Do Outdoor Outlets Need to Be Covered?
For powering everything from leaf blowers and power tools to strings of decorative lights, electrical outlets can be just as important outdoors as indoors. However, outdoor outlets tend to be designed very differently. For one thing, they have heavy duty outlet covers that shield the outlet when not in use. Are these really necessary? What purpose do they serve? If your outdoor outlets don't have them, do you need to have them installed? What's the worst that can happen if you don't? Let's take a closer look at outdoor outlet covers.
The Purpose of Outdoor Outlet Covers
Since outdoor outlets are exposed to the elements, such as rain and salty air, outlet covers protect them from damage. Any outlet that's outside should have a cover, even if the outlet is never used.
Is It Dangerous for an Outdoor Outlet to Be Uncovered?
If an outdoor outlet is uncovered, it can get wet when it rains or if it's in the path of the stream from a hose or sprinkler. You're no doubt aware that water and electricity don't mix. A wet outlet can cause a serious electric shock that can injure or even kill if you try to plug something into it.
The water can also short circuit your home's electrical system, taking out the power for the whole house and damaging any electrical appliances that happen to be plugged in. The short can even cause an electrical fire, which can burn your house down. This is why an outlet cover is essential for any outdoor outlet.
What Should I Do if My Outdoor Outlet Gets Wet?
What should you do if your outlet does end up getting wet? The good news is, there are safety protocols built in to prevent disaster. Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets found outdoors are designed to switch themselves off if the flow of electricity is disturbed. Water getting into the electrical outlet disrupts the electrical current, so it should shut off automatically.
However, you should still check to make sure. If the outlet didn't shut off, you can turn it off manually. The outlet should have a reset button and a test button. Press them both together, to shut it off. If a flood or other issue threatens all your outdoor outlets, then shut them off at the circuit breaker by flipping the switch or switches that send power to those outlets.
Can I DIY an Outdoor Outlet Cover?
If an outlet cover breaks, it's important to replace it immediately. But how? It might be tempting to try to save money by making your own outlet cover out of plastic, or some other material. Or maybe you want to put your arts and crafts skills to use, creating something more aesthetically pleasing.
Don't do that. Outlet covers are built for safety. They're made of silicon and heavy-duty plastic, to insulate against electrical surges. In terms of aesthetics, they come in different colors and styles to go with your outdoor decor. But don't go trying to design your own. Call a licensed electrician to have them install one for you. They know how to do the job safely and without injury.
When dealing with electricity, safety is always of utmost importance. Make sure all your outdoor outlets are properly covered and updated, so you can avoid injury and damage and use your electrical devices outdoors without fear.