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Protecting Outdoor Outlets: Essential Tips for Safety and Durability

A picture of an outdoor electrical outlet.

Outdoor electrical outlets provide convenient power access to light your yard, operate power tools, and take advantage of entertainment devices. Failure to properly protect these outlets, however, can do more than damage your equipment. It could also be extremely dangerous to the safety of your family and home.

Avoid hair-raising outdoor electrical experiences – protect your outdoor outlets!

Though most outdoor receptacles include weatherproof covers to keep moisture and dirt from compromising outlets, once you plug in a device – all bets are off. Luckily, you can ensure safety with the help of a few simple, common-sense measures.

  • Select the right kind of outdoor outlet.
  • National Electrical Code REQUIRES the use of ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets for safety. You can identify these outlets by their ‘TEST’ and ‘RESET’ buttons – and by the ‘WR’ embossed on the outlet, indicating it as ‘weather resistant.’ Only this type of outlet is safe for outdoor use.
  • Ensure proper installation.
  • Be sure to install the outlet with a gasket and a cover plate, sealing the connection to the wall, or attaching a weatherproof cover (see below). Always use the proper, external mounting brackets provided with the outlet. Otherwise, moisture could get into the box, causing tripped breakers, melted outlets, or worse. To protect against shock as well as safeguard the lifespan of valuable tools and electronic equipment, ensure adequate ground. (Surge protectors do NOT supply grounding.) A 3-bulb receptacle tester can help you determine this – IF you know what you’re doing. If you’re not sure what you’re doing – NEVER toy with electrical equipment yourself; enlist the help of a qualified electrician.
  • Add a weatherproof cover.
  • The little flip-up tabs that cover your outdoor electrical outlets are only enough to protect the outlet when it’s NOT in use. Luckily, the addition of a properly connected weatherproof cover can allow you use of the plug while safeguarding it against moisture – even allowing for use in the rain. Sometimes referred to as ‘flip-up’ or ‘bubble covers,’ these outlet additions are now mandatory as per the National Electrical Code. Typically, clear or smoke-coloured, they come in a variety of configurations. Designed with a deep lid and grooves allowing for device and extension cords to run out of the bottom while protecting the outlet from inclement weather, for proper fit it is essential to be sure to select one with the same configuration as your outdoor outlet type (GFCI) and outlet design (single gang/2 outlet, double gang/4 outlet, etc.).
  • Don’t assume safety.
  • Outlets already installed prior to the purchase of your home. Don’t assume they are the right kind – check them for type and proper installation!

Protect your home and your family by ensuring the safe and proper operation of outdoor outlets. Contact Mr. Electric for a free electrical safety inspection today.

This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.

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Established in 1994, Mr. Electric® is a global franchise organization providing electrical installation and repair services. Recognized by Entrepreneur magazine among its “Franchise 500,” Mr. Electric franchisees provide these services to both residential and commercial customers at almost 200 locations worldwide. Mr. Electric is a subsidiary of the Neighborly® family of service franchises.
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