When it comes to outdoor lighting, having a good understanding of the system and how to properly take care of it is essential. With unpredictable inclement weather conditions, one of the common questions people ask is – “can outdoor lights get wet?”
Yes, outdoor lights can get wet! This is why you need to intentionally choose the right type of light and take precautionary measures to protect it against water penetration.
Two major things come into play when determining whether your outdoor lights will survive the onslaught of a heavy downpour or flooding. These include the IP rating of the lights and whether the extension cords are rated for outdoor use. The IP rating is an indication of the level of protection the lights have against moisture and dirt.
Choosing outdoor-rated lights is a good starting point. But there are few other things you can do to protect the lights against wetness.
We will be treating all these in today’s article.
What is IP Waterproof Rating?
The IP (Ingress Protection) rating of a lamp tells how well it’s protected from dust and water. It is usually represented by two numbers following the letters “IP.”
The first number represents the lamps’ resistance to dust. It is measured on a scale of 0-6, with 6 being most desirable. A rating of 6 means the light is dust-tight, or it’s nearly impossible for foreign particles to get in.
This is important as dust and dirt can interfere with the circuitry of a lighting system, which might dim the light or, in worst cases, prevent it from coming on.
The second number of the IP rating tells how well the light is protected against water or simply how “watertight” it is. Similarly, this is measured on a scale of 0-8, with 8 being the best.
You want to choose outdoor lights that have at least an IP65 rating. This ensures they are rugged enough to withstand foreign objects and water jets. Of course, you can also useIP67 or IP68 lights; it’s even better!
Can outdoor LED lights get wet?
Yes, they can, especially when there’s a flood or excessive rainfall. However, any outdoor LED light rated for outdoor use is generally suitable for inclement weather conditions. Sometimes the outlets can get soaked, but the lights may still work correctly.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no chance of the lights ever getting wet.
It all depends on the force of the weather. When subjected to continuous abuse by rain, there’s still a good chance that a weatherproof light fixture will get wet.
This is why an extra layer of protection is often recommended, especially if the lights are located close to the ground where they may be exposed to flooding or water-logging.
Can you leave outdoor lights in the rain?
As long as you’re using “outdoor” lights, it’s safe to leave them in the rain as they’re built to brave the environment. However, with a connection of string lights, a heavy downpour can blow up the individual fuse in each string light.
This usually happens when water bridges the prongs on the plug. You may notice some sparks.
Sometimes, this can also result from having too many string lights on the same connection. This can cause a circuit overload.
It is best to limit the connection to whatever is stated on the circuit box.
It’s better if you have each outdoor outlet on a dedicated circuit. However, if you’re using shared circuits, make sure the string lights are spread out between circuits. This will help in reducing the load.
What happens if outdoor lights get wet?
When outdoor lights get wet, your safety is compromised because water often serves as a conductor, so when it comes in contact with the electrical current running in the light fixtures, it may cause shock, electrocution, or fire.
So your bulbs need to be sealed.
Even when sealed, you can take extra precaution by locating the lights in elevated positions above the ground or where that can get waterlogged or flooded.
And if you must use the light in a damp location, make sure it has a waterproof rating.
Besides safety concerns, wetness can also dim the lights and ruin the bulbs over time.
How to protect outdoor lights from getting wet?
Here are various ways you can make your outdoor lights more watertight.
Locate Lights Away from Rain
There’s no other simpler way to protect your outdoor lights from getting wet than to locate them where there’s less chance of getting hit by the rain. For example, your porch lights can be stationed near the front door or somewhere else where the rain can’t reach.
Another great idea is to locate the lamps under overhangs. This will also prevent the water from reaching the fixtures. You can also use overhangs for motion lights if you’ve got those. The two combinations ensure both your lights are properly secure.
While choosing the right location for your lights is the simplest way to keep them protected from the rain, it may not always be convenient for everyone.
Use Cord Protectors to Secure Plugs from Water
It’s not only your lights that need protection. The plugs also require insulation to keep water away from the entire setup. This is very important, especially when dealing with string lights.
It is common to have many string lights plugged together. Secure the connected plugs with cord protectors to keep them together and prevent water from getting in.
Avoid using electrical tape only as it’s not completely waterproof.
Use Extension Cords that are Outdoor-rated
Avoid using indoor extension cords, as they are not designed for the tough conditions outside the house. Instead, stick to outdoor-rated extension cords.
These cords usually come with rubber, plastic, or vinyl covers built to survive in harsher and wetter conditions.
You can ascertain whether or not your extension cord is rated for outdoor use by checking its rating code. This is usually stamped to the cord and consists of letters that describe the jacket type and where you can use the cord. If you see the letter “W,” then it means you can use the cord outdoors.
Use Light Shields
Buying weatherproof outdoor lights is probably the best way to ensure your lights survive inclement weather conditions. As earlier indicated, such fixtures have an IP rating of 65.
However, if your existing fixtures are not wholly weatherproof and you cannot afford to change them yet, then consider using light shields.
Light shields are a cheaper way to provide weather protection to your light fittings and keep them sealed from moisture. Just fit the small boxes over the lamps or light fittings and seal them.
Use GFCI Outlets
You can use GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) to ensure your lights don’t short out during the rain.
GCFI outlets help to prevent electrical circuit failure and are often recommended for exterior use.
Simply plug the lighting into an outdoor outlet or GCFI. Then wrap with electric tape (I recommend Teflon tape). The tape should be wrapped tight around the plugs such that it creates a watertight seal.
Note: GFCI is not Fail-Safe, so use it with care. I advise getting an electrician to set up the outlets instead of doing it yourself.
Don’t Leave any Socket Open
An open socket is another thing that can cause wetness in light bulbs.
Normally, when a string light, bulb, or lamp is fitted into a socket, it’s usually hard for water to get in. But when the socket is left open, dirt and moisture can easily get in, often resulting in short-circuiting.
So make sure there are no empty sockets anywhere.
All sockets should be fitted with their string lights or bulbs. And for light fixtures that are no longer working, don’t remove them until you have a replacement. One or two damaged bulbs will not stop other lights from working.
Consider caulking the lights
You can reinforce the waterproofness of your outdoor lights by caulking any slight gap between the lamp and mounting board or backplate. This creates an all-season seal that makes it more difficult for water to get into the light.
To carry out this, you will need a water-resistant silicone caulk and an appropriate applicator gun.
Outdoor lights are great for illuminating your home exterior and providing additional security against intruders. However, it’s also vital to ensure they are safe and can withstand the conditions outside. The methods discussed above will help you protect your outdoor lights from getting wet and keep you safe from any water – electricity hazards.