As a general rule, we expect all the outlets in our homes to work when we need them. Of course, that’s not always the case, and some outlets break more easily than others.
Of all the outlets in a home, the ones that are most likely to have issues are outdoor outlets. Being constantly exposed to the elements and general neglect tend to take their toll on these power sources. In fact, you could have a broken outdoor outlet right now and not even know it. But when the time comes to throw a backyard bash or set up some power tools, you’re sure to notice.
To prevent you from running out of power when you need it most, here’s a quick guide to maintaining outdoor electrical outlets, as well as the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Common Causes of a Broken Outdoor Outlet
Outdoor outlets undergo greater stress than most outlets in your home. As a result, they’re more likely to break if they aren’t properly maintained. Here are some common causes for a broken outdoor electrical outlet:
- Tripped circuit: If your outlet isn’t working, the first place to look for an issue is at your electrical panel. If a circuit has been tripped, flip it back into the on position and see if it holds. If it stays on, chances are it was a briefly overloaded circuit. However, you may want to call an electrician regardless, as circuits that trip easily can cause serious damage to your home and your electrical system.
- Tripped GFCI: If you have GFCI outlets outdoors, they can trip due to the presence of moisture. If they have, you should contact a professional electrician. This type of outlet automatically trips during an overload to prevent short circuits. They can also be tripped by moisture and other foreign particles in the outlet. Additionally, if you have outdoor outlets that aren’t GFCI outlets, you should call an electrician to come and install GFCI outlets.
- Loose connections: A loose connection is a problem best left to an electrician, but you can determine if it’s the issue by removing the outlet from the wall and examining the wires. Loose connections can cause arcing and lead to electrical fires, so it’s best to shut off the connection to the outlet using your electrical panel and then waiting for an electrician to solve the issue before restoring power.
How to Prevent Outdoor Outlets from Breaking
Because outdoor outlets are exposed to the elements, and the appliances that they run generally have high power demands, they tend to break more often. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent them from breaking, or at least reduce the chances of them doing so:
Purchase outlet covers.
Outdoor outlets are constantly exposed to the wind, rain, and snow. Unfortunately, none of these things play well with electrical components.
An outlet cover, which is just a plastic cover that sits over the top of outlets and allows wires to run out the bottom of the cover, does a great job at protecting outlets from the elements. However, if it’s hot and humid in the summer, be aware that moisture could still build up in these and harm the outlet.
Install GFCI outlets.
If you don’t already have GFCI outlets outside, you should have them installed as soon as possible. These outlets automatically shut off when exposed to water or other material that could harm the connection. They should be used anywhere where moisture is common.
Broken Outdoor Outlet FAQs
What causes outside outlets to stop working?
The most common causes of a broken outdoor outlet are a short circuit, a tripped GFCI, and a loose connection. These issues each present different symptoms, and some occur only with certain types of outlets.
How do I fix my outdoor outlet that is not working?
To fix an outdoor outlet, you need to identify the issue first and then either reset the outlet, turn back on the breaker, or reconnect the wires. In general, we recommend that you hire an electrician to perform any repairs on outlets.
How do you reset an outside outlet?
To reset an outside outlet, press and hold the button that says “RESET.” If you cannot locate this button, you likely do not have a GFCI outlet installed, in which case the outlet cannot be reset. If you don’t have a GFCI outlet outdoors, call an electrician to have one installed. This type is recommended to help prevent short circuits and electrical fires.
Why is my outdoor outlet not working but the breaker isn’t tripped?
If the breaker isn’t tripped but your outlet still doesn’t work, it’s likely being caused by one of two issues. One possibility is that the outlet tripped the GFCI. This only happens on GFCI outlets, which can be reset at the outlet or repaired by an electrician. Be careful when dealing with these outlets as a tripped GFCI could indicate the presence of moisture in the outlet.
The other possible cause is a loose connection. To check if you have a loose connection, unscrew the outlet from the wall and see if the wires have been disconnected. If they have, call an electrician to reconnect the wires.
Have a Broken Outdoor Outlet? Call Mr. Electric
A broken outdoor outlet is rarely discovered at a convenient time. If you find your outdoor outlet doesn’t work, it’s best to call an electrician to fix it promptly.
Want to have your outlets fixed? Call us to schedule your service today!