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Navigating Power Cord Attributes and Terminology

Navigating the jungle of terminology, acronyms, and part numbers can be daunting in the field of telecommunications. Anyone attempting to determine and buy cabling can attest to this. Improper data cabling will cause a logical error. With power cables, using the wrong type can cause physical failure such as fires and electrical shock. The stakes are higher. Luckily the abundance of documentation and regulation assure that anyone seeking direction to deploy the correct cord can find the information they need to choose the right cord and avoid common pitfalls, damage, and injury that comes with electrical failure.

Common Terminology:
  • Amperage (amp): This term refers to the number of electrons that are moving in the circuit. This is also “how much” electricity there is.
  • Voltage: This refers to how much force is behind the electrons, or how fast the electrons are moving.

When choosing a power cord there are (3) main attributes to be aware of:

  • Connectors
  • Length
  • Gauge

There are two basic entities that regulate power cord connections in North America:

IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission): This body publishes international standards that regulate interconnection between equipment. The standards you see below will overlap that of the NEMA specifications. This body simply makes sure that global compliance translates to compatibility. Here, this is relevant to two standards:

  • IEC 6032: This defines “Appliance couplers for household and similar general purposes”. The most common examples are the C13/C14 and the C19/C20.
  • IEC 60309: This defines “Plugs, socket-outlets and couplers for industrial purposes” Common examples include 5-15P, 5-20P, L5-20P and L6-20P. These differing pin combinations, diameters and spacing assure that the user will plug the socket into the appropriate outlet. (10amp, 15am, 20amp ect.)

NEMA: A trade association that manufactures equipment that transmits and distributes electricity. They gather, collect and analyze data to define and assure that electrical equipment is safe to use and consistent. These NEMA standards are accepted by the IEC and what you will find in North American homes and businesses.


Another factor to take into consideration when choosing power cabling is the gauge. The gauge refers to the diameter of the cable and determines its current carrying capacity and resistance. The AWG, or American Wire Gauge, is the common unit of thickness measurement for electrical wire in America. The smaller the number, the thicker the wire. Below you will find two charts. The one on the left contains the AWG number and actual thickness in millimeters and inches, as well as the resistance in ohms for the appropriate thickness. The chart on the right contains the amperage needed with the appropriate length of cable each respective gauge can carry without loss.

Now that you are armed with the information needed to choose the correct cord, time to buy the cord you need. CablesAndKits offers a variety of power cord solutions to meet the requirements of both the consumer and data center technician. The proper cord is just a click away:

Cisco Power Cables

Extension Cables

International Power Cords

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