Running electrical power outdoors, whether it's for the annual holiday display, use in the garden décor, or to power an outbuilding workshop, requires an eye for safety and proper installation. The following tips can help you get the juice you need while keeping you and your home safe from danger.
Tip #1: Use the Right Cord
Extension cords are an excellent option for short-term electrical needs, such as powering a winter holiday display or firing up an electric grill for a summer garden party. Choose extension cords that are rated for outdoor use and skip the flimsier cords that are only intended for indoor use. Use plastic u-shaped stakes to anchor the cord to the ground so it doesn't pose a tripping hazard. Make sure the outdoor outlets are GFCI-certified, which means they have ground fault circuit interrupters. If these aren't available, you can purchase portable GFCI outlets to use with the outdoor electric cords.
Tip #2: Stretch Safely
If you want a more permanent solution, such as for a shop or garage, permanently installed overhead wires may seem like the best option. Keep in mind that these should only be used over distances of less than 10 feet, otherwise the wire is more prone to sagging, breakage, and wind damage. Make sure the wire is 12 feet high or more, so it doesn't pose a hazard to those below. It's also a good idea to only install overhead wires in areas where they are unlikely to be disturbed – in other words, you don't want them in an area where children often toss balls or fly kites.
Tip #3: Go Underground
Underground solutions work well for items like landscape lights or for permanent usages where overhead wires won't work. The cables and conduit used must be rated for outdoor underground use, otherwise they can suffer damage from outdoor conditions or moisture. Bury the lines deep, usually at least 30 inches, so they are unlikely to be disturbed during routine yard or garden care. Wire these lines into GFCI outlets to ensure they are properly grounded.
Tip #4: The More Outlets the Merrier
Don't be tempted to overload the outdoor outlets around your home. Each outlet is equipped to handle two devices, but you may want to limit it to only one device if that device is a power strip that holds multiple plugs. This can help minimize the dangers of overloading or shorting out the outlet. Instead, install more outlets around the exterior of your home. Contact a local electrician like Beckstoffer-Welsh Inc to help you determine the best locations for your new outlets.