Electric Pressure Washers - 10 Things to know about extension cords

electric pressure washers

Understand these 10 points and you'll never curse your extension cord again...... ever.

Your cord heats up and burns out an electric pressure washers motor (ouch!). You tripped on the damn thing yesterday. Sometimes they seem like they're more trouble than they're worth.

Do you use just any old extension cord? Well... this may be the problem...

If you use electric pressure washersa good understanding of the extension cord will pay dividends in safety and longer equipment life for a long time to come.

12 AWG 14 and 16AWG

12AWG,14AWG and 16AWG

1.Wire gauge and length will affect the supply of power to electric pressure washers.

Just like a garden hose carrying water the thickness of the wire gauge determines how much power your cord can carry. A smaller (thinner) wire can't carry as much power as a larger (thicker) wire. the thinner wire has more "resistance". There are 5 factors that determine resistance but for our purposes (electric pressure washers) the gauge of the wire (thickness) and length of the cord are by far the two biggest things to consider.

Each wire found inside an extension cord is classified by it's gauge

AWG stands for American Wire Gauge and the lower the number the thicker the wire. Most extension cords you see today on commercial jobs are between 10 and 18 AWG. The AWG number is stamped on the outside of the cover.

Electric pressure washers have different amperage requirements so it's important to make sure you are matching a cord that can carry enough power.

2. Too long an extension cord creates a different kind of resitance known as voltage drop. This resistance increases as the cord gets longer.

Energy dimishes as it travels further from the power source.
Voltage drop can make the motor run slower and develop carbon deposits on the brushes, eventually ruining the motor.
To avoid these conditions always use the shortest cord that is feasible.

3. On some jobs it might be necessary to run 2 or more tools at the same time.

Be careful in these situations. It is vital that you know what the combined amperage draw of the tools will be.

4. Always convert to Amps

In some cases you will have a tool that is rated in Watts. If this is the case always convert Watts to Amps. This simple calculation does the trick- Watts/125 = amps

5. In most cases 15 amps is the most you should draw through an extension cord.

Many commercial electric pressure washers now rival the output of a gas powered pressure washer, as such, they are using 30 amp motors and extra care should be used when selecting a suitable cord for these machines

6. Remember coiled cords can't dissipate heat efficiently, so un coil that cord.

7. The jacket of the cord determines it's flexibility and durability.

Most packaging will claim a cord maintains flexibility brtween a maximum and a minimum temperature range.

What these really are is the temperature of jacket failure. This information is required of the manufacturer by both Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and OSHA (we all know who they are).

Jackets are made from 3 basic materials those being:

PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

TPE (thermoplastic elastomers) and

Synthetic Rubber

There used to be major differences in the three but due to recent advances in the science of polymer technologies the only significant difference that remains is PVC beingless flexible than synthetis rubber in cold weather conditions.

The main knock on synthetic rubber cords is that they won't bond to PVC plug ends (the most commonly made plug ends.) Bonding is important if someone decides to be lazy and pulls the plug out from 10 ft. away.

If you choose to use a cord with a synthetic rubber jacket. Make sure to fit it with good aftermarket plug ends.

replacement plug 8. What to know about plug ends.

Look for commercial or industrial grade plugs that have strain relief clamps at their ends secured by two screws.These plugs should have stiffer conductor blades and U shaped ground pins these plugs are nearly unbreakable.

Remember however, that most of these plugs are not waterproof and should be protected with a waterproof cover and a GFCI
(Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter).


9. The GFCI

OSHA requirements mandate the use of a GFCI on any jobsite using non-permanent power
(extension cords)

A GFCI is a safety device that compares incoming to outgoing power and if a difference is detected power shut down will occur within one-fortieth of a second!

GFCI's are designed to prevent electrocution.

Resist the urge to use inline circuit breakers, many contractors prefer these because they are less sensitive and not prone to trigger as easily but what you must remember is in line breakers are designed to protect the tool from overloading and not designed to prevent electrocution of an operator This is a critical distinction.

All weather outlet box GFCI's (pictured far left) are really the only ones that make sense when working with water. While these are far and away the most expensive, what is a life worth?

While these may cost upwards of $80.00 They are cheap in comparison to potential consequences.



10. Lighted cords and locking plugs.

Locking plugs are strongly reccomended as they eliminate easy seperation when yanked or otherwise disturbed. Lighted cords are useful to pinpoint power loss problems.

There you have it operator safety and system safety all in one shot.

Follow these 10 points and get value and convenience from your electric pressure washer. After all, that's why you bought it in the first place...right?

electric pressure washers, extension cords

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