AC Power Cords: The Basics

by | Nov 8, 2013 | Electronics

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A power cord is a simple devise for connecting one type of appliance to the electrical supply. This cable utilizes an extension cord or, more commonly, a wall socket to make the connection. Some common terms for a power cord are power cable or line cord. Sometimes, the power cords are referred to as connectors. The most common type of electrical cord you will run into is AC Power cords.

What are AC Power Cords?

AC power cords refer to cables that use a specific type of electrical current. This is alternating current or AC. This differentiates it from DC or direct current. AC power cables simply transfer the power from its source to the specific device. They are not uniform in size but must conform to specific standards. There are international standards that dictate what cords are acceptable and divide them into specific types.

The cords possess both a female and male end. The male end is plugged directly into the power source e.g. the electrical outlet. The female end connects to the appliance or device. To this end, AC power cables are either attached permanently to the specific device or detachable. Each type of AC cord indicates such things as the power supply needed as well as the threshold of its temperature. If either is not heeded serious accidents, including fire and death, can occur.


The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards for AC connectors include IEC 60320 and IEC60309. If you purchase equipment using this type of AC power cord, you ensure compatibility globally. Fortunately, most computers utilize this technological standard. They employ the IEC 60320 C13/14 connector type making it easier to use your computer anywhere you travel in the world.

Another association responsible for setting standards in North America, particularly the United States is National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). These devices deliver the electricity from a specifically designed plug (masculine) to the device. They are designed to address the specific needs of small or large appliances or electronic devices. For example a standard computer AC power cable may be NEMA 5-15P.
What Devices require AC Power Cables?

As a result of modern day technology, AC power cords are found in a wide variety of small technological and practical devices. These include:

  • Desktop computers
  • Laptops
  • Small kitchen appliances such as toasters, toaster ovens
  • TVs
  • Lighting
  • Power tools

They also answer the demands of much larger equipment.

Whether you have a small laptop computer or a larger device, you likely need the services of AC power cords of various size and type. Talk to someone who knows your needs before you purchase the right cable for the job. Using the wrong one can result in destruction of your technological gadgets or serious physical harm.

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