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Old 11-28-2012, 05:07 PM   #1
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


I'm running xmas lights all over my house and using 16 gauge extension cords (under 25') to get power to them. My outside receptacles are all 12 amp and my question is this: What is the rule about plugging smaller gauge extension cords into higher amp receptacles?

This is a question I've had for a while. Thanks for your help.

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Old 11-28-2012, 05:11 PM   #2
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


There is no rule, those lights draw so little amperage it's not going to be an issue.
If you used the same cords to try and power something else like a table saw
Then it would be an issue.

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Old 11-28-2012, 05:18 PM   #3
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


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There is no rule, those lights draw so little amperage it's not going to be an issue.
If you used the same cords to try and power something else like a table saw
Then it would be an issue.
So are you saying that the source power isn't the factor here, it's the load that is important and smaller conductors aren't affected simply because of the small load? So for this example, my max load with a 16 ga cord is about 1200 watts?
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Old 11-28-2012, 05:42 PM   #4
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


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So are you saying that the source power isn't the factor here, it's the load that is important and smaller conductors aren't affected simply because of the small load? So for this example, my max load with a 16 ga cord is about 1200 watts?
First, it is probably a 15 or 20 amp circuit. No such thing as a 12 amp circuit in a house. To ease the pain, I will follow this with a smiley face

Christmas lights usually only draw about 1-2 amps, and that's a lot of lights on one cord.

A 16 gauge cord under 25ft can handle about 1,250 watt comfortably and safely. As the length grows, the capacity becomes smaller due to resistance and heat buildup (this is why fires start).

You can plug a 16 gauge cord into a 200amp outlet (doesn't exist) with no load plugged in. It wouldn't do a thing, that is, until you started drawing a load. What matters is what you plug into it and how much it draws.

It is ideal though to have wiring protected as much as possible. Personally I thing no cords should be made smaller than 14 gauge, which is 15 amps. Usually the smallest circuit allowed in a house. Or at least have built in permanent 10-12a fuses in smaller 16ga cords, since many people tend to overload them.

Last edited by seansy59; 11-28-2012 at 05:44 PM.
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Old 11-28-2012, 05:47 PM   #5
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


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First, it is probably a 15 or 20 amp circuit. No such thing as a 12 amp circuit in a house. To ease the pain, I will follow this with a smiley face

Christmas lights usually only draw about 1-2 amps, and that's a lot of lights on one cord.

A 16 gauge cord under 25ft can handle about 1,250 watt comfortably and safely. As the length grows, the capacity becomes smaller due to resistance and heat buildup (this is why fires start).

You can plug a 16 gauge cord into a 200amp outlet (doesn't exist) with no load plugged in. It wouldn't do a thing, that is, until you started drawing a load. What matters is what you plug into it and how much it draws.

It is ideal though to have wiring protected as much as possible. Personally I thing no cords should be made smaller than 14 gauge, which is 15 amps. Usually the smallest circuit allowed in a house. Or at least have built in permanent 10-12a fuses in smaller 16ga cords, since many people tend to overload them.
I messed up when I said a 12 amp circuit, I meant 20 amp (or 12 gauge). Thanks for the good info, now I'm all set to Griswold my house.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:25 AM   #6
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


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So are you saying that the source power isn't the factor here, it's the load that is important and smaller conductors aren't affected simply because of the small load? So for this example, my max load with a 16 ga cord is about 1200 watts?
YES !
Quite correct !
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Old 11-29-2012, 05:36 AM   #7
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


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You can plug a 16 gauge cord into a 200amp outlet (doesn't exist) with no load plugged in. It wouldn't do a thing, that is, until you started drawing a load. What matters is what you plug into it and how much it draws.
Oops! Circuits with ordinary (15/20 amp) receptacles and ordinary ceiling and similar light fixtures may not be breakered at more than 20 amps.

Any approved extension cords (some have 18 gauge wire) and lighting (some Christmas strings have 20 or 22 gauge wiring) may be plugged into such circuits. It is up to the user to determine what load he has placed on an extension cord.
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Old 11-30-2012, 01:20 PM   #8
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


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Oops! Circuits with ordinary (15/20 amp) receptacles and ordinary ceiling and similar light fixtures may not be breakered at more than 20 amps.

Any approved extension cords (some have 18 gauge wire) and lighting (some Christmas strings have 20 or 22 gauge wiring) may be plugged into such circuits. It is up to the user to determine what load he has placed on an extension cord.
LOL....thats why I have "(Doesn't exist)" in the sentence.

Also, good luck wiring 200amp 4/0 aluminum to a small 15/20amp outlet. Although, I am sure some idiots have found a way to do it and end up burning down their house in the process.
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:05 PM   #9
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


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Also, good luck wiring 200amp 4/0 aluminum to a small 15/20amp outlet. Although, I am sure some idiots have found a way to do it and end up burning down their house in the process.
12AWG pigtail and a really big wire nut?
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:26 PM   #10
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Small gauge extension cord on a 12 amp circuit?


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12AWG pigtail and a really big wire nut?

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