What’s the Best Way to Run Power Outside?

Need to run power outside? The experts at Mr. Electric can help. Learn more about how to safely run power outside so you’re powered up where you need it, when you need it.

Looking to ‘amp up’ your outdoor experience? Whether you need a bit of extra juice for the day or over the long-haul, the experts at Mr. Electric® have you covered. Learn how to run power outside safely with these outdoor electrical tips…

Short-Term Power Supply (AKA: Extension Cords)

For those in need of power outdoors for a short time, such as to trim your bushes, power a bounce house for your kid’s birthday, or provide lighting for a party, an extension cord will get the job done for a day or two. Be certain to only use extension cords marked for outdoor use, which are designed to withstand moisture, temperature changes, the sun, and a bit of foot traffic. Never use indoor extension cords outside, they are not built for such rugged use. Do NOT leave even your outdoor extension cord outside more than a day or two. Left outside over extended periods, cord materials can breakdown, potentially resulting in sparking, fire, and shock. Always follow outdoor electrical precautions.

Essential Outdoor Extension Cord Safety

  • Pick the right cord for the job. Cords are NOT one-size-fits-all. Choose a cord rated to handle the wattage of all connected devices. The larger the wire, the more current it can safely handle.
  • Always plug outdoor extension cords into a GFCI outlet. These can be identified by TEST/RESET buttons, and are typically found in the kitchen, bath and garage. These devices protect your family from shock in the event the cord is exposed to water.
  • To ensure safety and prevent tripping hazards, be sure to select a cord that is the correct length, neither too short nor too long.
  • Always unplug your cord, storing it properly indoors when not in-use.

Safely Installing Long-Term Power Solutions

For lighting, lawn tools used on the regular, or outbuilding power needs, you need a permanent power solution for safety, whether that involve an outdoor outlet addition to your home's main structure, or wiring run remotely to an outbuilding. For lines not off the house, cable must be wired to a separate GFCI indoors. It must also be buried quite deep (18” below patios/paths; 30” below lawns) and encased in PVC conduit that has been solvent-welded to ensure a continuous run (no leaks), a solution that is not DIY-friendly for most and requires an electrician.

Installing a GFCI Outlet Outside

When running power outside, a GFCI-equipped outlet ensures safety, and is required by code in all areas exposed to moisture, like the outdoors. When adding an outdoor outlet, be sure to choose an outdoor-rated, weatherproof model with built-in, high-sensitivity GFCI. Whether single or duplex, all exterior outlets should have spring-loaded covers to protect them from weather, pests, dirt, and most importantly moisture. GFCI protection is a smart addition, and inexpensively and easily added in moisture-prone areas where electrocution is a higher risk.  

Placing the Outlet

When adding an outdoor outlet, look for a conveniently located indoor outlet to connect to with the wiring. Drill a hole through the house wall and feed the wiring in close to the indoor outlet. Fit the mounting box for the outdoor outlet over that hole. Draw in the wiring and connect it to the outlet terminals, then put the faceplate on the box, ensuring all waterproof seals are correctly positioned. Run the wiring indoors to its connection point, adding a separate GFCI if none exists.

Avoid a shocking outdoor experience. Get the help you need from the pros at Mr. Electric 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.