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I've just moved into a new apartment on the top floor of an old home. It's got a balcony / porch area big enough to put some seating out on, and the whole place is surrounded by tall trees. What I'd love to do is run a string of lights around the porch, possibly out into one of the trees and back.

The problem is that there are no outdoor electrical outlets. Expected, being so it's a much older home. There IS a bare light bulb mounted to the wall, however.

I'm wondering if it would be possible to retrofit this with a socket-to-outlet adapter (possibly one that still allows me to screw a light bulb in), while still keeping it safe from the weather (both rain and snow).

Here's what we're dealing with:

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I'm not sure if I'll be able to switch out the holder, because as I understand it, that would require turning the power off, yeah? And the breaker would be in the downstairs tenants' apartment. I could always ask them, but I'm also very cautious of doing rewiring with heavy voltages like this.

What are my options?

  • Is the pancake box a 3.5" or a 4"? – ThreePhaseEel Aug 18 '16 at 23:03
  • @ThreePhaseEel Assuming you mean diameter, the box is 4". – GtwoK Aug 18 '16 at 23:23
  • This is an apart that you rent. You SHOULD NOT be messing with ANYTHING electric. Call your landlord and ask them to have it done. – Speedy Petey Aug 21 '16 at 16:34
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Thankfully, since it's a 4" pancake, you're in luck. You can attach a weatherproof extension to it, then attach a new weatherproof light fixture to the extension (since the one you have is disintegrating), and then you can use the extension ring as a splice point to tap off wires for a new outlet box -- use THWN run though a 1/2" conduit nipple for this, and a weatherproof surface mount single gang box with a matching in-use "bubble" cover for the receptacle itself.

Don't forget to turn the breaker off before making these changes!

(Linked parts are simply examples of what can be used)

  • Appreciate the answer! Unfortunately, I wouldn't have a clue how to splice a connection onto that wire, and seeing as I don't own the place, I'm not sure I'd want to spend the few hundred dollars on an electrician to do it for me. Is there any such option as a weatherproof "cover" for the pancake box, so the screw in adapter could be added inside the cover? Potentially, one that would allow a lamp to still stick through? – GtwoK Aug 18 '16 at 23:57
  • The problem with the screw in adapter is that you can't fit a weatherproof "while in use" cover to it -- and the splicing is done with wirenuts, just the same way that the lampholder-pigtails are spliced to the cable in the existing box. – ThreePhaseEel Aug 18 '16 at 23:58
  • I see. So I'd be splicing 3 wires into the one pigtail? What about the connection at the box end, how does everything attach there / where would the ground go to? You linked a weatherproof box, but do I need a special weatherproof outlet too? – GtwoK Aug 19 '16 at 0:55
  • Yes you would be splicing 3 wires where you were formerly splicing two. The new wires would simply attach to the receptacle screws at the receptacle end -- and you use an weather-resistant GFCI with the weatherproof box and "in use" cover. – ThreePhaseEel Aug 19 '16 at 1:14
  • @ThreePhaseEel This is the correct and code compliant way to do the job. Like I said what I wrote was an inexpensive on the cheep way to do it. + – Ed Beal Aug 19 '16 at 13:25
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I probably should not put this up but there are screw in adapters that a plug and the light can be used. Since the lamp is just hanging by the wires why not get a 2 lamp flood light (this will fit the box) and then screw in one of these lamp to outlet adapters.

  • Those I knew of, but my concern is with the weather - surely those would not be safe to use with the rain? – GtwoK Aug 18 '16 at 23:28
  • With the below comments some I agree. The outlet is under a overhang and well above 6.5 feet above ground level the height that was required a few code cycles for instillation. You are a renter and this is a temporary install. My suggestion is not the best but could do what you want. I don't usually offer non code compliant advice but have found things 1000% more dangerous than this in a firends rental(s) a few years back. – Ed Beal Aug 19 '16 at 1:10
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Kill the electricity to the wires using the light switch that is inside the house, then test that none of the wires are hot relative to ground and relative to the others. If they are not hot, then you are good to go. Convert the light socket into a outlet (not a light soceekt + outlet). Use one of the outlets fpr a lamp, the other for your ambiance lighting. looks like the fascia boar is newer than the building. I bet that there is a void in the brick behind the board. test by drilling through. if there is a void, then you can chisel away the wood behind the pancacke, install a box deeper and have a nice flush mounted outlet.

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