Our lives are made easier with electricity, whether it is indoors or outdoors. It is obvious why we need electricity inside, as it makes it possible to watch television, browse the web, cook dinner, and keep the lights on.
As far as electricity outside, some people may not understand its importance of the outlet location. However, outdoor outlets can come in handy when we need to power carpentry tools, a grill, or Christmas lights.
Havin an outdoor electrical box makes life easier and safer because extension cords plugged into an interior outlet are a recipe for disaster.
Outdoor Electrical Outlet Installation Overview
When installing an outdoor electrical outlet, the process for a new outlet is relatively simple, especially if you have some electrical expertise in your background.
Our number rule for safety is to always use a non-contact voltage tester or meter to test for electricity. For those without any experience, it is something that is best left for professionals.
Either way, here is an overview of the steps on how to install outdoor electrical outlet in yard.
First, the location of the outlet must be determined. This is generally on the exterior wall of the home and is backed up to an existing house outlet on the inside of the home.
The existing outdoor outlet is usually attached to a wall stud if you need it adjacent to your existing home, and the new receptacle will be attached to the same stud. This simply prevents the need to drill a new hole through the stud.
The power must be turned off to the current indoor receptacle at the circuit breaker box. Once this is done, the outlet is checked to ensure there is no power.
This outlet is then removed from the wall, and then the wires that are connected to it are unscrewed and pushed to the side so they're out of the way.
Make sure to pull away at least an inch of insulation around the existing box if necessary. The workbox for the wiring is then removed, so the outer wall is exposed.
A one-inch hole is now drilled through the wall to the exterior to create a path for cable, and a piece of NM-B cable is cut that will go from one box to the other box.
This piece of cable is fed through the interior basement junction box through the hole to the exterior.
Several pigtail wires are prepared now, which are used to connect the indoor outlet to the circuit wires. Once the pigtail wires are all connected, the inside house outlet can be reinstalled, along with the outdoor box and GFCI outlet.
Once everything is in place, the power can be restored, and the outlets can be tested.
Where You Locate the Outlet Outdoors Matters
There are a variety of locations in which outdoor electrical outlets can be installed. However, they must first be installed in their required locations by the National Electrical Code (NEC).
For instance, when a home is first being built, there are certain requirements that determine the number of electrical receptacles that must be installed along the outside of the home.
Once you meet these requirements, you typically have some leniency as to where you can place more outlets.
So, when determining the location of additional outdoor outlets & outlet box, it will depend heavily on why you need the receptacle. You may install the exterior outlet on the outside of your home or against another structure, or you may install it on a pole or post in the yard with proper conduit.
Just keep in mind the location is important for a number of reasons, including potential safety concerns that may arise from electrical circuits.
Required Locations for Outdoor Receptacles
Building code requires that there is one outdoor receptacle at the front of the house and one at the back of the home. These receptacles must be no higher than six and a half feet above the ground. If you have a balcony, porch, patio, or deck that is accessible from the interior of the home, one receptacle is required.
It's required that a swimming pool has access to an exterior receptacle that is within six feet but a maximum of 20 feet away from the nearest edge of the swimming pool.
This must be a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection receptacle and be installed a maximum of six and a half feet above the deck of the pool.
Stand Alone Outlet or Against a Structure?
Your main decision with your outdoor outlet is whether you need/want a stand-alone outlet or whether you want the outlet to be against a structure.
A stand-alone outdoor jucntion box or outlet may be necessary for a patio area where you may need to have a power source for a firepit, water fountain, or if you have to install outdoor lighting, etc.
An outlet against a structure may be necessary to provide power for a shed, gazebo, outdoor kitchen, etc.
Make Sure to Call Before You Dig
When you are performing home improvements, especially outside the home, there is a good chance that you will need to dig around in the yard. Even though the NEC does not require it, it is recommended that you give 811 a call.
This is the national "Call Before You Dig" hotline. It is a good rule of thumb to call them roughly three days prior to digging.
The staff members will inform all of the local utility providers of your intentions and send someone out to your property to mark the location of the lines. Once properly marked, you can use power equipment to dig within two feet of the marked lines.
If you need to dig any closer than that, you should use a hand shovel.
Keep in mind that the tools used to locate the lines beneath the ground aren't 100% precise, so you shouldn't dig right up to the markings.
Not all older ground wires are in a rigid metal conduit or other type of conduit, so its best to always dig slowly. This will help to avoid any unnecessary issues.
Code for Outdoor Receptacles
The National Electrical Code (NEC) states quite a few specific requirements regarding the installation of outdoor receptacles and equipment.
We have already gone over the required locations for outdoor receptacles on newly constructed homes—at least one receptacle at both the front and back of the home, which should be a maximum of six and a half feet above the ground.
Further, any porches, decks, and balconies that are accessible from the interior of the home should also have at least one receptacle with the same height requirement.
All receptacles installed outdoors are required by the NEC to have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection in place. This can be provided by either GFCI receptacles or GFCI circuit breakers, as long as the protection is present.
The NEC also requires that the faceplate of the receptacle be on a supporting surface and secure. This is to prevent moisture from entering the enclosure. When the surface is uneven, the filler material can be used.
Weatherproof enclosures are required for 15-amp and 20-amp, 120/240-volt receptacles that are in damp locations or wet locations.
In addition, there must be a while-in-use weatherproof cover on the outlets. This offers protection for the outlet as well as the electrical cord when they're plugged in.
Professional vs. DIY Installations Concerns
With some electrical background, it isn't too difficult to install an outdoor receptacle yourself. However, in terms of safety, it is generally recommended to have a licensed electrician perform the install.
There are so many different electrical and building codes that the NEC has set forth that must be followed.
Permits may also need to be acquired by your local municipality. Here is an example for permits needed in St Louis, Mo.
This is often easier and safer to have a professional perform the installation as opposed to trying to do it yourself and risk a potential injury to yourself, damage to your property, or hefty fines.
Outdoor electrical outlets are more convenient and safer than using an extension cord when you need to power electric landscaping tools, outdoor lights, or water features. You can get the power source you need with an outdoor outlet.
However, to ensure it is done properly and everyone stays safe, reach out to an experienced electrician in the St. Louis, MO, area or at any of several locations around the country for a custom quote.