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Inspecting Exterior Electrical Components

Inspecting Exterior Electrical Components

As we enter the “damp” season it is important for our clients to understand the importance of protecting themselves and their families from electric shock. A home inspector can really help their clients out when it comes to this very important issue. We all know that GFCI (ground-fault circuit-interrupter) protection is required for all outdoor receptacles (either receptacles or circuit breakers). Other requirements for outdoor receptacles:

  • There should be at least one outdoor receptacle at the front and rear of the property. They must be readily accessible from the ground and positioned no more than 6 1/2 feet above grade
  • Decks, patios and balconies with interior access should have a receptacle no more than 6 1/2 feet above the deck or balcony surface. Some municipalities require a receptacle at each side of a deck or balcony, accessible from the ground.
  • Receptacles in damp / wet locations (under protective covers, such as a porch roof) must be weather-resistant and have a weatherproof cover. The cover should provide sealed weather protection even when cords are plugged into the receptacle.
  • An electrical GFCI receptacle should be installed no closer than 6 feet and no further than 20 feet from the closest edge of the pool. The receptacle must be no higher than 6 1/2 feet above the pool deck.

Receptacles used to power pump systems on pools and spas must be no closer than 10 feet from the inside walls of a permanent pool, spa, or hot tub if they are not-GFCI protected, and no closer than 6 feet from the inside walls of a permanent pool or spa if they are GFCI protected. These receptacles must be single receptacles that can serve no other devices. HERE ARE SOME GUIDELINES FOR INSPECTING OUTDOOR ELECTRIC: 

Outdoor Lighting

  • Light fixtures in wet/exposed areas must be listed for use in wet locations.
  • Light fixtures in damp areas (protected by an eave / roof) must be listed for damp locations.
  • Surface-mounted electrical boxes for all electrical fixtures must be secure and be approved for wet / damp locations.
  • Depending on the location, exterior light fixtures may not require GFCI protection. I recommend that all exterior circuits are GFCI protected.
  • Low-voltage lighting systems must be approved for exterior use. Check the tag for requirements
  • Low-voltage light fixtures must not be closer than 5 feet away from the outside walls of pools, spas, or hot tubs.
  • Transformers for low-voltage lighting must be accessible and if possible protected from the elements.
  • Switches controlling pool or spa lights or pumps must be located at least 5 feet from the outside walls of the pool or spa unless they are separated from the pool or spa by a wall.
  • Exposed or buried wiring/cable must be listed for specific use. Type UF cable is the most commonly used nonmetallic cable for residential outdoor wiring runs.
  • UF / underground cable may be approved for direct burial (without conduit) with a minimum of 24 inches of cover, however some municipalities may require THHN cable inside conduit. (I always recommend this application to my clients)
  • Wiring buried inside rigid metal (RMC) or intermediate metal (IMC) conduit must have at least 6 inches of earth cover; wiring in PVC conduit must have at least 18 inches of cover.
  • Backfill surrounding conduit or cables must be smooth granular material without rocks.
  • Low-voltage (30 volts max) wiring must be buried at least 6 inches deep.
  • Buried wiring runs that go above ground must be protected in conduit from the required cover depth or 18 inches (whichever is less) to its termination point above ground, or at least 8 feet above grade. We see unprotected wires extending out of the ground on a regular basis.
  • Electrical service wires overhanging a pool, or hot tub must be at least 22 1/2 feet above the surface of the water (or diving surface). However some municipalities require that overhead wires do not extend over a hot tub or pool at any height.
  • Data transmission wires (telephone, internet, etc.) must be at least 10 feet above the surface of the water in pools, and hot tubs.

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