Do I Need a Special Extension Cord for a Generator?

Portable generators are as versatile as they come, perfect for providing much-needed electricity during power outages or supplementing your RV on a cross-country road trip.

No matter the scenario, extension cords are a must to help run power to the areas you need it most . You also want to avoid plugging generators directly into a wall outlet —also known as back feeding. It’s a dangerous and (in some places) an illegal practice. Learning about the intricacies of power generators is incredibly important when considering if they’re right for you, so make sure to read up on home generator maintenance before making a final purchase. 

There are many types of extension cords, so it’s only natural to wonder: “Will just about any extension cord do the trick, or do I need a special extension cord for a generator?”

Well, it’s more about finding the right extension cord than anything else. We’ll explore exactly what that means below so that picking the proper extension cord for your generator is as simple as the flick of a switch. 

Can You Use Regular Extension Cords With a Generator?
When most people need a quick fix—like extra reach to plug in a small appliance—regular extension cords are usually the answer. By “regular,” we’re referring to the three-prong type you can pick up at most stores. As useful as they can be, they aren’t the best answer when it comes to generators. If you find yourself wondering if extension cords are compatible with inverter generators, read up on what inverter generators are and if an inverter generator is needed in your own home.

Here are a few common reasons to skip traditional extension cords:

  • Lack of compatibilitySome extension cords simply aren’t compatible with generator outlets, no matter the length or the gauge (the thickness of the wires inside). 
  • Location, location, location – Though you should protect your generator set-up from rain in any case, not all extension cords are made for the outdoors. If you’re using a portable generator, the cord is likely to run at least partly outside, so an outdoor extension cord is recommended.
  • How long it lasts – Often directly linked to being suited for outdoor use, some extension cords are more durable than others. An indoor extension cord can tend to be light-duty, unable to withstand the elements. A heavy-duty extension cord, on the other hand, is designed to last against wear and tear for a much longer period of time.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Extension Cord for Your Generator

When choosing what kind of extension cord you’ll use with a standby generator, there are three key factors to consider:

  • Length
  • Gauge and amperage rating
  • Cord shape

#1 Length
Often sold in denominations of 25 feet, extension cords can range anywhere from 25-250 feet. The longer the cord, the more electrical resistance it puts out.

That means the shorter the extension cord, the more efficiently it transfers power, and the less work your generator must do. Don’t feel the need to overcompensate—opt for a shorter cord, if it’s the right fit. 

#2 Gauge and Amperage
All extension cords have an AWG (American wire gauge) rating, which determines how much amperage (a measure of power) they can handle. The lower a cord’s AWG is, the thicker it will be, and the more amps it can handle.

You should at least match your generator’s amperage, but you can go a grade lower than necessary, amplifying the cord’s capacity to provide generator power to any electrical appliance.

#3 Cord Shape
Grounded, three-prong extension cords are fairly common, but they’re not the only shape you’ll find. Some have four prongs, while others twist and lock into place.

Make sure the cord you buy plugs in properly, has the correct AWG rating, and is just the length you need.

What Cord Do I Need to Plug My Generator Into My House?
To plug your generator into your house, the cord you need depends on what you’re supplying power to. Most standard generator cords will do the trick if you’re focused on specific appliances that aren’t hardwired, though you always need to note how much wattage those appliances add up to avoid electrical damage.

However, if you need temporary power for a whole room or more, a transfer switch or interlock kit is the way to go. A qualified electrician can install one, allowing you to power hardwired appliances and eliminating the need for multiple extension cords. 

How Do I Run an Extension Cord from a Generator to My House?
Once you’ve selected your extension cord, you’ll need to place the generator at least 20ft away from your home’s windows or doors, with at least five feet of clearance from anything flammable all around it. Take these steps from there:


  1. Install an outlet utility box near where you need to plug in, drilling a hole that’s large enough to fit the cord inside.
  1. Install a waterproof box to prevent adverse weather damage.
  1. Lay out the extension cord so that no one will trip over it, and slip it through the hole to be plugged in.
  1. Seal any cracks around the household outlet utility box.


DuroMax Extension Cords Get the Job Done
When push comes to shove, our philosophy is to always be prepared. If you’re here, we’d practically bet our entire extension cord selection that you subscribe to the same school of thought.

From 10 feet to 100 feet and 6 gauge to 12 gauge, you can find extension cords for generators for every situation at DuroMax. 100% copper wire guarantees top-notch power quality, and the cords’ industry-standard jackets are tailor-made for outdoor use.

Your power and peace of mind are our pleasure.