For many people, the backyard is where the magic happens. When the weather is nice, the family plays outdoors, has barbeques, and hosts parties. The backyard should be able to accommodate all of these activities and more. When you’re making plans to upgrade your backyard, there are several electrical considerations you need to make. For an exciting backyard experience, you may need to plan for power outlets, lighting, speakers, swimming pools, and outdoor appliances—depending on what you’re wishing to accomplish.
If you aren’t sure where to start, we are going to go over the essentials to help you with the backyard electrical renovation process.
Planning Your Power Outlets
Installing a power outlet is a relatively simple process for a trained professional. Electricians usually prefer tapping into an existing indoor outlet to make installation quicker and more efficient. First, the electrician locates where you’d like to place the outlet and double-checks to make sure it’s situated within the acceptable limits according to code. Next, he turns off the power and tests the circuit to ensure that it’s no longer live. Next, the electrician disconnects the indoor outlet and removes the box knockout to access the interior.
The professional then drills a hole, allowing wires to pass seamlessly from the interior space to the outside. The electrician will then run circuit cables through the knockout hole and the recently created space to the exterior. Next, the professional installs the pigtail wires, using the cable from a cable roll to make up the new connection. Once this is done, the electrician will then reinstall the indoor outlet and move to install the outdoor box. The final step is the installation of the GFCI circuit and testing to ensure that everything works.
Setting the Mood Safely with Outdoor Lighting
The lighting you put in your backyard can have different uses. The use will often define the type of fixture installed. How you use the lighting in your backyard can set the mood for the occasion.
- Safety and Security
- These lights are often placed along walkways, paths, stairs, and garage. Common fixtures include floodlights to illuminate the area and are often connected to a manual switch or are motion activated.
- Accent or Decoration
- These types of lights are used around front doors, porches, decks, and patio areas. The fixtures used often include post or wall placement, hanging lanterns, or pendants.
- Landscape Accenting
- You can use landscape lighting to bring focus to backyard features, the garden, shrubbery, or fountains. Well lights, deck lights, walkway lights, and spotlights are commonly used for this purpose.
When bringing power to these lights, electricians also have a few rules of thumb that they depend on. Cables that pass through wet areas or underground need to be underground feeder (UF-B) type cables. If these cables are underground, they should be buried no less than twenty-four (24) inches deep. Allowances may be made for smaller-capacity circuits with GFCI protection, allowing cables to be buried as little as twelve (12) inches belowground. The entire length of the cable is also supposed to be protected by a conduit. Any opening that carries a UF cable also needs to have the proper bushing to ensure that fraying remains minimal.
Installing Outdoor Speakers
For the best sound quality, you don’t want your speakers to be placed too close to one another. Use banana plugs to connect your outdoor speakers to the amp. These provide a much more reliable connection than just stripped, bare wire. Finally, you can test the speaker by turning it on and seeing if the sound comes out. If you need to troubleshoot, you should start by checking that the speakers have access to power and that the amp’s connections are correctly installed and connected.
Swimming Pools and Permanent Wiring
If your swimming pool is a permanent fixture in your backyard, the wiring must be permanent as well. Most of these components will be found in one location, inside a breaker box, which will be a sub-box of the main home’s breaker panel. The most common wiring for a pool include:
- Pool pump
- Booster pump
- Gas heater
- Heat pump
- Salt generator
- Pool lights
It is crucial to hire a professional if handling electrical work is out of your range or comfort zone. Many lives have been claimed as a result of electrical work around a pool. Make sure that all electricity is shut off to the equipment pad and the breaker box for the pool. For overhead electrical lines above a pool, they must be situated at least 22.5 feet above the water or the base of a diving platform. Any communications cables should be at least 10 feet above.
Underground wiring is a different consideration altogether. You’re not allowed to run any sort of underground electrical lines under your pool. When installing electrical wiring around the pool, the recommended installation space is at least five feet from the sidewall of the pool. Electrical outlets for pumps and motors should be situated between six and ten feet away from pool walls. These must be GFCI-protected, with the ability to be locked. The outlet rule for in-ground pools is that there must be at least one GFCI-protected outlet for convenience, located between six and 20 feet from the water’s edge. General outdoor outlets can be no closer than 20 feet from a pool if they are not GFCI-protected. Those that are GFCI-protected can be no closer than six feet. The purpose is to help minimize the risk of shock.
Preparing for Appliances
Outdoor kitchen installations aren’t cheap. Home Advisor notes that, at its top end, an outdoor kitchen can set a property owner back as much as $21,400. Planning for utilities and appliances should take precedence when putting together an outdoor kitchen to avoid having an expensive kitchen that can’t function as intended. When you consult your electrician, they’ll most likely advise you on your electricals based on your kitchen type. For a fully electric outdoor kitchen, an electrician will recommend a dedicated circuit panel be installed. This panel should be connected to its own breaker, to reduce the load on the house’s electrical system. While 110V wiring is the standard in homes, depending on the number and type of appliances that you’re running, you may need a 220V installation instead. Your electrician should advise you on which one is preferable in the circumstances. Before finishing the installation of turf, stones, or other types of flooring where electrical appliances will be installed, the wiring should be completed. The flooring infrastructure will provide an added layer of protection and security to the wiring for the appliances.
Executing Your Backyard Renovation Plans
Taking on a backyard renovation on your own can be overwhelming, especially if you have not handled electrical work in the past. Hiring a professional to help with these jobs can help you get it right the first time, and avoid potential safety dangers or need for replacement. Professional electricians might also be able to offer insight into the complications you encounter when planning, especially around pools. No matter what your plan is, or how you plan on executing it, make sure it is done safely.
This article is provided by Bobby Lynn who is the Owner of LiveWire Electrical, a fully licensed and insured residential electrical company serving Charlotte, NC and surrounding areas. Bobby has been in the electrical industry for over 20 years and has a vast knowledge of all things electrical.