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I have to get power to provide an outlet for an awning at high level.

The nearest power source is an external light fixture. Can I wire into this? If so is there anything special I should know?

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Should you? No, Greebo is right (+1), lights and outlets should be separate.

Can you? Maybe, it depends on whether the power source is at the light fixture, or at the light switch. If it's at the light switch, then your outlet would also be switched.

What do you need to know? Everything about electrical safety and codes so that you don't electrocute yourself or create a dangerous situation. Things like turning the power off at the breaker, testing the lines before you touch anything, using a GFCI outlet, using an outlet cover for exterior protection, stapling the wire to the stud, using the proper gauge wire, etc. If any of that list leaves you scratching your head, it would be best to hire a professional.

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Let me give a strong second to your advice to hit the books hard or bring in a professional. Electrical work isn't something you can do half-heartedly without risking serious repercussions. If you do go the book route, Mullin's Electrical Wiring: Residential is a good place to start, but you'll need to go elsewhere for workaday practical electrical safety; it's only concerned with teaching how to wire to Code. – Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 11 '12 at 16:22

Yes, the NEC does not prohibit putting an outside light fixture and an outside receptacle on the same circuit.

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+1 Particularly in the OP's case for exterior fixtures. While we did the electrical in the house to keep lights and outlets separate I kept them together for the outdoor GFCI circuit so that I would know if the breaker tripped. – Matthew Sep 11 '12 at 15:57

Lights and outlets should never be wired on the same circuit, because if you blow the breaker for the outlet, you're left in the dark.

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That may be good advice in many cases, but it's not a requirement. – Vebjorn Ljosa Sep 11 '12 at 15:28
There are exceptions to every rule. It can be useful to use a GFCI receptacle to protect an outdoor light circuit. – Tester101 Sep 11 '12 at 16:06
Counterpoint: If you wire light + receps to one breaker, but put each room on a different circuit, then you know when you tripped the breaker because your lights go out in one room, but the light on in the next room makes it no safety issue. Bathrooms and kitchens are the only places where Code requires lighting and receps to be on separate circuits by forcing you to dedicate circuits to just the receps. – Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 11 '12 at 16:26
@JeremyW.Sherman ..and even then, you can still combine the bathroom lights with half the receptacles in the dining room and the light in the crawlspace, if you really wanted to. But if you do this, beware: someone might mistake you for a licensed electrician. – gregmac Sep 11 '12 at 18:26
With everyone carrying cellphones AKA expensive talking flashlights, I feel like there is less risk of being eaten by a grue due to power loss than ever before. – Jeremy W. Sherman Sep 13 '12 at 16:04

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