If you are planning on installing a new patio, avoid the shoulda, woulda, couldas by making this one phone call first – to your electrician. Why? Once you pour the concrete or lay the bricks, adding underground wiring is extremely difficult.
Disadvantages to Using Overhead Cable
Unless you enjoy dragging extension cords out every time you want to plug something in, which is inconvenient, not the safest, and unsightly, you’ll want some convenient outlets available near your patio. If your patio already exists without electricity, your only choice may be overheard electrical wires. If the span between the house and the patio is ten feet or less, you can use ordinary PVC covered cable.
Longer spans must be supported by a tensioned support wire and cable buckles, and this wire must be grounded to the house’s main grounding point. If the wire hangs over a pathway, the span must be at least 12 feet above ground, and at least 17 feet above ground over a driveway or any other area where vehicles may be driving. Sure, it gets the job done, but it’s not very attractive. Why ruin the aesthetics of a beautiful new patio with dangling wires?
Related Read: 3 Types of Patio Lighting Every Patio Needs
Two Options for Running Cable Underground
When running cable underground, there are two ways it can be done. Either run the wire underground through PVC pipes, or use cable designed to be buried underground.
Wire in PVC Pipe
The first option is to run electrical cable underground through PVC pipes. This conduit can be solvent-welded together to make a continuous run.
Bury Cable Underground
Another option is to use underground cable designed to be buried. There are a couple of rules to follow when burying cables – the cable must be buried at least 18 inches beneath paths or patios, and 30 inches beneath lawns and flowerbeds.
Other Tips for Patio Electrical
The problem with outdoor lighting is that outdoors gets wet. Water and electricity don’t mix. That’s why outdoor lighting requires special equipment and professional installation to ensure safety. Here are a few other areas to be aware of when installing outdoor lighting for your patio.
Covered Outdoor Outlets
Outdoor outlets should have spring-loaded covers. These covers protect the outlet from bugs, insects, dirt, and moisture. Also, by code, they need to be ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) for added safety. Because water is often present outdoors, a person working with power tools, for instance, is in danger of electrocution without a GFCI that will cut off the flow of electricity in the case of a surge. GFCI protection can be added easily to outdoor outlets.
Fountains & Water Features
The best way to provide power for fountains and wet location lighting is by the use of low voltage circuits. Low voltage usually means 12 volts – this is the same voltage as typical car batteries. Systems can be bought that provide wiring, lights and the transformer. The transformer is plugged into a standard household outlet and transforms the electricity to 12 volt DC. This is safe to use in outdoor and wet locations because it cannot electrocute you or your pets. The transformer should be plugged into an outlet protected by a GFCI. This added safety feature protects the circuit as well as the users.