Outdoor living spaces have become an extension of the home for many families. So it is only natural that folks have come to expect many of the same conveniences outside as they enjoy indoors. One example is safe and ready access to electricity. From outfitting the back deck with a TV, to adding string lights to the three-season porch, installing an outdoor kitchen on the patio or having easy access for electric landscaping tools, outdoor outlets can provide tremendous convenience. This guide explains the benefits of outdoor electrical outlets and some important considerations regarding their placement and installation.
Benefits of Outdoor Electrical Outlets
Outdoor outlets offer a number of benefits, but primarily they eliminate the hassle and danger associated with having to run an extension cord from inside the home or garage to the outside. Extension cords can present a fire danger, and they are also a trip hazard – something that is doubly dangerous for those carrying power tools or gardening shears. Depending on placement, outdoor outlets can also eliminate or minimize unsightly excess electrical cord for items such as outdoor speakers, porch lamps, a mini fridge or string lighting. Outdoor receptacles can even be placed on a separate circuit to avoid overloading indoor electrical circuits.
Dedicated Circuit for Outdoor Outlets
Many homeowners wonder if outdoor outlets need to be on their own circuit. While this is not required by NEC, an electrician can advise if this is the best option based on the number of outdoor outlets at your home. Outdoor receptacles that are located away from the house (such as those by a pool or near landscaping or a lightpost) are typically fed by underground electrical cables.
Determining the Optimal Number of Outdoor Electrical Outlets
Because outdoor outlets may be exposed to rain, heavy snow and excessive heat, there are certain electrical code guidelines that must be adhered to:
- According to the National Electrical Code (NEC), newly constructed homes are required to have at least one outdoor outlet each at the front and rear of the house, as well as at least one outlet inside a porch, deck or balcony that is 20-sq ft or larger.
- Outlets that are used outside must have ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCI, protection. GFCI outlets are designed to protect people from electrical shock and electrocution.
- Surface-mounted outdoor electrical boxes used in areas exposed to water, rain or snow must be specifically designed and listed for wet locations.
- Outdoor electrical receptacles are required to have a weatherproof cover that is approved for use in damp locations.
- Metal electrical boxes must be grounded.
Although the NEC specifies the minimum number of outlets required for a home, homeowners often want additional outlets for added convenience. Here are some examples:
- Bar height outlets and a dedicated appliance outlet for an outdoor kitchen.
- Conveniently placed outlets near plantings for electric landscaping tools and equipment.
- Outlets for a hot tub, outdoor fountain, gazebo or pergola.
- Outlets under the house eaves for holiday lights or near porch beams for string lights.
- Garage or workshop outlets for tools.
- Outdoor outlets are the best solution for any outdoor electrical needs. They will enhance the safety, functionality and ambiance of your property. Always work with an experienced electrician who will take the time to understand your individual outdoor and indoor electrical needs.