Using a Portable Generator with Extension Cords

After a recent internet search, I realized that several people want to know the best using a portable generator with extension cords. If you’re looking for the best gauge extension cord you need that will support your home applications, particular tool, or the length of an extension cord can use without loss of power, here is the place to be.

What to consider for when searching for the best extension cords for portable generator

When you’re thinking of using a portable generator with extension cords, you need to consider buying the applications’ right cables. The diversity in the market of generator extension cords will give you every kind of model, most of which are incompatible, low quality, or something that does not meet your needs. Here are the considerations you need to keep in mind while making your selection.


Length and Gauge


While browsing various forums, I came across some people asking about length while looking for the right gauge cord. What I know is, if you’re searching for a hundred-foot long generator extension cord, it’d be best you take into account you’re creating a vast resistor.


Nevertheless, it’s quite hard to come across 100-foot long cords that exceed 15-amp capacity. In my calculations, I allowed a 5%-voltage drop, which most people see as too high. With that in mind, I have one recommendation that equals that level – a 100-foot long 12-gauge extension cord rated 15-amp draw.


Using an extension cord with the wrong gauge wire can starve your tool. You can think of it as trying to breathe through a straw. Of course, it’s doable, but you’ll struggle to breathe. Another thing, it might create a hazardous situation. If you use anything above this rating, the extension cord might overheat and meltdown the insulation creating a hazard situation.


That might be an unusual application for most portable generator owners, but I feel it represents a perfect scenario. It helps understand what will happen if you use a 100-foot long extension cord on a higher current draw tool. Ensure you have the right gauge wire; you have to make sure the extension cord’s power rating matches the generator’s output and your appliance need.


Extension Cord Types and Plugs


The type of extension cord you will use with your portable generator depends on the cord prongs and the twist-lock in place. Here are the various plugs and receptacles found in most generators and their applications.


Duplex Outlet and Plug


The most common generator extension cord you will come across is a 15-amp – 20-amp 2-prong and 30-amp and 50-amp prong plug. That non-twist-lock design works similarly to the wall outlets in most homes. The outlets are mostly used for supplying power to your appliances via plugging them directly into your generator.


TT Plugs


The TT Plugs also come with non-twist-lock plugs that work quite well in connecting your portable generator to an RV. The receptacles are more common in RVs parts across the US. What you need to know is, the plugs aren’t ideal for directing power to your home electrical system. That’s why you need to pay attention next time you hit the road in your RV.


Twist-Lock Plug


These plugs come in multiple types based on the number of prongs they have, 3 or 4. It can also be categorized by the number of watts and amps they can handle. The receptacles are ideal for supplying energy from the generator to the home’s electrical system, RV and the heavy-duty machines such as corded-electric table saw and log splitters.


What’s more, you might want to get a generator extension cord compatible with your generator. The plugs’ shapes come internally designed to prevent instances of electricity overload. Ensure you check the pin (s) connects to your load before you can invest in it.


Cord Durability


Since you’re using a portable generator with extension cords outdoors, you need a cable that withstands all weather conditions. One requirement of using a portable generator is to ensure it’s placed in an open, well-ventilated space. That calls you to get high-quality cables with a waterproof casing.


Advantages and limitations of Generator Extension Cords


Generator extension cords work quite well. You can do a lot with them. However, these things come with advantages and limitations. It’s time to take a look at some of them.




Immediate Solution


Using a portable generator with extension cords has proven to be quite convenient and swift every time. It offers a solution when you’re using the generator far from you. During power outages, a portable generator comes in handy. And guess what? You need the extension cord to hook up your generator to your house, RV and where you need the power immediately.


No Hard Work Required


Hooking up your generator using extension cords is simple and straightforward. The best part of the subpanel installation is a DIY thing. And that’s why most people take it as the most efficient method to hook up a generator to your house and RV.




For most of us who love camping and outdoor, extension cords are quite pocket-friendly and portable. You can pack them on your camping backpack. Another thing, it’s a cheaper way of getting power to your workshop every time.




Even though it’s quite inevitable never to use an electrical extension cord if you’re using a portable generator, connecting your appliances directly to your generator can be risky and hazardous for you and anyone else involved.


What’s more, unlike with transfer switches or interlock devices, you cannot connect it to devices hardwired like the lights. To use it on the tools, you have to disconnect them from the system manually, which can be time-wasting.


Another thing, you cannot use your portable generator with extension cords for long-term blackouts. It works well as a temporal solution to home emergency power. However, you need a more reliable solution if you live in areas with more frequent power outages.


Some helpful do’s and don’ts of using a portable generator with extension cords




Size the extension cord wire gauge properly, both lengthwise and amount of current draw required

Keep the extension cable as short as possible for your high-current appliances and tools

Understand the amount of current your appliance(s) or tool(s) need to draw

Unroll your extension cords fully to prevent coiling during use




Don’t run multiple high-current appliances or tools simultaneously from a single extension cord

Don’t use extension cords incompatible with your tool circuit rating

Don’t use an extension cord with a broken or missing ground plug

Don’t use your long extension cord if you’ve got a short one




Hopefully, this post gives you an insight into what you need to know when using a portable generator with extension cords. Understanding the cord wire gauge in amps and properly sizing it for your tool, plus the length can help make your load run more optimal and last longer.

About the author

Sharif Miah

I am Sharif, 22, a student, currently doing the BBA program. Besides, I am an online Blogger.

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