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In our This vs. That series, we're comparing (and contrasting) two seemingly similar products. A lot of products seem the same at first glance but can greatly affect the outcome of your next application. Today, we're taking a closer look at portable cords and power cables.

Portable cords and power cables are often categorized together in wire and cable catalogs, and maybe you’ve wondered what the difference is between these two cables. Portable cord and power cable share the same primary function — to transmit electrical power. But what's the key distinction between cord and cable? Let's compare.

What Is a Portable Cord?

The portable cord has two or more conductors and is best suited for temporary supply applications requiring flexibility. A standard cord has at least two bare copper conductors, but the stranding, insulation, and jacket type vary according to the intended usage. A portable power cable offers multiple jacket options that determine the cord's physical properties and the kind of use it can endure. All portable cord weathers well in extreme environments and is resistant to oil, chemicals, and abrasion, but some jacket materials are hardier and rated as resistant to water and other hazards as well.

A portable cord's jacket type is easily discerned from the cable's exterior, thanks to a coding system of letters that help identify the construction of the cable, as well as its applications. The same letter codes also indicate the voltage. The standard "S" stands for "service" and means that the cable is rated to 600 volts. That is unless it's accompanied by a letter with a different associated voltage. "J" stands for "junior service" and means a 300-volt rating.

With a wide range of commercial, industrial, indoor, outdoor, and residential uses, the portable cord is ideal for appliances and small tools, and even for construction equipment and marine electrical applications. When used in motors or appliances, the portable cord is also called a “ service cord.”

What Is a Power Cable?

Unlike portable cords, power cables are designed for permanent use and may be installed as overhead wiring, exposed wiring, and direct burial applications. The power cable is constructed of one or more electrical conductors with a covering and is available in various constructions, materials, and ratings for different applications.

Power cables are commonly used in the electric utility, industrial, and commercial markets. You can find power cables in diesel-electric locomotives as DLO cables, oil and gas drilling rigs, motor leads, power supply systems, shipyards, and some mining applications. Low-voltage applications include thermostat controls, heating, and A/C installations, signal systems, and intercoms, among others.

How Do They Compare?

These two cables serve similar purposes, but the most important distinction to remember is that a portable cord is designed for temporary power supply, while power cables are usually installed in long-term or permanent applications.

If you're still not sure if you need a portable cord or power cable, let Allied help you out! Compare full portable cord and power cable specs for yourself or ask an expert by emailing [email protected]