Ask an electrician: Is It Safe to Use an Extension Cord Outside?
Whether you’re trimming the hedges, showing an outdoor movie, or rigging up some new lights, sometimes you just need to get some extra juice out to the backyard. But is it okay to use an extension cord knowing that it might get wet, stepped on, or rolled over? Well, that depends. Here’s how you can tell if it’s safe to use an extension cord for your outdoor electricity needs.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Extension Cords
Before you start rigging up your outdoor powerlines, check to see if your extension cord is rated for outdoor use. Outdoor extension cords have higher amperage ratings and are much more insulated compared to indoor cords. More insulation means more protection against moisture, sunlight, and getting stepped on.
The best way to tell if your extension cord is rated for outdoor use is to check the packaging label. If you can find the letter “W”, you’re good to go. If you’re one of those crazy people that actually likes to use the things you buy and not keep the packaging, you can sometimes find the “W” on the side of the cord itself.
Outdoor extension cords also usually come in bright colors like orange or yellow, and always have three-prong plugs. The third prong is a grounding wire that reduces the risk of fire or electrical shock.
Safety Tips for Outdoor Electricity
Once you’ve found an outdoor extension cord, there are still a few things you need to know. Just because the cord is insulated doesn’t mean it’s designed for permanent outdoor use. Here are a few tips to keep you and your family safe while using an extension cord outside:
Plug into a GFCI outlet (look for the TEST/RESET button).
Don’t leave it outside for more than a couple days, especially if there’s rain in the forecast—moisture resistant isn’t the same as waterproof.
Store the cord inside when not in use.
Choose a cord with the right length to avoid tripping hazards.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use a power strip outside.
If you’re looking for more long-term outdoor power, it’s much safer to run underground wiring. Underground wiring is hardwired into your home’s power grid and buried for complete protection from the elements. You might have to call an electrician to install, but it’s impossible to trip over and much safer for your kids, pets, and home compared to an unprotected extension cord.
If you have any questions regarding outdoor electrical safety or are looking for a permanent outdoor power solution, feel free to contact the experts at IES Home Services. We’ll come up with a solution to fit all your unique needs. And as always, if you’re not happy with our service, we’ll do whatever it takes to make it right, guaranteed!
IES Home Electrical Services is a McKinney-based electrical company dedicated to providing area homeowners with the best quality of work and unparalleled customer service, backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Proudly serving McKinney, Frisco, Prosper, Celina, Gunter, Anna, Aubrey, Bonham, Crossroads, Melissa, Sherman, Farmersville, Little Elm, Princeton, Prosper, Van Alstyne, Hackberry, and Denison.
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