Chainsaw Extension Cords - Choose the right oneIf you’re planning on buying an electric chainsaw you need to make sure that you choose the correct type of extension cord. Getting this wrong could have some severe consequences, including:

• Your chainsaw won’t operate to its maximum capacity. At best an underpowered saw won’t cut as efficiently as it should, at worst it can be particularly dangerous.

• Cause circuit breakers to trip or possible fire through overheating

• Cause harm to the user and damage to the equipment.

When it comes to getting the right cord there are several important considerations.

Firstly, you need to consider the length of the extension lead you are likely to need. This is very much dependent on your nearest power source. You can now get cords up to 150 feet in length which is probably sufficient to get to the far reaches of most suburban yards and gardens. If you have cutting to do further away than this you may need to consider a generator or getting a gas or battery powered saw. Under no circumstances should you attach two leads together.

The next consideration is choosing the cord gauge. The gauge (based on the American wire system) is basically a diameter measurement of electrically conducting wire. The higher the number, the smaller the wire diameter. For example, a 14 gauge conducting wire has a diameter of 1.6mm whereas a 10g wire has a diameter of 2.6mm. A thicker wire is able to carry more current with less drop in voltage than a thinner wire. For this reason, to carry electricity longer distances it is often necessary to increase the wire diameter (and therefore reduce the gauge).

The most appropriate extension lead is chosen based on length and also the amp rating of the device being used. If your power tool states watts instead of amps, you can easily calculate the amp value by using: watts/110 = amps. A 220 watt device is therefore converted into 2 amps.

To decide the type of cord you need, you therefore need to consider amperage, length and gauge. If you are using your saw, the longer the cord means that you will need a higher gauge. You can use the table below as a guide for the type of cord gauge which you will require:

Extension Cord Length5 - 7 Amps7 - 10 Amps10 - 12 Amps12 - 15 Amps16 - 20 Amps
25 Feet1616141412
50 Feet1614141212
100 Feet141212108
150 Feet1212108-

If you currently have an extension cord and you are not sure if it is suitable you should firstly ascertain its length in feet. Then check the gauge which will be printed or molded into the body of the extension cord. It will state something like 10/3 or 12/3. This represents the gauge and the number of wires inside. A 10/3 cord is therefore a 10 gauge and so on. If your cord doesn’t have the gauge printed on it I would suggest it is of dubious quality and wouldn’t use it. You should note that manufacturers will often recommend the maximum length of cord which can be used with their saws. This tends to be either 50 or 100 feet so yu should always check the operator’s manual in advance.


You should purchase an outdoor extension cord, of which there are basically three types to consider:

• Occasional use cords, which are suitable for small projects.

• Frequent use cords which can handle larger tools and are designed for heavier use.

• Rugged cords for use continuous use in all weather conditions and which are capable of running high amperage devices.

To run your saw you will need either an occasional or frequent use cord. This will depend on the amperage of your saw and how often it is used.

Other Considerations

There are couple of other things you should take into account.

• The gauges quoted in the above table are a minimum. A larger wire can be used and will in fact perform better. Don’t forget, a larger gauge is represented by a lower number.

• Never go smaller than a 16 gauge (for example an 18) when using your saw. If you are using particularly long extension leads there is a danger that they can overheat.

• Don’t just assume that because a lead looks big in terms of its diameter that it has a large gauge. Always check the rating.

• Always choose quality. Some low-cost imported products which you may think are a bargain are cheaply made, may not perform as well as you expect and could in fact be dangerous.

• Look for a high visibility product. This is especially so when using a chainsaw as you need to know where your cord is at all times to avoid any nasty mishaps.

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