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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I'm just curious what gauge electrical cords people use when connecting to their stock tank heaters?

Last year, I was using 14 gauge cords thinking that would be sufficient. They were 25' length cords, but last year when I decided to run two tank heaters off one cord, I discovered that it had started to melt the plug-in piece a little. This freaked me out. Fortunately, it was near the end of winter and so I immediately unplugged the cord and threw it away. Yes, I could have probably found someone to swap out the end, but I was worried about any damage to the wires that I couldn't see and electrical fires scare me to death.

I don't know how to calculate wattage when it comes to this stuff. Not sure what kind of wattage is drawn from the tank heaters and I know the longer the cord, the weaker the strength being carried which it's my understanding can cause a drain on cord. I might not be explaining this correctly.

This year, I got 2 25' 12 gauge cords connected to separate outlets and the end is clear. It has an orange glow when plugged in to let me know there is still juice running through the cord. Hoping this will get me through this year and future years as those cords were not cheap. I also keep the cords off the ground. With one cord, I ran it through a PVC pipe because it wasn't possible to keep it off the ground to get to that outlet.

Just curious what others do when it comes to connecting their tank heaters.
 

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Retired electronic technician here.
Watts=volts X amps
We know volts would be 120v if you're in USA.
So 1200 Watts would be 10 amps (120 X 10)
Two 12 gauge 25 ft. cords in separate outlets (especially separate circuits) should handle 20 amps or 2400 Watts each ok (if they're on separate circuits). You can see if they're on separate circuits by flipping circuit breakers off then on one at a time (power interrupted each cord).
Main thing is be sure plug is clean. Any dirt or corrosion causes resistance. Resistance causes heat like plug melted you described.
Heater should have it stamped or label on it the current draw.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Retired electronic technician here.
Watts=volts X amps
We know volts would be 120v if you're in USA.
So 1200 Watts would be 10 amps (120 X 10)
Two 12 gauge 25 ft. cords in separate outlets (especially separate circuits) should handle 20 amps or 2400 Watts each ok (if they're on separate circuits). You can see if they're on separate circuits by flipping circuit breakers off then on one at a time (power interrupted each cord).
Main thing is be sure plug is clean. Any dirt or corrosion causes resistance. Resistance causes heat like plug melted you described.
Heater should have it stamped or label on it the current draw.

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Thank you. I was hoping someone with a background like yours might see/ respond to this post. I will have to look at the heaters and see if I can read the stamp. I'm 99% certain they are on separate circuits because the one plug is on an older part of the barn and the other plug is on an addition to the barn built a few years ago. I will still verify. Thank you.
 

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I have 220 amp service at the barn.

I have to use extension cords for the stall buckets. I have 10 gauge construction extension cords and you are right, those are not cheap but it beats a barn fire:)

These days I have four 16 gallon heated water tubs outside. Two for each horse, as they live in opposite sides of the fence:). They plug directly into outdoor plugs that DH attached to the posts of the overhang. He ran the electric overhead, in PVC pipe, then down a post, into the barn thru a drilled hole, then into the breaker box.

The whole setup is pretty slick and, in my old age, I love the 16 gallon heated tubs as they can easily be tipped and cleaned weekly:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I have 220 amp service at the barn.

I have to use extension cords for the stall buckets. I have 10 gauge construction extension cords and you are right, those are not cheap but it beats a barn fire:)

These days I have four 16 gallon heated water tubs outside. Two for each horse, as they live in opposite sides of the fence:). They plug directly into outdoor plugs that DH attached to the posts of the overhang. He ran the electric overhead, in PVC pipe, then down a post, into the barn thru a drilled hole, then into the breaker box.

The whole setup is pretty slick and, in my old age, I love the 16 gallon heated tubs as they can easily be tipped and cleaned weekly:)
That's great @walkinthewalk. Fortunately, I have plugs at each stall and the heated buckets plug directly into each socket. I haven't had any problems with the buckets in the barn. Your VERY lucky to have a DH to do these projects for you. I'm single and been managing my farmette for the last 16 yrs. I'm pretty good at most DIY stuff, but there are 2 areas I know my limits and don't even attempt w/out someone more knowledgeable. One is electrical and the second is plumbing. The consequences of messing up are too great.
 

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We use 6 gal. heated stall buckets, 120 watts each. Plugged into outlets so horses can't get to cord, although cords are supposed to be chew proof. That's only 1 amp current, they turn on at 35F, off at 60F.
You may want to feel plug/socket to see if it's warm (it shouldn't be). For 100% safety have a helper turn power off going to barn then immediately feel cord ends, socket, etc. to be sure nothing is warm at all.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·

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I haven't had any problems in the barn with the heated buckets, just that one plug outside to the tank heaters when I was using one 14 gauge cord and now have changed that. My heated buckets in the stalls looks similar to this, although, I've had them a few years and mine are blue- not sure of the mfg. https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/p...-heated-flat-back-plastic-bucket?cm_vc=-10005
That's the stall buckets I use.
Here outside we have a creek and a small spring pond, I've never seen them freeze up or run dry 40 years we've been here.
I think you'll be fine now.

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I haven't had any problems in the barn with the heated buckets, just that one plug outside to the tank heaters when I was using one 14 gauge cord and now have changed that. My heated buckets in the stalls looks similar to this, although, I've had them a few years and mine are blue- not sure of the mfg. https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/p...-heated-flat-back-plastic-bucket?cm_vc=-10005
That's the stall buckets I use.
Here outside we have a creek and a small spring pond, I've never seen them freeze up or run dry 40 years we've been here.
I think you'll be fine now.

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Just wanted to comment that the size and length of the wire feeding the 25 foot extension cord is part of the equation also. I use a heater in a 100 gallon tank with instructions to NOT use an extension cord. They also want an 8 foot copper ground rod. I have the line from the heater inside a plastic conduit even though the line is protected with a wire spiral on the outside.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I've had these tank heaters for quite awhile. I honestly don't recall any instructions like that, but it would be impossible to use the heaters without using an extension cord. Hmmm
 

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A lot of electrical stuff like that is written by lawyers, we live in such litigious times in my opinion. If there's a chance of animals chewing cords there's certainly nothing wrong with running cord through conduit.
On another electricians forum I said what's the difference between 12-2 wire to a receptacle and 12 gauge extension cord?
The answer...12-2 is behind the wall where you don't see it.
No difference than 3/4" pipe or 3/4" garden hose running water somewhere.

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The answer...12-2 is behind the wall where you don't see it.
The manufacturer has a fairly robust protection for the cord running from the heater. It may be that the recommendation is based on not exposing an animal to an extension cord that is unprotected. I have had the unpleasant experience of being hung up on AC to where I had to be knocked off of it with a 2x6. About exactly 60 years ago.

So if an animal chewed through an electric cord, I doubt they would be able to open their mouths to let it go.......based on my experience. So it may well be that the manufacturer feels the connection should be where neither you nor the horse sees it.

Ok, that said, as of this typing, I have a 100 foot cord laying on the ground running to a battery charger. My horse doesn't pick stuff up to play with it but I've seen horses that do.
 
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As I said...common sense should prevail. An extension cord is fine if animals don't bother it or it's routed where they can't get to it. Otherwise, conduit isn't expensive and a few 10ft sections could be used running over to tanks, maybe even a shallow trench made with a hoe so it's not a trip hazard.

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When I wired our stable I put in 100 amp service, gfci breakers, vapor proof lighting, everything in conduit, alarm system, smoke detectors, cat 5 wiring and phone line. There's bathroom, shower, dehumidifier in tack room, laundry, IR stall heat with thermostat.
All that stuff is overkill and certainly less expensive ways to do things while being safe.

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But.......we have to recognize that if the manufacturer provided installation instructions that did not comply with the National Electric Code, he would not have a leg to stand on in a court case.

If I were in his shoes, I'd certainly do the same.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
When I wired our stable I put in 100 amp service, gfci breakers, vapor proof lighting, everything in conduit, alarm system, smoke detectors, cat 5 wiring and phone line. There's bathroom, shower, dehumidifier in tack room, laundry, IR stall heat with thermostat.
All that stuff is overkill and certainly less expensive ways to do things while being safe.

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It would be handy to have someone so knowledgeable like around to do everything by the book. :D There are certainly things I would do differently when I built my barn for sure. I try to be very conscientious about safety.
 

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I use a drain plug heater made for Rubbermaid tanks and they are 1500 watts. After it melted the plug of a heavy duty extension cord (one of the orange construction types) I went to a really heavy duty RV type extension cord and not had a problem since. Been too long now to remember what gage either one was/is. I've got a little structure fastened to the gate where I can keep the connection protected from rain. Thankfully I only have one heater I have to use an extension cord on and the other 2 are close enough to plug in directly (3 different herds of horses = 3 tanks, 3 heaters) because they make me nervous. None of the cords are within reach of any curious equine mouths.
 
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