Have you ever planned your day around doing some patio work only to discover that the outdoor socket isn’t working?
I know I have, and it’s definitely a mood-dampening situation!
But trust me:
Because this problem can be resolved quickly and inexpensively (in most cases), you can probably identify and resolve the problem yourself.
Through this practical guide, I’ll show you how to troubleshoot an outdoor outlet that’s not working.
I’ll also provide you with a list of outdoor outlet malfunction causes as well as instructions on how to stop outdoor lighting from tripping.
Let’s jump right in!
Reasons an Outdoor Outlet Isn’t Working
Some common causes are often to blame when your exterior power source is dead.
Tripped GFCI Outlet
The purpose of a GFCI outlet is to block electricity the instant a ground fault occurs, protecting the entire circuit from electrical faults.
If there’s a current leakage or a circuit overload, the GFCI outlet trips to protect the circuit from damage.
Tripped Circuit Breaker
When an outlet experiences a sudden surge of power, a short circuit, or any other electrical fault, the circuit breaker for that outlet trips.
Similar to the GFCI outlet, the circuit breaker is intended to protect the outlet’s system from potential damage.
Moisture Build-up Inside the Outlet
It’s an unavoidable fact that outlets placed outside will be exposed to the elements. As a result, exterior sockets are prone to moisture accumulation.
For example, after a rain a GFCI outlet may not even reset if they’re not weatherproofed.
Moisture build-up over time can eventually mess with the outlet’s connections.
And believe me, a rain could’ve been days ago!
Beyond that, condensation can damage the inside of outdoor sockets, increasing the risk of fire and electrocution.
How to Fix an Outdoor Outlet
There’s no need to panic if an outlet on your house’s outer walls stops working. In an hour maximum, you can resolve the issue with the outdoor outlet.
Best of all:
You can use the following steps to fix an interior outlet or an outdoor GFCI outlet that’s not working.
Here’s how you can troubleshoot and fix an outdoor outlet not working:
Step 1: Prepare the Tools and Outlet
Step 1.1: Get the Necessary Tools
If you suspect that a plug on the patio isn’t working, you need a few necessary tools at hand.
While most of the tools are almost always included in a basic toolbox, some essential tools may not be readily available in all homes—unless you’ve used them before.
Here are the tools you’ll most likely need:
- A screwdriver
- A hairdryer
- A circuit tester
- A voltage detector
Step 1.2: Dry the Outlet
Exterior outlets are exposed to all kinds of weather, making them susceptible to moisture build-up.
Before you come anywhere near the malfunctioning outside socket, you should dry it off from any condensation.
If you’re not in a rush and the weather is dry, you can leave the socket to dry overnight. You can also use a hairdryer to dry the socket out (get a longer extension cord from another outlet of course).
Just take off the outdoor socket front and blow-dry the socket’s insides until there’s no moisture left.
In case there’s a lot of water inside the socket and you’re having trouble drying it properly, you should have an electrician inspect it to fix it or replace it entirely.
After rain or during high humidity weather, avoid plugging in any appliances or devices to outdoor outlets to prevent any incidents.
Step 2: Troubleshoot the Outdoor Outlet
Once you’ve made sure that the socket is dry, proceed with the following steps in the order listed. If one step doesn’t fix the plug, move on to the next.
Step 2.1: Check GFCI Outlets
If you have old GFCI outlets and you’re not sure which one the dead exterior plug belongs to, you can use a circuit tester.
A circuit tester is a device that can be plugged into any type of outlet to determine whether or not power is reaching the circuit. You can buy it here.
The tripped GFCI outlet should also have a button protruding outward with the word “reset”. All you have to do is press that button and the circuit should turn back on.
Step 2.2: Check the Circuit Breaker
Most of the time, a tripped circuit breaker is the reason an outlet may stop working, especially if it’s in just one part of the house.
As a result, one of the first steps you should take is to check the circuit breakers in the main electrical box.
Breakers are usually labeled, so look for the one that says “outdoor outlets” or something similar.
You should find that the outdoor outlet breaker is in the middle or OFF position. Simply slide the breaker to ON.
However, if the outdoor outlet stopped working and the breaker isn’t tripped, you should turn your attention to the wiring.
Step 2.3: Check the Outlet’s Wire Connections
Start by switching off the outdoor outlet circuit breaker and using a voltage detector to ensure that no electricity is flowing through the plug.
Take off the plug’s front and check that all of the wires are connected to the outlet properly.
If you find any loose connections, you’ll have to call in a professional right away.
Step 2.4: Contact a Professional Electrician
Ultimately, whether or not you repaired the outside outlet, you should have a professional electrician thoroughly inspect your home’s electrical system.
The electrician will have the proper know-how and tools to make sure that the electrical system is free of malfunctions.
Step 3: Prevent Future Outdoor Outlet Failure
It’s easy to overlook the electrical system outside our homes, but by taking the following precautions, you can avoid any electrical incidents.
Replace Exterior Plugs with GFCI Outlets
GFCI outlets are designed for high-risk environments, such as in the bathroom, kitchen, basements, garages, and outdoor areas.
That’s why you should consider replacing the sockets outside with GFCI outlets.
Provide the Outlets with a Cover
Every outdoor outlet must have a weatherproof outlet cover to protect it from all kinds of elements, including rain, morning dew, dust, and even dirt.
Any foreign particles that get into the outlet can cause a slew of issues.
Avoid Plugging In Faulty Equipment
Faulty appliances and equipment can generate sparks and cause the circuit to trip. That’s why, before plugging in any device, you should inspect it for damaged cords, plugs, and wiring.
Inspect Outside Receptacles Regularly
Every now and then, you should look for and test the outdoor outlets for any damage.
First, look carefully for physical damage, such as broken fronts or visible wires.
Then, use a voltage detector or circuit tester to ensure that there’s power reaching the outlets. You can troubleshoot any outside outlet not working.
How to Stop an Outdoor Lighting from Tripping
To begin with, switch off the circuit breaker and check the bulbs to make sure none of them are burned out or loose.
Then, take a look at the wiring connections in the light fixtures and make sure that they haven’t loosened.
After inspecting the sockets, turn on the circuit breaker. If the light doesn’t come on, turn off the breaker for 10 minutes and then turn it back on.
Using a vacuum cleaner, clean all of the debris and dust that has accumulated inside the plug (see helpful video):
If nothing happens, you should contact a qualified electrician and have him inspect the issue right away.
Do outdoor outlets need their own circuit?
Outdoor outlets that are installed correctly and safely don’t need to be on their own circuit.
Still, some people prefer to provide the plugs on their outer walls individual circuits as a safety measure.
Is it necessary to install GFCI outlets outside?
According to the National Electrical Code, all outdoor outlets should be GFCI outlets.
These outlets shut off automatically as soon as they detect a current leakage or a short circuit. They’re meant to prevent electrical incidents and fires.
An outdoor outlet not working can be the result of a number of factors.
Luckily, troubleshooting the process is more or less a process of elimination that you can quickly and safely go through on your own.
Keep in mind, though, that if at any certain point you feel hesitant, you can always have a professional come in and inspect the situation.