Outdoor wiring and lighting installation must follow the National Electrical Code (NEC), which was written by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NEC is updated every 3 years and outlines the types of expectations that are involved with the installation for safety reasons. Although the NEC technically has no enforcement power behind their regulations, most states and cities use the NEC standards as the basis for their own electrical codes. If you want to install outdoor wiring and lighting, you will need to take 3 particular rules into consideration. Consult with a local, licensed electrician if you need more information.
Install Electric Wiring Inside Protective Tubing
To ensure that the outdoor wiring is not exposed to the weather elements and does not eventually become a safety hazard, most electricians would recommend that you place them within protective tubing. You should use schedule 80 PVC, a rigid nonmetallic conduit that has been identified by its grey color. Unlike the standard, white PVC used for plumbing, schedule 80 PVC is a lot stronger and can tolerate wear and tear without deteriorating in condition.
The electrical wiring and the schedule 80 PVC should be buried at least 18 inches underground to prevent it from getting exposed by erosion. It is crucial that the PVC is properly protected and the wiring does not get exposed, as exposed electric wiring can quickly become a safety hazard. Frayed wiring can lead to electric leakages, which will become a huge burden on your energy bill.
If you would like to avoid using schedule 80 PVC entirely, you will want to use a UF cable instead. A UF cable possesses heavy-duty insulation. The tradeoff is that you will need to bury the electric wiring at least 24 inches underground.
Install Mechanisms to Prevent Electrocution
If you will be installing outdoor receptacles, also known as outlets, then you need to protect them by installing a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFIC). A GFIC interrupter is responsible for protecting people from electrical shocks. The interrupter monitors the current flow within the receptacles to make sure that they are in balance. If there are any imbalances, the entire circuit will trip and electric currents will no longer be allowed to flow through the outlet.
GFIC interrupters are quite sensitive. They are able to sense a mismatch as small as 4 to 5 milliamps, and will react within one-thirtieth of a second. Electrical wiring installed outdoors is extremely vulnerable to the elements, and the GFIC interrupters may end up saving you from getting electrocuted.
Protect Outlets with Weatherproof Electrical Boxes
Last but not least, you will want to protect all of the outlets that you have installed from environmental and elemental conditions by using weatherproof electrical boxes. These boxes are placed overtop the outlets, and will typically have a special cover plate for the extension cords in order to protect them from the weather, especially the rain. Weatherproof electrical boxes tend to have flip-up covers with a deep lid and grooves that are located at the bottom.
You can run the extension cords out from the bottom, so that you don't have to open the lid and expose the outlet to the environmental and elemental conditions. The covers are made from either metal or plastic. Metal is highly recommended, as it tends to be sturdier than plastic, and can protect the outlets from physical damage.
Installing electric outlets and wiring outside can be beneficial for many reasons. You may want to install lighting outdoors, surveillance cameras or have an outlet for your appliances. Have a licensed electrician, like one from Safeway Electric, go through the blueprint of how the electric wiring has been installed in your home before determining where the outlets should be.