Do It Yourself Basics: Outdoor Electrical Wiring Instructions And Help

With a few tools and a little knowledge, you can draw power from your home to the outdoors, making the outdoors brighter and more fun!

Want to light up the night sky with more Christmas lights than your neighbor, but just can't stand the sight of those extension cords? Need a better place to play a radio for an outdoor party? Why not just create a new outside wall outlet box for the exterior of your home? It's easy!

If you have ever looked at a wire used in interior wiring situations, you will have noticed that the wires have a plastic covering called the insulation. When it comes to exterior lighting for your outdoor landscaping, the wires need to be protected even more. Thus, there is more to outdoor lighting than simply having a good wire cover. Before you begin any electrical project, you will need to check with your local authorities on any construction building codes or permit requirements.

With outdoor wiring, everything must fit together exactly. In most situations heavy duty gaskets are used to seal the electrical boxes to insure that no water penetrates the boxes. In addition, the new outside receptacle will have to be up to code. Most communities now require that your outside electrical box be protected with a GFCI. This is short for Ground-fault Circuit Interrupter. If moister were to enter the receptacle and touch the wires, this simple device would immediately trip a switch that cuts the power to the box, preventing electrical shorts or electrical fires.

When running lighting to the outdoors, you will need to begin at the home. It is best to tap into the end of a circuit run or better yet, to a circuit that has no other items attached to it. This way, if you need to flick the switch in the breaker box to cut the power, you will only be affecting the outside lighting and nothing else.

As with any electrical work, the first step is to find the wires from where you will be working, determine the breaker that supplies the power and turn that power off. A circuit tester works great for new connections when an existing light or other item does not exist to test for power.

Different types of outdoor wire protection

For outdoor use there is three types of protection for wires. There is the rigid nonmetallic conduit. This is also labeled as PVC schedule 40. This type requires a separate grounding wire. This type needs to be buried in the ground by at least eighteen inches to two feet in depth. The only exception to this rule is if it is covered with a concrete cap or lid. The best benefit of rigid nonmetallic conduit is that it does not rust or corrode the way metal does and may last longer. It is also more expensive per linear feet.



The cheaper version of protection is the Rigid Metallic Conduit. This type will corrode in many types of soils but has many advantages over the PVC style. It is easier to install since it only requires a six to eight inch bury depth. Also, it does not require a separate grounding wire unless it is used for a spa, fountain, swimming pool or other water borne item.

The third type of wire protection is Electrical Metallic Tubing, also known as Thinwall Conduit. This type of wire protection is not intended for below ground burial. However, when used in conjunction with watertight couplings and connectors, EMT is a fine choice in locations where it will be exposed to the elements (Weather, sprinklers, etc.) to protect the conductors to abuse. If you wish to bury this type of tubing, you can get coated EMT, this can be buried as the coating protects the tubing from the elements and corrosion.

Extending electricity from the home to the outdoors

There are three general ways to pull electricity from out of your home to a new connection on the outside. You can pull electricity from the attic, from a porch light or from an existing electrical outlet inside a room. The route you choose is up to you and your skill level. When done correctly the end result is the same; power to the outdoors.

The easiest way to pull power from out of your home to the outdoors is from an existing wall outlet. The best outlet to draw the power from is one that is on a wall directly next to where you want to install the new outlet. This will make your job much easier because you will be able to simply drill through the wall. Only a few tools are needed and nearly anyone can do it.

You will need a power drill to bore through the walls. Keep in mind that you will need to use extreme caution when drilling through a wall as you will be working near wires. Always turn off the power to those wires at the breaker box and work slowly. From inside the home, remove the outlet cover and untie the wires. Now you can remove the outlet box that housed those wires. With the interior of your wall exposed, you can now drill to the outside.

Remember, water runs down. So to help prevent rain water from entering your home, drill down. The angle does not need to be dramatic, just a slight downward pointing of the drill from the inside to the outside will prevent water from running into the house. Also a simple dap of silicone on the outer wall when the project is complete will help as well.

With the hole drilled you can now run your new wires into the house. Splice those wires and match them with the wires on the existing outlet. Tie off the wires with wire nuts. Replace the outlet box and secure it back to the wall where it was originally. You can purchase replacement outlet covers at any hardware store. These are blank covers that do not allow for anyone to plug appliances in to this outlet. You will want this, because the power is now redirected to the outlet on the exterior of the house.

Outside the home, you need to add a water tight switch box or water tight outlet box. This is similar to your inside outlet box. It houses the wires in a water tight box, protecting them from moisture and the elements. Pull the new wires through the exterior of the wall and run through the new switch box. Mount the switch box to the exterior of the house at least 12 inches off the ground. The final thing is to attach your wires to this switch box and you are done!

Now you will be able to pull power out of you home safely without the need for dangerous and unsightly extension cords. Need a place to plug in a string of Christmas lights? Where are you going to plug in the radio for that family backyard party? It is up to you as you can now put power just about anywhere!

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