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How do I power my garden electrics?

From teenage dens to home offices and pub sheds, outdoor buildings are a great way to expand your living space, and more people than ever are finding the extra room they need in their own back garden. To turn your outbuilding into a practical and comfortable, all year round space, you’ll need lighting and power.  So,  how do you get electricity to a garden room?

Who can do the work?

Adding electricity to a garden room shouldn’t be done by just anyone. It involves adding a circuit to your existing electrical system, which is considered ‘notifiable’ under UK building regulations (part P). Trying to do the work yourself would not only put your property at risk, but you could end up seriously injuring yourself or someone else.

In practice, this means finding a fully qualified electrician to do the work. Electricians who are registered with a competent persons’ scheme can sign-off their own work, but they must still notify the local authority of what’s been done. When everything is complete, your electrician will give you an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC).

This is an important bit of paperwork because when you come to sell your house, prospective buyers will want to know that the work you’ve had done is safe. Without it, you risk holding up the sale of your house, or worse still, you could be fined.

Planning your electrics

Before you contact an electrician, start to think about how you might use your outdoor space, the kind of lights you want, and what you’ll need to power, from equipment to heating.

To future-proof your outbuilding, consider how that usemight change over time. Are you planning to make the switch to home working in a few years time? Maybe it’s always been your dream to have a pub in your back garden when the kids are older?  

Whatever plans you’ve got for your space, it’s helpful to make a quick sketch. Make a note of where you want your switches and all your plug sockets to go. It’s more cost effective to have lots of sockets fitted now than trying to add extras in later.  

Here are just a few ideas of the things you might need to power:

  • indoor and outdoor lighting
  • outdoor plug for your lawn mower
  • heating in the winter
  • a fan for the warmer months  
  • laptop charger and/or computer
  • printer/scanner/copier
  • phone charging point
  • radio/television/games station
  • WiFi router and smart speaker

Never try to run electricity to a garden room by daisy chaining several extension leads or using a long-reel extension lead. It could cause a serious, even fatal, fire.  

Making preparations to start

Before your electrician starts work, they will come out to assess the job.

Having a clear picuture of what work is involved is crucial to providing an accurate quote. On the first visit, you can expect them to:

  1. Measure the distance between your house and your outbuilding
  2. Check the safety of your existing electrical system
  3. Look at the main fuse board/consumer unit in your property
  4. Ask about your plans for the outbuilding

Running electricity from the mains power in your house to an outbuilding requires a tough all-purpose cable that can be used underground. Most electricians use a steel wired armoured (SWA) cable that can be buried in a trench or fixed to a wall.

The more power you need in your outbuilding, the bigger that cable will need to be. If your fuse box is old and can’t cope with the extra work, then it may need to be upgraded.

At EMCAL Systems, we make sure our customers are clear on the cost before we start work. So, if your fuse box needs to be changed, we’ll make sure you know this upfront.

Putting your safety first

We recommend using an RCD on your garden electrics to protect you and your property.

An RCD, or residual current device, is a safety mechanism designed to quickly stop the flow of electricity if it detects a fault in the circuit (known as earth leakage).  

If you accidentally cut through the cable of your lawn mower, the electric current has to find a place to go. Without an RCD, the current could travel back up the handle of the mower and give the person holding it a nasty electric shock.   

Some RCDs are fitted on the main consumer unit and others are plugged in alongside the appliance you are using. To protect people and property, most garden buildings require a separate consumer unit with a built-in RCD at the mains.  

Your safety is our priority at EMCAL Systems, so we’ll make sure you know what safety mechanisms we’re putting in place, before we start. We are committed to making sure that every job we do meets the highest industry standards for safety.

How and when you can help

You might not be able to get involved with installing the electrics in your garden building, but there could still be a job for you. If your electrician plans to run the SWA cable underground then a trench will need digging between your house and outbuilding.

Before you start digging, check with your electrician that they will be running the cable below ground, and agree on where to dig and how deep. Digging the trench isn’t easy work, but it could save you some money on the cost of the whole project.

Taking the next steps

Adding electricity to a garden room will increase the value of your home – after all, you’re significantly extending the living space. But this isn’t just about your future buyers, it’s about you and how much this space is worth to your family right now.

When you’re setting the budget for this project, take into consideration what kind of lighting you want, how many sockets you will need, and any outside plugs or lights. All of these things will impact the overall cost of the job, and you can expect to see them reflected in the quote from your electrician.

Though it’s tempting to try to do the work yourself, adding electricity to a garden room must be left to the professionals. A few quid saved could have devastating consequences further down the line. Call in the experts at EMACL Systems for a no-obligation chat or to arrange a visit from one of our friendly team.