We have an outdoor outlet behind our house where we plug in the hot tub and garden tools. I’ve tried plugging something into it now for two months, but nothing works. The electrical wire carries power from inside your house (the main breaker box) through an outdoor wall box then on to the outside receptacle (outlet).
Why Aren’t My Exterior Outlets Working?
Most exterior receptacles are installed by utility companies and used to power landscaping equipment. These outlets are typically buried underground and come in two forms:
These can be found on the side of your home. They are shaped like a regular outlet but sit flat against the siding.
• Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
A GFCI is commonly used for pools and spas. It’s more expensive than a standard receptacle. Because, it provides an added level of protection from electrical shock from ground faults or shorted wires by shutting off the electricity if there is any loss of current flow through the device. The wiring between the site box and wall box must be in good condition.
If your outlet doesn’t have a switch, it’s probably a GFCI. You can tell by looking to see if there are two holes next to the plug – one big, one small. If you look inside the receptacle, you should see some sort of metal mechanism that diverts electricity from the hot terminal if something isn’t right with your wiring or ground.
The main reason exterior outlets fail is that they’re either not grounded or get loose connections on the wires running from the box to the outlet.
How much will it cost?
$0-100; depending on whether you do some of the work yourself and how far you are from an electrician.
Inspect the outdoor outlet itself. It could be loose, corroded, or broken where it pokes through the wall. A working outlet should have two metal prongs with holes on either side of a brass cover plate that snaps onto the receptacle. If one or more of these components is missing or damaged, call an electrician to fix it.
Plug in a lamp and see if it comes on when you switch the circuit breaker back on (or off, depending on how your house is wired).
If you have light but no power at your outdoor outlet, this means the wiring between the main breaker box and the outside wall box (your “service run”) is faulty. Call an electrician.
If your service run lets you down, the only solution may be to rewire by running a new electrical cable from your main breaker box to the outside wall box (your “service pull”). You’ll need a specialty contractor or licensed professional for this type of job — someone experienced with low-voltage outdoor wiring who’s bonded and insured for the work.
A basic service pull won’t give you enough of a surge of juice to power a line conditioner or switch that may be plugged into the outlet. If this is your problem, you’ll need to upgrade to a heavy-duty service pull by running three #4 wires (two black and one white) from your main breaker box to the wall box. This triple wire size also gives you enough juice for outdoor fixtures like floodlights or spotlights that are linked together on one circuit. Just make sure the contractor ties all of these wires into an existing knockout in the outside wall box before he installs a new “service end.”
If there’s no electricity at your outdoor outlet but it has power at your service panel, the wiring between the outside wall box and inside electrical box may be faulty or may have been pinched off. Call an electrician.
How to Avoid Repair Rip-Offs?
Watch out for lowball repair estimates that disguise the true price of a job by adding in all sorts of unnecessary or overpriced work. Then there are contractors who quote high prices just to get into your home. Then charge you more than they quoted when they’re knee-deep in your project!
If your outdoor outlet doesn’t get power from the service pull, it will need to be replaced with one that has two wire connections (a “double gang box” with two pairs of screws sticking out). Call an electrician and make sure he uses the right type of outlet.