Understanding the Importance of Exterior Receptacles at Decks

Introduction

Exterior receptacles at decks are essential for providing safe and convenient access to electricity. The 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) outlines two requirements for outdoor receptacles in one- and two-family dwellings, expanding on the 2005 edition’s singular requirement. Inspectors should be aware of these changes and the reasons behind them while also understanding how adequate weather protection for exterior receptacles can be achieved.

Two Requirements for Outdoor Receptacles

Requirement 1 (2005): The NEC stipulates that at least one outdoor receptacle must be present in both the front and rear of the house, not more than 6½ feet from the ground.

Requirement 2 (2008): Balconies, decks, and porches accessible from inside the dwelling unit must have at least one receptacle outlet installed within their perimeter. The receptacle shall not be located more than 6½ feet (2m) above the surface.

Exception

Balconies, decks, or porches with a usable area of less than 20 square feet (1.86 m2) are not required to have a receptacle installed.

Clarifications

The 2008 requirement is a supplement, not a replacement, of the 2005 requirement.

A single receptacle may comply with both requirements, depending on the location of the deck, balcony, or porch.

Inspectors should not call out the absence of exterior receptacles as a defect in houses built before the code was enacted. However, they can recommend installing receptacles for safety purposes.

H1: Rationale for the 2008 Code Supplement

If receptacles are not installed on large balconies, decks, or porches (larger than 20 square feet), extension cords are likely to be used, which can pose several dangers, including:

Structure Fires: Extension cords cause approximately 3,300 electrical fires in the United States each year, often due to overloading or short circuits.

Electrical Burns and Shocks: Old or damaged extension cords may cause electrical burns or shocks due to broken or frayed insulation.

Tripping: Nearly half of the 4,000 extension cord-related injuries occurring annually in the U.S. result from tripping over the cords themselves.

Moisture Protection for Exterior Outlets

To prevent moisture from entering the receptacle enclosure, the following measures should be taken:

The receptacle faceplate should rest securely on the supporting surface. Caulking compound can be used to fill gaps on uneven surfaces like stucco, stone, or brick.

Weatherproof enclosures and while-in-use covers are required for all 15- and 20-amp, 120/240-volt outdoor receptacles.

GFCI protection is necessary for all exterior receptacles, except in rare instances outlined by the NEC.

Conclusion

In summary, the NEC’s supplementary requirement for outdoor receptacle locations aims to reduce the dangers arising from extension cord usage. Inspectors should consider missing deck receptacles as safety issues and ensure adequate moisture protection.

FAQs

Q: What are the main hazards of extension cord usage?

A: Structure fires, electrical burns and shocks, and tripping are the major risks associated with using extension cords.

Q: What measures can be taken to ensure moisture protection for exterior outlets?

A: Use weatherproof enclosures and while-in-use covers, secure the receptacle faceplate on the supporting surface, and apply caulking compound on uneven surfaces to fill gaps.

Q: Why is GFCI protection important for exterior receptacles?

A: GFCI protection helps to prevent electrical shock by quickly shutting off power in the case of a ground fault, significantly reducing potential hazards.

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