7 Common Outdoor Electrical Problems

March 10, 2023

Are you having any outdoor electrical problems? Do breakers trip or lights turn off when it rains? Does the power to your house go out during storm events? Frustrated? Who wouldn’t be! If you’re finding yourself in this situation, it’s time for an electrical inspection. Here are some things to consider.

Caution: Electrical systems are dangerous and should be respected, treating each condition as if a wire is live or hot.


Obstructed Power Lines

Tree limbs are the most common reason for obstructed power lines. The limbs may cause breaks in the wire insulation, excessive bending, or even complete fracture in extreme weather events. So, how do you manage this problem? Annual tree trimming performed by a licensed company with an arborist on staff can help to save you headaches down the road. Dead or dying trees and trees that have the potential to obstruct the flow of power should be removed.

Loose Ground Rod Connection

Although this connection is important, there is not much to investigate when things go wrong. The ground rod is usually located near the main electrical panel on the outside of your house. Twist the fastener connected to the ground rod with your hand. If the fastener comes off, moves, or twists, then the screw needs to be tightened against the ground rod. Once secured, the ground wire can establish a connection with the rod and open flow to the panel.

Open Service Panel Box or Breaker Box Cover

The electrical service panel box or breaker box is the electrical unit on the outside of your home, where the electricity enters your house or services a piece of equipment. Each box has a cover that usually has a hinge at the top or side of the box. Over time the hinge can break and/or misalignment, causing the box to close improperly. If this happens, rainwater can enter the service box and cause major issues. Every time you open the breaker box, ensure that the cover is completely closed and latched to avoid water intrusion to your electric panel.

Corroded Electrical Service Conduit

If you have underground electrical service and your home was built before the 1980s, you may have a metal conduit or pipe coming from the ground into your electrical service panel. Often, these conduits or pipes can rust or corrode at the ground level, creating holes in the pipe and exposing the electrical wire to your home. This condition is dangerous and should be repaired immediately by a licensed electrical contractor. These are live wires and should not be handled by anyone other than a professional!

Missing Switch or Receptacle Covers 

All electrical switches and receptacles (outlets) located on the exterior of your home should be equipped with weatherproof cover plates. These plates are commercially available and prevent water intrusion into your electrical system. Missing plates or covers allow moisture into the system through wind-driven rain and high humidity, which can eventually cause outlets to short or fail. Broken covers should be replaced immediately.

Open Spare Plates in Panel Boxes

Open spares or knockouts should never be present in the interior plate of your electrical service panel. Unused breakers should be closed to prevent accidental shocks, prevent sparks from escaping in the event of a short, and keep pests out of the wiring. Protective plates should be installed within the panel to mitigate any electrical hazards.

Defective GFCI Receptacles

GFCI receptacles are common, usually found within moisture-prone areas of the home like bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoors. A defective receptacle can be identified when the Test/Reset buttons on the GFCI outlet fail to operate properly. If this condition occurs, the GFCI receptacle requires replacement.

Licensed and qualified electrical contractors should always be consulted to manage the repair and maintenance of your electrical system to prevent injury or death. Electrical hazards, such as the ones listed above, can put your home at risk for serious damage or even total loss in the event of a fire. Don’t put yourself and your family in jeopardy, most issues on this list are simple fixes that can be repaired quickly. When looking for someone to perform maintenance on your home, trust qualified technicians and contractors that are backed by certifications and experience.

Helping homeowners understand the many systems in their home and offering guidance on common and uncommon problems that may arise are our goals at HOUSETIPS. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have any questions!

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