Outdoor electrical outlets offer you a quick and convenient way to light your yard, use power tools, and do all kinds of other things without having to run an extension cord to an indoor outlet. However, they are live sources of electricity, and water, moisture, dirt, and other hazards are all serious issues they will have to deal with. This means you’ll have to take a few extra precautions to protect them and ensure they remain safe to use in all circumstances; let’s take a look at how.
Select the Right Type of Outlet
Even a single drop of water getting into an outlet can cause a dangerous short, resulting in sparks, blown fuses, and even major fires. Outdoor outlets that are exposed to rain, mist, dew, and other forms of moisture are the most prone to these issues. Fortunately, electrical technology has advanced to the point where today we have outlets that are designed to protect themselves from shorts and shut themselves off if the current flow gets too high, known as ground fault circuit interrupter outlets.
Today, GFCI outlets are required by the National Electrical Code for all outdoor outlets. They’re pretty easy to spot: they have two buttons reading “test” and “reset” right on the faceplate. If you have an outdoor outlet that is not one of these self-stopping models, it’s strongly advised you have it replaced immediately. Likewise, make sure it’s rated for outdoor use; you can tell by looking for the letters “WR” embossed on the outlet, indicating it is “weather resistant.” These are the only types of outlets that are rated as safe for outdoor use.
Make Sure Your Outlet is Properly Installed
Having the right equipment is one thing, but if it’s not properly installed, it won’t be able to do its job. This is particularly true for an outlet that’s rated as safe for outdoor use; they’re only safe so long as they’re properly set up. Every outdoor outlet should also be installed with a weatherproofing gasket and a cover plate or weatherproofed cover to seal it when not in use.
Additionally, always use the proper external mounting brackets, otherwise moisture could get into the box hiding the high-voltage wires. You also want to make sure your outlets are adequately grounded, which can provide protection against shock or sudden shorts. This will not only preserve the life of your tools, lights, and other equipment you plug into this outlet, but make sure the outlet itself is protected from melting and your breakers won’t trip from a sudden surge. You can test to make sure your outlet is functioning properly using a three-bulb receptacle tester, but if you’re not sure what you’re doing, never toy with your electrical components yourself.
Cover Up the Outlet
Do you have little flip-tabs over your outlets to protect them from the weather? That’s fine, provided you aren’t trying to use your outlet while it’s raining. The moment moisture starts falling, however, you had better unplug whatever’s plugged in and close the tab. That is, unless you get the right type of cover. For just a few dollars you can purchase what is known as a “flip up” or “bubble” cover, which is designed to provide full protection from rain, even during use. Make sure you purchase a cover that’s built for the same configuration as your outlet to ensure proper protection and a perfect fit.
Check Existing Outlets
Does your home already have existing outlets? Don’t assume they’re okay just because “they’ve always been there.” Electrical code is constantly changing, and those with older homes in particular may not have had the option of installing GFCI outlets. Additionally, people sometimes choose to add an outlet on their own, and they often don’t use a weather-resistant model or even install the proper grounds, making them extremely risky. Check each outdoor outlet around your home and call a Marietta electrician as soon as possible to schedule an outlet replacement if you find one that could be putting you in jeopardy of a serious electrical fire.Still have questions? Need an electrician in the Marietta area? Trust the experienced experts at Lightning Bug Electric to provide you with fast, friendly, and affordable service while getting the job done right. Call us today at (404) 471-3847 to schedule an appointment or receive an estimate!