Outdoor Power: Get a slice of the great outdoors

Peter Ratcliffe, Sales Director of GreenBrook Electrical, discusses the growing demand for outdoor power products, the variety of solutions on the market and the up-selling opportunity for the wholesaler and contractor.

Years ago, it was unlikely that homeowners would need to use electrical power outdoors unless they were mowing the lawn or cutting the hedge and then an extension lead, perhaps with a PowerBreaker adapter, for the extra safety-conscious, would do the trick.

These days, our willingness to make our gardens part of our living space and a venue for our leisure time has led to a considerable increase in the number of outdoor power applications.

Exterior lighting, water features and hot tubs are all commonplace and seasonal electrical requirements (such as Christmas lights) have also meant that consumers are looking for better outdoor power solutions for their homes.

Similarly, demand for practical outdoor power solutions is also growing in the commercial market and in this scenario the drive to ensure that outdoor power usage is safe as well as practical is even stronger.

No longer is the need for outdoor power confined to locations like building sites and commercial areas – the smoking ban has seen pubs, restaurants and public halls invest in providing outdoor areas which are not only often lit but also heated and wired into the establishments A/V system.

The PowerBreaker ProteKt range offers spur units, sockets, timers and PowerBreaker RCDs, all ensuring that contractors have plenty of options for specifying a best fit solution for any application.

All PowerBreaker ProteKt products are IP66-rated and have been tested under multi-directional power hosing conditions and are therefore suitable for the most demanding conditions, including pressure washers and these products should offer safe and reliable performance in even the most challenging environments, such as commercial car washes. IP66 also protects from the ingress of dust and dirt particles – all present in both commercial and domestic situations.

Product features and benefits

Whatever the IP rating, the importance of considering the actual features and benefits of individual products cannot be over stressed.

For example, it’s important to note whether the product still protects from ingress of dust and water to the required standard even when plugged in. It is also important to ensure the lids close when using a moulded plug.

Only a product that has a lid designed to close securely around the flex will provide this level of protection. And if the outdoor socket does have such a lid, it is then worth noting whether the lid is clear enough to allow the user to see whether a plug is in place or whether an indication light is switched on.

PowerBreaker ProteKt offers all of these features. It’s worth remembering, too, that performance and safety are not he only key selling points of outdoor power products; durability is also crucial – after all, they will be constantly subjected to all kinds of weather conditions and wear and tear.

UV protection

While the focus is on waterproofing and resistance to dust it is easy to forget that heat and sunlight can also cause the unit to deteriorate over time, which is why the PowerBreaker ProteKt range has also been designed with UV protection to increase durability. It’s by signposting contractors and specifiers to added-value features such as these that wholesalers can help them identify the most functional, cost effective and fit for purpose solutions.

With safety so high on the agenda, IP rated sockets with integral RCDs are a popular choice as these remove the need for an RCD adaptor and avoid the risk of nuisance tripping. For commercial applications, the safest option is often to opt for an IP rated spur unit to avoid any possibility that electrical cables could be unplugged by mistake or due to vandalism.

Energy efficiency

Meanwhile, if energy efficiency is part of the brief, an IP rated digital timer could be the most appropriate choice as this would allow devices such as outdoor lights – in either domestic or commercial settings – to be switched off automatically when not required.

Finally it is sensible to think ahead as domestic and commercial demand for outdoor power grows it may be prudent to install a double socket even if there is only a requirement for a single socket at the present item as this will help to futureproof the installation.

Ultimately, outdoor power is an upselling opportunity for contractors and wholesalers alike. Any domestic or commercial building can benefit from the availability of outdoor power; a professionally installed socket, spur, switch or timer enhances both the flexibility and the safety of outdoor power usage when compare to the old fashioned extension lead approach. It pays, therefore to know what is out there and to maximise the opportunity outdoor power can provide.