If you’re anything like me, you spend a fair bit of time outside working on projects requiring electric power and thus the use of extension cords. You’re also probably very conscious of the risks involved and want to be careful not to hurt yourself or your loved ones in the process.
The thought of electrocuting yourself, should it rain, probably sends shivers up and down your spine, or just makes you want to abandon the project flat out. Not to mention the fact that the subject of electrical cords outdoors can be intimidating for something that’s supposed to be simple.
Perhaps you’re an RV camper, and you need extension cords, but again, you don’t want to run the risk of electrocuting yourself when it rains or when there’s water about.
In this article we will cover ways to protect you from the various hazards that come with the elements, so that you can work or use your extension cords safely and with the peace of mind that comes with it.
Following these tips will give you the peace of mind you need when working or using electrical cords outside when faced with the elements of nature. We will also learn a little bit more about this seemingly simple subject as well.
Let’s get started!
DIY Methods On How To Protect Outdoor Extension Cord From Rain
Use Cling Wrap
Industrial strength pallet wrap is good way to weatherize your connections when using extension cords outside.
Wrap the connection portion of the cords tightly, using as much of the plastic wrap as needed to keep out the water and prevent electric shock.
The neat thing about this method is that not only can it be an effective standalone method, but you can use it in tandem with the other methods listed in the article for added protection against the elements.
Here is another link to a video illustrating this method in action:
The Bottle Method
This method is good for covering Christmas lights but helps when covering connections also. For this method, you will need to grab an empty, 2-liter soda bottle. The tools you will need are a pair of scissors and a utility knife (or box cutter), a sharp edged tool that can cut through a bottle. Below are the instructions:
- Make a cut in the bottle about half-way in between the bottle with your sharp-edged tool. The cut should be about 1/4″ around the bottle.
- Take the scissors and make a round hole at the end of the slit, this hole will help keep the cord in place.
- Next, slide the connections and plugs safely inside the bottle, leaving the cords to hang out of the round holes.
Follow these three simple steps, and you’re done. You can also use something like an old margarine/butter tub for this method as well.
Here’s a link to a video illustrating this method in action:
Use PVC pipes and end-caps
The use of PVC pipes and end-caps can serve to lock out the water and keep the connections and wires protected from the elements. Below are the listed steps you will need for this method. This method is a bit more involved, requiring the use of a few tools, but is nonetheless effective.
This video illustrates this method in action:
The Bucket Method
This method requires the use of two buckets surrounding the connection and a shovel. First, you take one bucket and place it on the ground, set the part of the cords that are connected on top of the first bucket, which is placed with the opening facing the ground. Then, take the second bucket and place the opening face down toward the ground, sliding the bucket on top of the second bucket to form a seal. If you’re worried about wind, you can use a shovel to dig a tight-fitting hole around the first bucket. Slide the first bucket in the ground, pushing it as deep into the ground as needed, and then follow the aforementioned two steps. A simple weight would suffice, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful.
This video illustrates the bucket method in action:
Power Cord Shield
You probably have all you need for this method. All that’s required is a container, a drill and any kind of knife.
Locate a container that covers the visible extension cord (as much as possible). The thicker and longer the extension cord, however, the bigger the container must be. Use a container that will fit your extension cord.
For example, if you’re using a 25 ft. fan-style, extension cord, you want something that will cover it up when bundled together. If it’s wound together, it shouldn’t be any wider than about 2-3 feet in width, so an 18 gallon tote should suffice for most containers. Use bigger ones if necessary depending on the width and size of the container.
Next, once you’ve located the container, use a drill to bore holes in the container on opposite sides. Then slide the cord through both holes on either side, and extend the cord as needed (again, make sure that you’re using a cord that is in new, or like new, condition. Make necessary adjustments as needed to both the cord and the container. Use the knife to adjust the hole as needed. Make sure the connections are secured inside the tote or container.
With this method, you’re protected from precipitation and humid weather. Make sure you use either duct tape or standard electrical tape. Metal tape is asking for trouble.
The lid should be secure as tightly as possible, and of course, avoid leaving the cord near puddles.
Power Cord Protector
This method requires only a rubber, non-inflatable inner tube. A bicycle inner tube, for example would work fine with this method. Cut one end of the inner tube open, and then slide the extension cord inside. Cover as much as the tube as possible, slide it through, and then cut off the other end of the inner tube. Electrical tape is highly recommended (but still optional) in order to secure the inner tube to the extension cord.
Outdoor Extension Cord Cover
For this method, you will need a few plastic bags. Reusable plastic bags from the grocery store will not do here, so look for name brand bags.
You can cover the bags around the power cord and use some electrical tape to secure them, or you can cut the bag into smaller pieces and secure them with electrical tape.
This is entirely dependent on how long your extension cord is and how much of it is exposed to the weather.
A Few Tips
- NEVER, EVER, use nails staples or any kind of metal to fasten a power cord to a surface. Doing so will result in electric shock, and cause you serious harm.
- Never stretch your power cords to their full length, especially if you’re working outside during inclement weather. There should always be a little slack to your cords. This can lead to even more unnecessary harm and situations that could lead to injury.
- Never put a power cord through a door, window or any other kind of opening in your home. Doing so could lead to openings in the power cords, which lead to exposed wires, which means more danger to yourself and your loved ones.
- Remember, extension cords are a temporary source of power. Always keep them unplugged when not in use (ESPECIALLY if it’s raining outside, for example). Leaving power cords plugged in when not in use is extremely dangerous and not recommended. If possible, always unplug them and store them away in a safe, dry place after you finish working.
- When around or near an outlet, always make sure that the cord is completely plugged in and isn’t hanging out of the socket. This will help minimize the chances of serious injury from electrocution and physical harm as a whole (a cord that isn’t all the way plugged in can also be a tripping hazard).
- Treat your power cord like any other tool in the box, when you’re finished, wrap it up and store it in a dry, safe environment (such as a basement or garage). Keeping your cords outdoors serves only to increase risk of injury in the future.
- When using electrical cords it’s important to keep them under control. Using ties and ropes keeps your cords from getting out of control, getting tangled, and a host of other hazards. You can also use electrical tape to duct tape to keep the length of the cord in control and the risk at a minimum. Tape and ties alone won’t protect the connections, so use this tip in conjunction with the others for added safety when using cords outdoors.
- In general, keep it neat and clean. Avoid tangling your cords with other cords (if you’re using multiple cords it’s important to be extra careful), and keep the area around the cords and connections dry, neat and clean. This will go a long way to preventing the risks of injury.
Any Product recommendations?
Absolutely! If you don’t feel like using these DIY methods and prefer buying pre-made tools for the job, there are plenty of options on the market for you. You can purchase them online through stores like Amazon, or in a brick-and-mortar store like Wal-Mart.
Here are a few pre-made options for you on the market:
Cord connect is a product that protects electrical connections with a water-tight seal around the plug/extension outlet. It keeps the plugs from pulling apart as well, so you can work in peace knowing that your connections will be stable and weatherproof. To use it, you close it around each end of the cord, then twist to lock the cords together for the weatherproof seal.
Here is a link to the product: [Here]
Here is a video that demonstrates this product’s effectiveness:
Twist and Seal Mini – 5 x 2in. Cord and Plug protector
This twist and seal mini cord protector is an innovative element resistant casing for smaller connections, including outdoor plugs and extension cords.
Link to product: [Here]
Heavy Duty Cord Protector
-This heavy-duty power cord protector is 6.5 feet long and is made of a durable, bendable PVC material. It will blend in well with the environment and help protect your cords from the elements. The flexible material is easy to cut to the length needed. It can be used indoors or outdoors and is also slip-resistant.
This product is designed to keep all of your electrical equipment safe and dry. It can be used for surge protectors and power strips as well. It’s also portable, so you can bring it anywhere with you if needed. It’s made from durable plastic and has a weatherproof seal. It’s versatile as well, as it can be used for things ranging from winter holiday lights and power tools. It can also hold up to five cords as well.
-These cord protectors come in a pack of four which can help you save money. They’re made of commercial grade plastic and have rubber safety seals to help keep out the elements. Simply place your cords inside the protectors and snap them shut. They can do the job in any kind of precipitation and work as intended.
A Few More Tips
Keep your cords dry
For obvious reasons, keep your cords away from puddles of water, and out of the way of precipitation, especially the section of the cords where the connection is. Purchasing cord protectors and taking the measures laid out in the article are good ways to keep your cords dry and lower or eliminate the risk of electrocution and injury. Never plug in an electrical cord when it’s wet, and never connect to a wet outlet. Doing so could result in electric shock and/or serious injury. The number one hazard when dealing with electrical cords is electric shock due to irresponsible placement near water or in wet weather. If you find yourself in need of electrical cords, and there is precipitation in the air (snow or rain), take extra care to keep your cords dry.
Make sure the cord is in one piece
When using electrical cords, be sure to use cords that do not have exposed or frayed wires. Use electrical cords that have their covering in-tact. Using cords with exposed wires exponentially raises the risk of serious injury and/or electric shock. Use cords that are in new, or like new condition. This is an obvious safety risk and should be avoided period. Before using your cords, make sure to check for exposed wires. Safety is obviously the key, here. Again, to avoid this risk entirely, make sure to use wires that are either new, or close to new as possible. This is, pure and simple, like most of the tips in this article, common sense.
Be aware of the maximum length of a cord
Make sure to pay close attention to the labeling of an extension cord. You can usually find the cord’s gauge rating right on the cord jacket. If you’re in need of a new extension cord, be sure to use cords that have the same rating as the one you’re replacing. These crucial details can be easily overlooked by most, but are important to prevent accidents from happening.
Never extend a cord beyond its maximum length
-When using an electrical cord in general, it’s important to keep it as close to the outlet as you possibly can, keep the outlet and connection out of range of water or precipitation, and, as we’ll highlight in this section, never extending a cord beyond its maximum length. There should always be a little slack to the cord, and, if possible, use some kind of tie (like a bread tie or rope even) to reign in the rest of the cord. If you’re doing work that involves the use of power tools, make sure to work as closely to the outlet as possible. You don’t want to work so far away from the outlet the cord becomes over-stretched or over-taxed in length. The added benefit of being mindful about the length of the cord, and making sure that you’re keeping it coiled together when using it, is that you avoid the risk of fraying the cord. The cords will last longer, and you will be safer if you don’t hyperextend the cords close to or beyond their maximum length. You’ll get more out of the cord, and, most importantly, you will be safer for it.
Never step on a cord
Using electrical cords outside usually means a higher risk of driving over or stepping on a cord. Avoid doing these at any cost. Do not leave your cords laying out on your lawn or driveway, for example, as heavy vehicles and tear apart your cord and open you to the risks that come with open or frayed cords mentioned earlier. The amount of weight on a vehicle can put severe stress on the cord and make it dangerous and unable to be used. When using cords outside, keep them out of the range of heavy vehicles. Also, if you have children or pets, make sure they do not accidentally step on them. Even if the cord is in good shape, you avoid a potential disaster. Be mindful of where you lay out your cords if you’re working on your lawn, driveway or any other property or plot of land you happen to be working on, or using your cord on. It’s important to not only keep yourself safe, but your loved ones as well.
Extension cords help make life easy for us, especially when working on outdoor projects/endeavors that require the use of electrical power. Use these tips and exercise caution when using extension cords when facing the elements. Protect yourself, your loved ones, your tools and your extension cords when outside. Avoid the elements, especially water, at all costs. Keep your cords in good working condition, use cords that are in one piece. If you do not feel confident using DIY methods, purchase cord protectors and other measures of protection from hardware stores or online. Be mindful of where you leave your cords, and try to keep them as close as possible to the outlet while keeping the connection(s) out of the weather and away from water. Extension cords help us in our day-to-day life, and if we’re working on projects. Work smart and work safely when using extension cords outside!