Outdoor Wire Management Tips

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Can extension cords be used outside?

Extension Cords

There are extension cords that are specifically designed for outdoor use and those are the only kind that should be outside. These cords are usually a heavier gauge and are resistant to abrasions caused by being dragged on the ground. Also, outdoor extension cords are designed to keep moisture from seeping in and causing a power surge. Always check an extension cord for damage before use and when the cord is not being used, properly store it out of the sun. Generally, an outdoor extension cord should last at least five years, but should be replaced sooner if any damage occurs.

How can I protect the wires and cables I have installed outside?

Outdoor Enclosures for Wires and Cables

For protection against the harsh outdoor elements, wires and cables can be stored in outdoor enclosures. These industrial-grade steel cabinets provide shelter from the sun, wind, rain, dirt, dust and other harmful combatants that could cause electrical equipment to malfunction. Locks can also be placed on outdoor enclosures to prevent any vandalism or theft of equipment. For a more subtle and attractive appearance, enclosures painted in neutral colors can blend in with any industrial structure.

Why should an enclosure be NEMA certified?

NEMA Certification

When placing sensitive telecom utilities in outdoor enclosures, it is important to have a sound structure that is certified by NEMA. NEMA stands for National Electrical Manufacturers Association, an organization that sets safety standards for electrical products. Since 1926, NEMA has been actively bringing attention to products that meet or exceed their standards for quality, innovation and safety. With an NEMA outdoor enclosure certification, one can be sure that any telecom equipment inside is safe from the harshest elements.

Are there special codes I must adhere to when installing electrical outside?

Outdoor Wiring Codes

Due to the moisture and extreme weather a wire may encounter outdoors, there are special regulations that everyone must adhere to when installing wires. These regulatory codes are created to protect citizens and public property from damage and liability.Outdoor installation codes are placed locally, so they can differ depending on where you live. For more information, you may want to speak someone in the electrical department of your local hardware store. If they don't know, a professional electrician will. In some areas, you may be required to either have an electrician do the work or at least inspect it when you are finished.

How should outdoor light fixtures be weatherproof?

Weatherproof Outdoor Light Fixtures

Outdoor light fixtures should be purchased new, as that will ensure they meet all of the latest safety standards. The ballast should be tight and flush so that no water can seep in and cause a shock hazard. If it is not tight enough, weatherproof sealant can be purchased for a nominal fee and easily applied. Waterproof light bulbs and light switches are also available and can be a last line of weather defense.

How can I remain safe during an electrical storm?

Lightning Safety

Outdoor installations should never be conducted during bad weather. Safety procedures must be observed in an electrical storm or else serious injury or death can occur. Lightening is the cause of more deaths in a year than hurricanes and tornadoes combined, yet many people still take unnecessary risks around lightning. While the majority of people struck by lightning are in open fields, there are also risks when using telephones or radios. If you are outside during when an electrical storm begins, seek shelter. You should wait at least 30 minutes after the last lighting before leaving the shelter. Do not use telephones or electric radios, as the lightning can travel through the lines and shock you. Most electrical storms are short-lived, after which it is safe to resume outdoor activities. However, installation should wait if there is moisture on the ground.

Is it safe to cover my ugly transformer with a rose bush?

Never Disguise Outdoor Meters And Transformers

Safety precautions must always be observed around outdoor meters and transformers. The bulky transformer in your yard may seem unattractive to you, but you should never attempt to cover it with plants, flowers or decorations of any kind. Many people make the mistake of planting bushes too close to the transformers or meters in their yard, which can be a big problem once an emergency response needs to be made during a power outage. Observe a four-foot clearance around large transformers and a one-foot clearance around a meter.

How are power outlets safe to use outdoors?

Outdoor Power Outlets

Weatherproof power outlets can be installed on the sides of a house, on the porch and even around a pool area. These outlets are different than standard indoor ones, as they must endure extreme temperatures, moisture and other outdoor adversities. Outdoor outlets are made of stronger material than standard plastic and come equipped with pop-up covers for the holes. Not only do these covers protect from moisture, but they also prevent insects from crawling inside and causing surges or arc flashes. There are also power ports available that can install around a patio's umbrella post, for when cords are not long enough to reach outlets on the side of the house. Outdoor outlets should always have ground fault circuit interrupters in them. Any older outlets without a ground fault circuit interrupter should be replaced.

How can a power generator assist me?

Power Generators

Portable power generators offer advantages in many situations. They can be used when a home or office's power has been turned off. Also, a power generator is handy when running a tool outside. While camping, a generator can be used in lieu of “roughing it”. A portable generator is a practical and affordable purchase for any home or office, as it can often assist people during unexpected situations.

What are ground fault interrupters for?

Ground Fault Interrupters

When an abnormal diversion occurs in a wires current, such as when someone is being shocked, a ground fault interrupter can stop the current from continuing its path. Ground fault interrupters should be installed to prevent lethal electrical shocks, particularly where a cable may come into contact with moisture. The interrupters should definitely be used when installing electrical wires outdoors, as there will be a lot of dampness on the ground and rainwater falling.

What are outdoor cable ties designed to withstand?

Outdoor Cable Ties

For outdoor use, cable ties must be designed to withstand moisture, direct sunlight and extreme heat. For that reason, UV and heat-stabilized cable ties have been invented. Usually made of a durable nylon material, outdoor cable ties work where other ties would eventually break down and crack. For heavy-duty loads, a durable cable tie is especially important due to safety issues that could arise from large, fallen cables.

What kind of outdoor conduit is used for wires and cables?

Outdoor Conduit

There are several kinds of conduit used for outdoor wires and cables. A rigid steel conduit has a durable and protective material. Another kind of conduit is aluminum, which is able to be buried in a concrete slab, provided it has been treated with a non-corrosive sealant. For use of an outdoor conduit aboveground, PVC is an affordable option. In order to prevent cracking from direct sunlight, the PVC conduit should also be painted with a protective seal. An industrial-strength conduit bender can be used with PVC, making rapid and accurate bends for necessary curves around objects.

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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.