Most single-family homes have at least one or two outdoor power outlets placed around the structure. However, these outlets can also stop working just like those you have indoors. So, why does that happen?
Check for a tripped circuit breaker at your main electrical box when your outdoor power outlet stops working. GFCI outlets protect your outdoor electrical circuit, so check that outlet next to see if it suffered a trip. Rain and other weather can cause the same problems if the outdoor outlet gets wet. Lastly, check that the outlet or its wiring is faulty.
Whether you want to troubleshoot the outdoor power outlet yourself or with the help of an electrician, you’ll discover everything you need to know in this guide.
What Would Cause Outside Electrical Outlets To Stop Working?
There are several likely causes behind your outdoor electrical outlets failing. However, you’ll find that some of them are less obvious than others.
So, let’s take a closer look at each of those causes and what you can do to fix them.
Tripped Circuit Breaker
When troubleshooting your outdoor electrical outlets, always start with the easiest and quickest causes to rule out. In this case, the first items you should inspect are the circuit breakers at your household’s main electrical box.
Other parts of your house still receive power even though your outside electrical outlets don’t because their circuit breaker is off.
That will happen when an electrical fault occurs, like a sudden surge of power, for example. Then, the circuit breaker for those outlets will trip as a way to protect them from any possible damage.
As you open the main electrical box and find the circuit breaker in the middle or OFF position, you can turn them back on.
That will restore power to the outlets and allow you to use them normally again.
Tripped GFCI Outlet
After checking your household’s main electrical box, there’s one more circuit breaker you have to look for. You see, outside power outlets often share the same circuit as a GFCI outlet. That abbreviation stands for ‘ground-fault circuit interrupter,’ protecting the entire circuit from electrical faults.
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GFCI outlets work in a similar way to the circuit breaker that you checked earlier. However, you will find the breaker built into one of the outlets and not at the main electrical box with the others.
The GFCI outlet and its circuit protect your outside power outlet. However, you’ll often find the GFCI itself somewhere indoors. In many households, you’ll find the GFCI outlet in the garage.
Look for the GFCI outlet and check if it suffered a trip. When it does, one of its buttons will be protruding outward. Then, all you have to do is press the reset button to turn that circuit back on.
Doing so will restore power to your outdoor power outlets on the same circuit.
Wet Outside Outlet or Appliance
Typically, resetting a circuit breaker or GFCI outlet after a trip is enough to resolve the problem. However, a severe problem somewhere on the circuit will cause those components to trip repeatedly.
Not only is that frustrating, but it’s also a sign of a dangerous problem that requires your immediate attention. For example, the outside outlet might be wet, which is incredibly dangerous for the entire electrical circuit.
By right, all of your outside outlets must sit inside a waterproof casing. That casing will then have a waterproof door that closes when the outlet isn’t used to protect it from rain and other weather conditions.
When that casing or door suffers damage or won’t close correctly, water can get in, causing the outlet to short circuit.
The same can also happen to whatever appliance you plug into that socket. For example, light fixtures that you plug into the outlet can also become wet and cause the whole circuit to fail.
First, avoid touching the outside outlet or appliance as you solve this problem. You must let it dry completely and then get an electrician to assess for any damage.
Then, repair or replace the waterproof casing for the outlet to prevent it from getting wet again. You must also be cautious with the kinds of appliances you plug into your outdoor power outlet. When those appliances get wet1, they can also suffer an electrical fault that stops the power receptacle from working correctly.
Loose Or Broken Wiring
Although less likely, it’s also possible that your outdoor power outlet isn’t working because of a wiring problem. For instance, the wires that supply the outlet with power could have become loose or broken.
Under normal conditions, there’s no reason your outdoor power outlet’s wiring would experience any disturbances. After all, the wires are just sitting inside the wall with no moving parts in or around them.
However, any recent electrical repairs or household renovations could accidentally cause damage to those wires and cause the outlets to fail.
In that case, you’ll have to inspect the wiring to your outdoor power outlet to ensure there’s a strong connection and that there’s electrical power flowing through them.
If you can’t inspect it yourself, don’t worry. You can rely on a qualified electrician to do it safely for you.
Only when you rule out all of the other possibilities above should you consider that the outdoor outlet itself is faulty.
For instance, if the outlet is exceptionally old, the normal wear and tear over the years could cause it to finally stop working.
Besides that, a new outlet can also fail if it’s of lower quality or the manufacturer didn’t build it correctly.
In either case, the only solution here is to replace the outlet with a new one.
Remember: whether you replace the outdoor outlet yourself or get an electrician to do it for you, the outlets must comply with the latest version of the National Electrical Code (NEC).
Among other things, the NEC specifies that your outdoor outlet must have GFCI protection, weatherproof enclosures, and a faceplate that forms a tight seal to prevent moisture from coming in.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some other helpful questions when troubleshooting your outdoor power outlets:
Is It Safe To Use Outdoor Power Outlets?
Yes, in many ways, outdoor power outlets are just as safe as the ones inside. However, those outlets must be National Electrical Code (NEC)-compliant and include a weatherproof encasing.
Still, the outlet is only as safe as the appliance that you plug into it, so be sure those are safe for outdoor use as well.
What Is A GFCI Outlet?
GFCI stands for ‘ground-fault circuit interrupter’. That means a GFCI outlet comes with a protective feature that cuts the electrical circuit if it gets wet. Doing so will prevent you or anyone else from getting electrocuted. You’ll find that your outdoor outlet’s circuit enjoys GFCI protection.
Is There A Difference Between GFI And GFCI?
No, there is absolutely no difference between a GFI (ground-fault interrupter) and GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlet. Both terms refer to precisely the same thing. Unfortunately, however, some people use both of those terms interchangeably.
How Do I Reset My GFCI Outlet?
Resetting your GFCI outlet is very straightforward, but you must take precautionary steps first. For starters, do not touch the outlet until it is completely dry. Then, unplug all devices from the GFCI outlet and any other outlet on the same circuit. Once that’s done, you can push the reset button on the GFCI outlet.
How Do I Find My Circuit Breaker?
You’ll find all of your circuit breakers in a breaker box, also known as the main electrical box for your home. First, search your home for a metal box that’s built flush into the wall. When you open its door, you’ll see plenty of switches for the circuit breakers that protect your household’s circuits.