Adding an outdoor outlet can be a convenient addition for your backyard or near your driveway out front.
Being able to plug in things while entertaining on the back patio is one benefit.
You can power radios, lamps or cooking devices near your outdoor BBQ a lot more easily than running a long extension cord from your house, i.e. through a window.
A receptacle outdoors is also great for power tools. Whether you work outdoors on building projects with saws or drills, or you do yard maintenance with corded mowers, weed eaters and blowers, having easy access to power can make life easier.
And let’s not forget at Christmas time when putting up holiday lights. What a difference that makes when you can just plug the lights in right outside.
Installing an outdoor outlet isn’t too difficult as long as you keep things simple and do some basic planning.
You’ll also need a few key parts and a little skill or familiarity working with electrical wires. Follow the rules and take you time – you can have a safe and successful result.
Planning for an Outdoor Outlet
By far the easiest way to add a receptacle outside is to do so on the side of your house.
That way you can tie into an existing outlet on your home’s interior.
Do a quick check of your exterior walls, and locate a working outlet at a location which would make sense for you to have outside.
If this isn’t convenient, you can always tap into the power source on the desired circuit, then position your outlet where you need it and simply run some outdoor conduit (like in the photo above) with the wiring to your outlet housing.
It’s also a good idea to find which outlets will be on that circuit.
If you overload the breaker or fuse, you could lose power frequently to all the outlets on that wall or circuit.
For your materials, you can use a regular receptacle for outdoors. It does, however, have to be GFCI protected.
Obviously this is required since water and other dangerous situations can occur outside, so you want something to cut power quickly should something go wrong while working with a device plugged in out there. Installing a GFCI plug can do that.
In addition, you must also install a weatherproof gasket and some kind of cover.
This helps keep out water, dirt, insects and anything else that might corrupt the outlet.
Also, pick up a standard electrical box to hold the exterior outlet.
You easily use an exterior rating sealant to caulk an outdoor outlet to keep out moisture, dust and… other little things like spiders.
Finally, unless the box you’re tying into has a free, capped off cable, you’ll need to have a few feet of Romex electrical cable.
You can get this at a home center. You might get more cable than you need if you buy it pre-packaged. So, since it’s expensive, have someone cut off what you need from a longer roll.
Prepare the Wall for the Outdoor Outlet
After you’ve found a good location based on the interior outlet box, transfer the location to the outside wall.
Use some point of reference like a window or corner and measure it out.
At the spot, make a mark, then make another mark about 6″ in one direction.
You don’t want the boxes to be perfectly back-to-back since there may not be room given the width of the wall.
Now, place the new electrical box backwards on the wall, centered on your mark. Trace around it to make an outline for the hole you need to cut out.
Just ensure you’re not over a stud. You should be all right if you only went 6″ or so away from your first marking.
For a house with siding or boards, put the outdoor outlet wholly on a flat surface, not at an overlap or joint.
Next, cut your hole from the outside.
You can do this with a jig saw or reciprocating saw but I like to use a hole saw – see this hole sizing chart to pick the right size based on the diameter of your pipe.
Just think, that will be the last time you have to use an extension cord outside!
If you’re on brick, use a drill with masonry bits and drill holes around the inside of your trace marks.
It will be hard work, but once you’re done you can punch out a hole using a hammer and chisel.
Cut your new cable to the necessary length. Strip wire ends and tie into your inside outlet.
Pull the other ends of the wires through your outside hole and connect them to your new outdoor outlet.
Connect power supply wire to the leads indicated as Line. Connect ground wires as well – you don’t want an ungrounded outlet in your house!
When done carefully tuck wires into box.
Install Your New Outdoor Receptacle
With your hole in place, it’s time to cut the power to the circuit your indoor outlet is on.
Then, remove it’s outlet cover and disconnect the receptacle from the box. The box should have a knock-out in the back, which you need to remove.
Press through it with a big screwdriver.
To attach your box, you can either mortar the box in, or screw box flanges to outside of wall surface.
Be sure to use silicone caulking designed for outdoor use to seal all around the box. Smooth out the caulk with a moist finger or tool designed to do so.
Place the gasket and install the cover on top. Turn the power on after you’ve put the indoor socket back together.
For adding outdoor outlets away from your house, you’ll still need to tie into your home’s electrical system.
You can do so as described above, but will need to use cable rated for outdoor use, correct conduits and bury all wiring the appropriate distance underground.
Check with your local authorities for specific codes. Specialty boxes and metal or plastic tubing should be used for outdoor receptacles placed away from the house.
If you’ve installed an outdoor outlet for Christmas lights, you might ask Santa for a remote control for your outdoor outlet.
These nifty remotes will let you control anything plugged in out there from inside. Now, that’s convenience taken to another level!
How High Should Outdoor Receptacles Be?
Outdoor receptacles are generally anywhere from 18 – 24” above the ground.
There are no minimum regulations that need to be met, but they cannot be above 6’ 6” off the ground.
So, depending on what you are using them for, you can put them at whatever height is convenient up to 6’ 6”.
Are Outdoor Outlets Safe in Rain?
Outdoor outlets usually have a flap-style cover on them to protect them from rain.
So if you don’t have anything plugged in and the flap is down while it’s actively raining, it is safe.
If you want to have something plugged in continually and still have it protected from the rain (i.e. holiday lights, security lights, etc.) you can buy watertight outlet covers that protect the entire plug and cord.
How Do I Know if I Need a 15 or 20 amp GFCI?
The gauge of the wires will tell you which outlet you are wired for.
A 15-amp circuit usually will have a 14 gauge wire and a 20-amp circuit will have either a 12 gauge or 10 gauge wire.