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Outdoor Electronics

on June 3, 2016

Outdoor ElectronicsLawn parties, decorative lighting, automated sprinklers, and countless other electrical devices have pushed your power grid to the outdoors.  Unfortunately, you have less control over the outdoors than you do when wires and outlets are located inside the walls of your home.  A little bit of consideration is all it takes to make sure that you’re always safe outside, whether working or playing.

Finding Underground Wires

Yard work and landscaping are one of the most common causes of electrical shocks and injuries in your yard.  A visual inspection is usually incapable of identifying problems before your shovel causes expensive damage.  This isn’t just true of electrical cables either.  Data communication, water, and gas lines are all often buried in your yard to give a much cleaner appearance to your home.  You should also make sure you know exactly where cables, pipes, and conduits are buried before you start digging.

  • Call 811 For Utility Lines
  • Use a Cable Wire Locator to Find Hidden Electrical Cables
  • Study Blueprints if You Have Them
  • Use a Metal Detector to Locate Obstructions

While these are all valid ways of staying safe while working in the yard, they aren’t full-proof.  Using an insulated shovel or wearing insulating shoes are key ways to prevent injuries related to accidentally cutting a buried electrical cable.

Use Low-Voltage Wiring

When it comes to surface wiring or any electrical cables running to sprinklers, lights, or other electrical devices you should always use low-voltage wiring.  12- or 24-volt cables are perfect for minimizing risks associated with accidentally cable damage.  Running over an exposed cable with a lawnmower or garden tool is less likely to cause serious injury if the electrical system is low-voltage.

Additionally, low-voltage wiring is less dangerous when weather or animals wear or eat away the insulation protecting the internal cables from exposure.  Even then, all outdoor cables should be on a separate, dedicated electrical circuit, preferably with some type of emergency fuse to prevent component damage due to pests and lack of maintenance.

Weatherproof Equipment

IP ratings, or ingress protection ratings, should never be ignored.  Always make sure that any equipment you use outside is rated for outdoor use and has a matching IP rating.  Water and dust are problematic when it comes to outdoor electronics.  High humidity can lead to damaged enclosures, rusty components, and rotting wood.

Outdoor receptacles should always be housed in a weatherproof enclosure.  Casings with an IP rating of 66 are best, since pressure washers will be unable to penetrate the casing.  Even then, always use a GFCI outlet to prevent injury.

Maintenance

Even with the best equipment, everything degrades over time.  You should conduct regular testing and inspections of all outdoor equipment, cabling, and connections.  Test any GFCIs for faults and double check circuit breakers.

Perform a visual inspection of all equipment and above-ground cables before you use them.  Make sure there is no insulation damage from animals, insects, or UV degradation.  Exposed wiring is a danger that appears over time as equipment ages.  There’s no way to completely prevent the effects of age and rooting or gnawing animals, but you can protect yourself with a simple inspection.


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