If you’ve purchased an electric snow blower or a gas-powered model with electric start, an extension cord is necessary. This decision is not as simple as grabbing the first one off the shelf though. There are many factors to take into account to not only provide a safe experience, but to get maximum power out of your machine.
Built for Cold Weather
Unlike your standard extension cord, you’ll need one built for cold weather. Outdoor cords are designed to remain flexible in the lowest temperatures. Their heavy insulation protects against the cold and from moisture getting in. This may be the most important part. Using a cord that is not properly insulated can lead to shock or shorting out your expensive snow blower.
You may have noticed that extension cords can have random letters listed on the label. Those designate what the cords are made with and what they do.
S – Flexible cord for general use
J – Has standard 300 voltage insulation
W – Weather resistant (rated for outdoor use)
P – Parallel wire. Typically found in air conditioner and household extension cords
T – Cord jacket is made with vinyl thermoplastic
E – Cord jacket is made with thermoplastic elastomer rubber (TPE)
O – Oil-resistant
For use with your snow blower, the S, J, and W designations are most important. You will want to make sure any cord has those letters listed on the label. Adding T, O, and E are fine too. Just avoid any cord with the P designation.
Extension cords come with their own maximum amperage. This will be listed on the label. It is important to purchase an extension cord that is at or over the amperage of your snow blower. Failing to do so can lead to your machine not getting the maximum power it needs or the cord overheating.
With electric snow blowers, the amps should be prominently displayed in the product description (and often on the machine itself). This typically ranges between 7 amps for power shovels on up to 15 amps for your top-of-the-line electric snow blowers. So if you purchase a 13A unit, you will need a cord that is rated for 13A or more.
The wire gauge is the thickness of the copper wire inside the casing. This determines how much power the cord can carry. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire is inside. Thicker wires can carry more amps.
Your snowblower will list the recommended gauge in the instruction manual. Some units require a 14 gauge cord at minimum. My recommendation is to go with a 12 gauge extension cord to be safe.
This isn’t as easy as it may seem. As the length of the cord increases, so does the electrical resistance (voltage drop). So a 100-foot cord will not deliver the same power as a 50-foot cord of the same specs. This is why it is recommended to get a cord that is only as long as you need.
If you do require a long cord (like 100 feet), you will definitely want to go with a 12 gauge. Also one that may be rated for a higher amperage than your machine. This will help limit the drop in power.
Other Safety Tips
- Make sure the cord is certified by an independent testing laboratory. Look for a “UL Listed” on the label.
- Have a plan for managing your extension cord. Some snow blower come with a clip that you can attach the cord to. Otherwise, the over-the-shoulder technique is my favorite. It keeps the cord off the ground and prevents you from tripping over it.
- Protect the cord. Never allow it to be submerged in water. Don’t let a car run over it. Avoid letting it sit outside in the elements when not in use.
- Do not use two extension cords connected to each other. Attaching two 25-foot cords might seem like a good plan, but it is not safe for you or your snow blower.
Your local hardware store should have a number of outdoor extension cords to choose from. But if you prefer to buy online, here are few that I think work great on most snow blowers. They are available in the 25 foot, 50 foot, and 100 foot variety.
Iron Forge 12/3 SJTW – In my opinion, the best outdoor extension cord on the market. It has great flexibility in both the heat and cold. Something that can be incredibly difficult to find. It is bright yellow for easy visibility. And the female end has an LED lighted socket to let you know when the power is on. But most important, Iron Forge Cable offers a lifetime warranty.
AmazonBasics 12/3 SJTW – This is the lowest priced name brand cord available. It is bright orange for visibility and the female side lights up when power is running through. This cord comes with a 1-year limited warranty and receives mostly positive reviews.
If you’re still shopping, make sure to check out our top electric snowblowers for 2019. And if all this fuss about extension cords has you thinking twice, we’ve also compiled a list of the best battery powered snow blowers too.