A Guide to Choosing an Extension Cord for Your Welder
Welding equipment is pretty heavy duty and the plug and cord supplied with it is never really long enough, especially if you need to work outside. Most regular welders look at buying some kind of extension cord to give themselves more flexibility with where they work.
While there are some welders who look to fashion their own heavy duty cable, it’s something which can end up being a big mistake, especially if you don’t have much experience with electricals.
Ideally, you want to buy a cable that is fit for purpose, industry standard and safe to use. With welding equipment, this is something you need to consider carefully before you part with your hard earned cash and buying from a reputable supplier is important. Not all cables out there are suited to this particular task because of the level of amperage that is needed.
Here is our quick guide to make sure you get it right first time.
The Issue with Standard Extension Cords
You might think that one extension cord is much like any other but you’d be wrong. What’s good for giving you extra reach for your lawnmower definitely won’t fit the bill when it comes to welding equipment.
Standard cords tend to have larger gauge wires which means that the electrical power dissipates quicker the longer the cord is. For welding equipment that requires 50 amps or more, this proves to be a big problem.
Welding equipment operates at higher amperages compared to normal electrical equipment. It’s more akin to a cooker than a kettle. If you have the wrong gauge wire there can be a problem with voltage drop and you can end up overheating the wiring and your welder and causing damage.
Not using the right cable will also mean you keep blowing a fuse or stalling your work because you’re not getting enough power. If you’re welding from home you may have only one outlet where you can plug the equipment into, which is going to cut down your options of where you work.
Most kits require the 220 volt power socket, the sort that you only find for cookers and other kitchen equipment. Attaching a standard extension cord to this is essentially a dangerous thing to do.
While there is a hazard associated with running a welder off a 13 amp plug, it seems to be something that many home enthusiasts often try to do. Firstly, you’ll find that you’re blowing fuses more often than not. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it can heat the wires up in your cable and cause damage. If you don’t watch out and have your cord in the wrong place it can even cause a fire.
Should You Make Your Own Extension Cord
Unless you are a qualified electrician, it’s essentially a case of playing with fire if you decide to put together a heavy duty extension cord yourself. Yes, there are various online tutorials for doing just this but you have to ask yourself if it is worth the risk.
Buying the right welder extension cord for your equipment is the much better option. It may cost you more but at least you can operate in absolute safety. The good news is that you only have to buy it once.
Choosing the Right Welder Extension Cord
There are a number of factors that you need to look at when buying an extension cord for your welder. The first is not to get carried away with a cord that is labelled ‘heavy duty’ in the first place which might sound a little counter-intuitive. Unfortunately, stating a cord is heavy duty doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s suitable for welding equipment. Whether you have beginners welder or a top of the range multi process welder.
You should always look for industry standard cords in the first place and check the specs carefully to make sure it is suitable. You want a stable energy transfer and you’ll get that with 6 gauge wire. There aren’t many welding machines that work off a 13 amp supply and most will require 16 amps and more.
Much will depend on where your supply outlet is located for how long your cord needs to be. For most home owners, this will undoubtedly be the kitchen – most cookers work off a 50 amp or so supply. If you are a regular welder or use one in work then you may like to consider getting a 16amp radial circuit installed closer to where you are carrying out your welding jobs.
The final thing to consider when buying a welder extension cord is the length – ideally you should only buy the length that you need; the longer the cable the more problems you are likely to encounter. You can buy reel and loose extension cord depending on preference. A reel is more useful is you don’t want a permanent extension to your welder.
Safety Concerns with Your Extension Cord
Assuming that you have chosen the right extension cord for your needs, you need to consider some simple safety aspects. Most workers carry out their welding outside or in a garage and making sure the cord is secured properly to the ground is important – most of the accidents that occur with this type of equipment come from someone tripping over the cord.
You should avoid covering the cord with something like a blanket as this can present a fire hazard. You can buy plastic risers which are ideal for keeping the cable secure and safe. If you’re using more than one extension cord then an added safety tip is to seal the connecting area in case it rains but try to avoid this as much as possible. Needless to say, you should not carry out any modifications on your welder cable to make it fits as this can be dangerous.
The Cost of Extension Cords
It’s always best to pay a little extra and get an industry standard heavy duty extension and, while you could be looking at paying around $150 to $200 for a cord that fits the bill, it’s well worth the investment. The good news is that, if you pick the right size, you only have to buy it once.