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In these days of COVID-19, a lot of us are spending more time outdoors. It’s the safest place for small gatherings, these days, even as the days start to get cooler. It’s nice to be able to plug in a speaker or TV – maybe even a small table lamp, for the evening – to make those outdoor spaces feel a little more like a living room or den that just happens to be located under the stars. Of course, exterior receptacles require some added protection to ensure their exposed location doesn’t raise electrical hazards.

Be Sure to Keep Covered – Correctly – When Installing Outdoor Power

Chuck Ross
In these days of COVID-19, a lot of us are spending more time outdoors. It’s the safest place for small gatherings, these days, even as the days start to get cooler. It’s nice to be able to plug in a speaker or TV – maybe even a small table lamp, for the evening – to make those outdoor spaces feel a little more like a living room or den that just happens to be located under the stars. Of course, exterior receptacles require some added protection to ensure their exposed location doesn’t raise electrical hazards.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) recognizes our interest in bringing power access outdoors. That’s why this guiding document calls for GFCI-protected receptacles at multiple locations in in newly constructed housing. This include both the front and rear of houses and along balconies with indoor access – possibly to steer folks away from running extension cords out their doors and windows. GFCI protection helps limit the risk of shock

The NEC also has provisions for protecting these receptacles from the elements, both when they’re in use and when they aren’t – and owners of older homes might not be fully aware of some of these requirements.  Most of us are familiar with the flip-up protective covers that have been common to exterior receptacles for decades. These protect receptacles when they’re not in use. So long as these are weatherproof, they’re fine for use in damp locations, where a porch roof or other covering provides some protection.

In fully exposed wet locations, though, a “while-in-use” cover must be installed. These bubble-shaped covers protect the receptacle even when a cord is plugged in. This is especially important to know as fall starts to move into winter, and thoughts start turning to adding illuminated Santas and snowmen to our front yards. We might all need a little more holiday cheer this winter – just be sure you’re connecting yours safely.
Photo courtesy of Orbit Industries
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