Use Caution With Your Air Compressor Extension Cord

45
air compressor extension cord
(Last Updated On: October 11, 2020)

Why is it important to use caution with your air compressor extension cord?

Since an extension cord is a power source, damaging the cord or running over it with a lawnmower would not be a good thing. Before using any extension cord always inspect it first for loose or exposed wires and cut or worn insulation. But that is not just what this page is all about. What we want to address here is getting power to your air compressor.

The typical 120 volt air compressor comes equipped with a power cord. That cord is a certain size and length, predicated by the air compressor it is powering. In other words, the power cord to your air compressor is the right size for that compressor.

air compressor cord caution

The air compressor power cord is meant to be plugged directly into a wall socket. No power bar or extension cord is recommended to be used. Why is that?

Using a too small or too long extension cord with your air compressor can result in the motor overheating and eventually the compressor motor burning out if used too long.

An undersized cord will quite often cause your compressor motor overheat switch to shut down the motor due to the heat build up. The overheat switch, or thermal cut out or thermal fuse, is there to prevent motor damage due to it overheating. If that happens, this is a signal that all is not right with the compressor motor and steps need to be taken to fix whatever the problem is.

 

How Do You Know What Size Extension Cord To Use?

So as we said before if you can avoid using an extension cord with your compressor, then you should avoid it. Using a too long or too short extension cord with your air compressor can cause significant damage. However, if you must use one, what size extension cord should you use?

What Size Extension Cord To Use air compressor

Here’s an example. Let’s say you need a compressor on a work site. Now you may decide to use a 100′ extension cord to power the unit, but that may not be a great idea. Instead, plug the compressor into the socket on the wall or some other mains supply. Then, run an air line to wherever the compressed air is required. For example, check out this air line Maxline M3800 Master Kit, 1/2-Inch x 100-Feet on Amazon. Think about it, an air line will be cheaper than an extension cord of the same length anyway, but it will save you from unnecessary issues and unnecessary maintenance.

Now if you absolutely must use an extension cord, please make sure it is able to deliver the power required by the air compressor. Otherwise, you risk underpowering your unit. The following are guidelines to help you in determining the extension cord to use with your air compressor. Make sure that you exercise due diligence and ensure that whichever cord you use can power your device adequately.

You need to know the amperage draw of the compressor motor. That should be on the motor plate somewhere on the compressor motor.

Then, compare that draw to what’s available from a certain wire size and length. The following guide will help.

Air Compressor Cord By Amp Rating

Use caution with your air compressor extension cord - www.understanding-air-compressors.com
Chart: www.woodmagazine.com

 

Air Compressor Cord By Voltage Rating

Air Compressor Cord By Voltage Rating


 

Heavy Duty Extension Cords Available On Amazon

Here are a few heavy-duty extension cords available on Amazon. While these extension cords are heavy duty and therefore can canny considerable power, you should always determine if an extension cord is suitable for your personal compressor. These are examples and not a one size fits all:

1. Woods 02309 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord, Waterproof Flexible Vinyl Jacket, 3- Pronged, 100-Foot Extension Cord, 10 AMP, 1250 Watts, 125 Volts, For Use With Shop Vac, Weed Wacker (Renewed)


2. Southwire 2588SW0002 Outdoor Extension Cord- 12/3 American Made SJTW Heavy Duty 3 Prong Extension Cord- Great for Commercial Use, Gardening, and Major Appliances ( 50 Foot- Yellow)


3. US Wire and Cable 99050 Extension Cord, 50ft, Multicolored


 

Outdoor Use Compressor Extension Cord?

It is recommended when working with an air compressor outdoors, and if you must use an extension cord, make sure you use an extension cord that is designed for outside use,  indicated by the letters “WA” on the cord’s jacket as well as one of the correct gauge for the length required.

 

What About A Power Bar?

Many people may decide to use power bars to power their air compressor. This is definitely not a good idea. Why? Well because most power bars simply are not capable of delivering the kind of power demanded by even small, fractional air compressor motors to run smoothly and not damage the unit.

 

A Better Option Than Using An Extension Cord

What happens to an air tool if it doesn’t get enough air flow? Answer: It stalls. If an air tool stalls, does it damage the air tool? Answer: No!

If an electric motor stalls because it isn’t getting enough power due to a too long extension cord what happens? Answer: The motor overheats and may ultimately fail.

compressor air hose over extension cord

Use caution with your air compressor extension cord – or better yet, do not use one at all.

Instead, add air hose.

You can add 25′ or 100 ‘ of air hose to allow your air tool to be used where you want it to, and leave the compressor plugged directly into a wall outlet as close to the supply panel as possible. For example, check out this 100 feet air line on Amazon WYNNsky Hybrid Air Hose 3/8 in.X 100ft, 1/4″MNPT Fittings, 300 PSI Max Working Pressure,Non-Kinking, Lightweight, Flexible in Extreme Cold Weather, Excellent UV, Oil and Abrasion Resistant 100 feet air line on Amazon

To get enough flow of air to the tool you may have to up-size the hose diameter, but so what?

Once you have the additional air hose you can use it innumerable times, you can run the air line to where you need to the use the air tool rather than lugging the air compressor to the point of use, and using a longer air line versus and extension cord eliminates the risk of having the motor prematurely fail because the air compressor extension cord was not sized correctly for the intended use.

Hello, I am Bill, the Compressed-Air-Man. I have years of experience in industrial and residential compressed air applications, air compressors and general pneumatics. I created this site to help professionals, students, and DIYers understand and properly implement and maintain compress3ed air systems.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Very good article. I’m an electrical engineer and have always cautioned folks on the use of extension cords to power high Amp electrical devices from pro battery chargers to water pumps.
    I recently had a debate with my friend about the need to consider the house wiring length as well. Just because a compressor is connected to a wall socket, it doesn’t always mean that socket is immune from the wire length consideration. For instance, my friend’s lake house (single wide mobile home) with an add-on garage, has a wall socket from a dedicated 50 A breaker and 12/3 AWG from the panel. The total wire distance from the panel to the wall socket is just above 110 feet. He has managed, so far, to destroy two good 12 AWG extension cords (25′ and 50′) using the compressor while blaming the problem on the extension cords. He thinks that that the distance from the panel to the wall socket is irrelevant and that a 10 AWG extension cord will solve the problem. I think he might end-up blowing the fuse, burn the compressor, or worse, the mobile home.
    my 2 cents…

  2. I have a question of safety
    I live in a flood zone in Florida and my neighbor had an air conditioner compressor on the ground. FEMA code says you can not do that. It must be 16 feet above the ground. The storm surge ripped out the compressor and left nothing but the electrical lines. What is the Danger?

    • I can’t comment on FEMA rules, Peter. The obvious danger, for an air compressor on the ground or any other electrical device at ground level, when inundated with water, live wires become grounded, and until the power is cut the immediate area can electrocute persons. If your question is what is the danger now, if there are exposed wires connected to the grid, when Duke Energy reconnects the feeds, those wires can become hot, and create an electrocution hazard.

  3. I like your idea of adding a longer hose instead of using an extension cord. I did this when using a nail gun while roofing my house. It was so much easier to pull a few extra feet of air line than to drag the compressor around, even though it is on wheels.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here