is a chart of twist lock plug ends as well as straight blade generator ends.
The typical generator will have outlets ranging from 15AMPS, to 50AMPS; and will normally have a mixture of Straight
Blade prongs and Twist Locking Prongs (But this is not always the case) These are the most common configurations found on generators, and the most asked for styles when a customer calls to place an order. The easiest way to find what you need is to:
- Look in your owners manual to find the correct Plug/ Connector (If it’s not in there go to step 2)
- Try to match the outlet to the chart we have made for you
- Make sure it is either a straight blade or locking style
- Determine if you need a male or female to attach to your Generator
- Then you will know what you need as well as the AMPS the outlet provides
- (Repeat Steps 1-4) To determine what you need at the other end of the cable
Always remember to buy a cord that will suit your needs; if it will be outside, please make sure to purchase a cord that is rated for outdoor conditions. This is the same for cords near the generator (Buy one with Oil Resistant Jacketing if this is the case) Before you buy, contact an electrician to determine what Gauge wire you will need with your cord to support the power usage. Make sure you check your cord regularly to make sure it is still in good condition, and if it is not; Replace it! Start by checking how hot the cord is when being used; too hot means there may be a problem and you should immediately stop using it. Fires have been caused by overheated cords igniting their surroundings (so don’t cover your cord with carpeting or a rug to hide it) And if it is in a dark area, place the cord out of the way so it will not become a tripping hazard. If you don’t know what you need, just ASK!