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Outdoor Electric Cords – Are They Safe in Rain & Snow?

The holiday season wouldn’t be the same without decorative lights. Whether you string lights to gutters or have an outdoor Christmas tree with all the trimmings, it is vital to use extension cords that are suitable for your applications.

Indoor and outdoor extension cords differ in construction. If you’re in the process of setting up decorations, be sure to do your research to limit the chances of an electrical fire or shock.

The Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Cords

Extension cords are a life-saver when you require additional reach. Outdoor extension cords may be used indoors, but this principle does not apply the other way around.

Companies manufacture outdoor cords to combat the elements and deliver high levels of power based on the following:


Outdoor electric cords showcase thick insulation materials to block out moisture and UV rays. Depending on which variety you purchase, exterior insulation jackets can feature rubber, vinyl, or plastic.

Cord Amperage

All indoor and outdoor cables are rated for amperage. Outdoor extension cords carry higher levels of current to power devices without overheating. It’s a good idea to read the packaging around your Christmas lights to note the wattage before setup.

Gauge and Cord Length

Extension cords call for different amounts of conductive wiring to send current from one end to the other. Outdoor extension cords are thicker (normally 16- to 12-gauge) than their indoor counterparts to power tools and more.

A thicker wire gauge allows the cable to be longer in length without increasing resistance. Indoor cords max out around 15 feet, whereas an outdoor extension cord can measure over 100 feet long.

Two-Prong vs. Three-Prong Cords

Most indoor cords are equipped with a two-prong plug, whereas outdoor styles have three. The extra piece activates a grounding wire that helps to prevent sparks and electrical fires in case of a fault.

Using Outdoor Extension Cords for Christmas Lights

Outdoor cords are safe to use year-round no matter what the forecast brings your way. However, additional accessories are in order if your environment is prone to rain, morning dew, and temperature changes.

Visit your local hardware store to find extension cord covers for your holiday lighting project. These devices cover connecting prongs running through the yard to shield against extreme elements.

Christmas Lights and Safety Recommendations

Christmas lights are an exciting part of the holiday season, but approach decorations that use electricity with caution.

Monitoring your installations during daylight hours is key to ensuring your house is the main attraction of the neighborhood. When using extension cords for Christmas lights, follow the safety tips below for the best results:

  • Only use outdoor extension cords for outside projects.
  • Power Christmas lights using ground fault outlets (three-prong).
  • Check to see that cord insulation is free of tears and deterioration.
  • Keep connections away from deep puddles, car tires, and foot traffic.
  • Replace cords that have bent prongs.
  • Unplug connections when not in use.

Learn More About Energy Safety With Shipley Energy

Shipley Energy is a leading residential and commercial energy solutions provider serving parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Having been in business for over 90 years, we’re dedicated to bringing home and business owners heating, cooling, power technology, and more to help reduce energy costs year-round.

Read more about our home energy tips online and feel free to fill out our contact form for more information about our services.

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