All exterior receptacle outlets need to be covered for protection from rain and moisture. The National Electrical Code (NEC 406.9) separates the requirement into two categories:
1) Damp locations - Where the receptacle is in a location that is protected from beating rain or water runoff, it is considered to be in a damp location and can have a cover that is weatherproof only when a cord is not inserted. A hinged-type cover, like the one shown below, is acceptable for a damp location, but not a wet location.
2) Wet locations - When the location is exposed to beating rain or water runoff (unprotected location) the required cover must also be weatherproof when a cord is inserted. This means a bubble-type or other type cover that offers all-weather protection, even when a cord is plugged in, like in the photo at the top of the page. Newer installations also have a recessed receptacle with a flush weather cover plate. This is also called an “in-use" receptacle cover.
The hinged-type cover was previously approved for wet locations, but no longer. Also, even in homes built when the hinged-type cover was still approved, the approval was only for temporary use of the receptacle, such as for an electric leaf blower. Any permanently installed cord, like for a sprinkler control panel, requires an in-use receptacle cover.
Another requirement for exterior receptacles is GFCI-protection, which has been necessary since the 1975 edition of the NEC.
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To learn more about electrical wiring, devices, and receptacles, see these other blog posts:
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Visit our ELECTRICAL page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.