Outdoor plugs and outlets are incredibly useful, particularly during the summer months. They allow you to use technology outdoors and charge your phone freely while sitting in the garden.
Some lawn mowers must connect to the mains system to operate, and outdoor plugs are indispensable when it comes to putting up Christmas and Halloween decorations.
We all know how dangerous the combination of water and electricity is, and you would be right to be concerned about rain and external plugs.
Wet plugs can lead to electrical shocks which can be very dangerous and even fatal in some cases. This is because electricity can be conducted through water meaning that you can come into direct contact with the current.
As well as this, if you place a plug near to a wet plug socket then you could accidentally start a fire. This is because the plug can interact with the socket to create what is known as a short circuit.
This can cause your electricity to cut out to your home and may damage any electrical appliances that are connected to the mains system. In extreme cases, a fire can start as well.
This is not too large of a concern for most adults as everyone is aware of the risks of electricity and moisture. It is a much larger issue if you have young children or animals in your home. You must take great care with outdoor plugs if you do opt to install them.
If you have moved into a home where outdoor plug sockets have already been installed, we strongly advise calling out an electrician. They will check the socket and electrical systems over to ensure they have been installed correctly and are safe for use.
How do you protect your plugs from rain?
The best way to protect your outdoor plugs from rain and moisture is to install a specifically designed outdoor plug cover. They should be covered at all times, even if you do not use them.
This is because there is always a risk of electrical currents passing through the plug and the consequences of moisture entering the plug are too great to be ignored.
Your outdoor plug should be installed in a special plug casing to protect the electronics from the elements. This casing looks similar to a box and will ensure no moisture gets near to the plug socket. This casing should then have a second layer of protection in the form of a weatherproof cover.
Weatherproof covers tend to be made from plastic, but there are many different iterations. Each is designed to perform best in a different weather condition.
It is worth doing some research into the most appropriate cover for your climate before purchase. You should ensure that your cover fits the design and shape of your plug socket to adequately protect it. If it fits your socket poorly then there is a large potential for leaks.
The NEC (national electrical code) states that bubble covers must be used for all outdoor plugs in wet areas. Flat covers are no longer acceptable and if you have any, these must be replaced.
If your plug socket cannot be protected from rain then you must install a specially designed wet location cover. These provide a watertight seal around the plug even when it is in use.
Damp locations are classified by the NEC as external locations protected by marquees, roofs, or canopies. These locations should have damp outlets which seal the plug socket when it is not being used. You should always purchase the correct cover for your environment to keep yourself safe.
We strongly recommend contacting a professional electrician to install your outdoor plug cover. It may seem simple to do it yourself, but the risks associated with incorrect installation are huge.
You can even injure yourself during installation if you accidentally knock an electrical wire. The same logic applies to the removal of old plug socket covers.
What do you do if your outdoor plug gets wet?
If you notice your outdoor plug has become wet, the first thing that you should do is to switch off the GFCI outlet. This stands for ground fault circuit interrupter and is incredibly fast to work. It can shut off electrical currents in as little as one-fortieth of a second when a ground fault is detected.
The fault is detected as the GFCI measures the current traveling to and from the electrical equipment along the circuit conductors. The difference between these paths is measured.
When the difference exceeds 5 milliamperes, the GFCI will break the stream of electrical current. They are designed to trip the system as soon as a faulty appliance is connected, when installed correctly. This means that the risks of electrical shocks and other dangers are greatly minimized.
This tends to be tripped when the plug or electrical current comes into contact with any moisture. If the GFCI has not tripped automatically, you can force it to manually. This can be achieved by holding down the reset and test buttons simultaneously.
These buttons will have the letters “WR” embossed onto them. This stands for weather-resistant and shows that it is suitable for use outdoors. The GFCI outlet should be controlled by its own circuit that has a current of 20 amps.
Your electrical system will also have a breaker box. This is essentially an overall control panel for all of the electrical appliances and circuits in your home.
It will have a large switch that controls the flow of all power to your home. There will also be several smaller switches that control specific areas of your home – these are known as breakers.
If you suspect water has entered your electrical system, you should always shut off the breaker box. Even if you have tripped the GFCI, we still suggest you do this step. This will ensure that the electrical current has been stopped and greatly reduces the danger to you and others in your home.