The beauty of having electrical outlets all over your home is that you can power what you need where you need it. But while homebuilders are pretty good at predicting the power needs of individual rooms, they tend to favor a less-is-more approach to installing outlets on a home’s exterior.
You likely have at least one electrical outlet on the outside of your home. And with the help of an extension cord, you can put that power wherever you need it. But exterior outlets call for a few extra safety precautions, as well as some extra thought about whether you should have more of them installed.
Take Safety Seriously
There are basic safety rules that apply to all electrical outlets, whether they’re indoors or outdoors. For example, you always want to avoid overloading a single outlet to prevent the circuit breaker from tripping and minimize the chance of an electrical fire. But because you have little control over environmental conditions when you’re outside, there are some additional rules that apply to exterior outlet use.
It’s important to monitor the weather and make adjustments accordingly. During high winds, for example, you should avoid using electrical appliances that could topple over. A good example is an electric outdoor grill -- if one should accidentally blow over, it could be difficult or dangerous to set up again, and it could even fall into a cooler, swimming pool or other water source.
Water is always a major concern due to the risk of electrical shock. Keep electrical devices away from standing water at all times, but be on the lookout for weather-related moisture, as well. Rain can increase the risk of accidental shock, and even extreme high humidity can contribute to sparking outlets, corrosion and other problems.
To make sure your exterior outlets are safe from moisture, keep the protective covers closed whenever the outlet is not in use. If your outlets don’t have these built-in covers, consider an upgrade.
Time to Upgrade
If you live in an older home, upgrading your exterior outlets could be one of the most important steps toward improving household electrical safety. All outdoor outlets should have GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) technology and rugged, watertight covers. GFCI outlets drastically reduce the risk of accidental shock by cutting power whenever an abnormality is detected, and covers protect outlets from water, grass clippings, dirt and other debris.
Replacing existing exterior outlets also presents a good excuse to add some additional outlets where you need them most. Think about where you routinely need an extension cord to get the job done. And don’t forget to consider holiday lights!
Installing new outdoor outlets is usually simple, but it will involve cutting into your home exterior. Your home’s building materials and the layout of the wiring inside your walls will affect where these additional outlets can be installed and how much work is required to install them. Always work with a licensed, experienced electrician when planning these upgrades.
Extend Your Range
If installing new outlets isn’t on your agenda, you may need to use extension cords from time to time. Whenever you do this, there are two critical safety precautions you must observe.
First, avoid running extension cords across walkways or doorways. If this is unavoidable, make sure everyone in the home knows where the cords are so as to avoid tripping. And remember that extension cords are for temporary use only -- if you consistently need power in a specific area, it’s worth calling out the electricians to create a more permanent solution.
Second, always be sure to choose an extension cord rated for outdoor use. This should be clearly indicated on the packaging when buying new cords, but you’ll need to look closely at the printing on the jackets of purchased cords to assess them. Outdoor-safe cords are marked with a “W”, whereas lighter-duty indoor cords are marked with an “S”.
Do your outdoor outlets need upgrading, or do you just need a few more of them? Reach out to your licensed local electricians today.