Extension cables, cable reels or garden sockets that are laid above ground are simpler, cheaper and more flexible. We show you what to look for when buying and how you can use solar to power locations that are far away from the power grid.
A word first: If you want to have sockets installed permanently outside, you should ask an electrician to do so. Electricity is no fun, especially not outdoors. An external socket or damp-proof socket must meet other requirements for protection against water and dust.
Electric hedge trimmers, the scarifier or a lawn mower, many garden maintenance devices run on electricity. This makes them quieter than petrol products and those who can connect them to the power grid pay less when buying them than when using a battery model.
This class of device is characterized by the fact that it is not used all the time, but is pulled out every few weeks or months to carry out special tasks. Since you usually work with them on a dry day, you can be a little more generous with the necessary extension cable. Yes, it should be stable and specially protected against moisture, for example by sealing caps, but normally it does not have to withstand continuous rain. If you are looking for an extension for outdoors, you should pay attention to an IP44 certification. This protects against dirt “with a size of over 1 mm” and against “splashing water from all sides”. In terms of length, you should be a bit more generous, you would rather have 5 meters more than 5 meters too little.
Cable drum for outside
A cable drum stands one step above the simple extension cable. It supplies electricity over long distances and usually has several junction boxes to which several consumers can be connected – such as the hedge trimmer and a chopper (guide). In addition to the classic 230 V Schuko plugs, the drums are also available with CEE plugs, either on the cable or on the drum. That makes the drums interesting on the construction site or when camping.
For outdoor use, the cable drum should be protected against dirt and water in accordance with IP44, and the sockets themselves should have self-closing lids. With cable drums you should pay attention to the maximum values for watts and volts. These differ greatly depending on whether the drum is wound up or completely unwound.
Otherwise, the tightly wound cables cannot emit the heat generated when the current flows through them, and in the worst case there is a risk of overheating. High-quality cable drums have overheating protection that interrupts the power supply in an emergency, but you shouldn’t let it get that far. It doesn’t hurt to unwind the drum completely when in doubt.
Most cable drums for the construction site have a problem for the garden: There is a long cable to the cable drum, but after that you have to use an extension cable or drag the drum along with you. Special garden cable drums help here. These are more or less an extension cord wrapped around a cable drum. They are primarily suitable when only one device is to be operated, such as the lawn mower.
Garden sockets: Practical power distributors for outside
Extension cables and cable reels are suitable for short use, with the garden sockets you can create flexible sockets in the garden that defy wind and weather. This can be used, for example, to operate the Christmas lights, create external sockets in the garden shed or supply the base station of the lawnmower robot (theme world) including an outdoor access point for WiFi (advice) with power.
The devices have a simple structure. They differ from extension cables in that they are usually much thicker, because they are more protected, and one or more Schuko sockets. Here, too, IP44 is the minimum protection required, and the sockets are often additionally secured. Well-known are the Brennenstuhl spikes that are driven into the ground. Alternatively, there are nice-looking pillars or distribution boxes with a stone look.
The practical thing is that many of the devices can do more than just distribute electricity. Garden sockets from REV or the Kopp energy station have a timer, for example, with which one or more sockets can be switched on or off automatically. This is ideal for applications that do not require permanent electricity, such as evening lighting or a fountain in the garden. Other products, such as the Royal Gardineer garden socket, bring a lamp. Still other devices, for example from Brennenstuhl or Meross, are connected to the home network via WLAN and can be switched via voice assistants such as Alexa.
If you buy such a power distributor, you should pay attention to the cable length again. Better a little more so that you can lay the cable neatly so that nobody can trip over it. Ideally, the plug should also be placed in a protected location, even if it has IP44 certification. The less the elements can storm the device directly, the better it is.
Autonomous cameras and lights with solar
What if you can’t or don’t want to put electricity at all? Then cameras or lights with solar can step into the breach. With simple path lights, for example, there are numerous options that you simply stick into the ground and forget. The same applies to lights that illuminate the house number and make it easy to find even in the dark.
Wall lights with solar and integrated rechargeable batteries are no longer a problem either. These usually bring twilight sensors with them, during the day the lamps are deactivated and charge the battery. In addition, there is usually motion detection so that the lamp only comes on when something specifically happens in the sensor area of the lamp. That saves electricity. Nevertheless, the lamp should be set up or fixed in such a way that it gets enough hours of sunshine during the day to charge the battery.
IP cameras with solar panels, such as the Ring Spotlight (test report) or the Reolink Argus 2 (test report), are really exciting. This allows you to keep an eye on areas in the garden that are normally not visible – at least as long as there is WiFi. It is important, however, that the solar panels are not located directly on the camera, but ideally supply it with power via a cable. Then you are much more flexible when it comes to the positioning of the camera and solar panel.
If you want to use the cameras completely independently, for example to monitor the allotment house without WiFi, you will also find solar-compatible cameras with LTE modules. These offer space for an LTE SIM and can transmit images, videos and sound over the cellular network. A separate contract is required for this, however, we show suitable options in the LTE router guide: The best and cheapest tariffs for mobile surfing.
Electricity in the garden is essential, be it for fun or gardening (which need not be mutually exclusive). Those who only mow now and then are well advised to use an extension or a garden cable reel. For larger gardens or if the small barbecue house in the garden needs to be supplied with electricity for a longer period, an outdoor cable drum is worthwhile. A garden socket is a useful extension for the lights or to have a fixed point of contact for electricity in the garden.
Wherever possible, you should use circuits that are separated from the other circuits in the house or apartment by their own FI switches. This provides additional protection if the integrated safety functions fail. And, as mentioned, outside sockets should always be installed by a specialist.