In the garden you often need electricity. Voonze shows how to find sensible extension cords and garden sockets, how to use solar power independently or how to operate cameras and the like directly with solar power.
The outdoor lights on the bed (advice) , the base station for the robotic lawn mower (theme world) , cameras and lamps for outside, the high-pressure cleaner (advice) or simply for the tools for caring for lawns and hedges – you can need electricity everywhere. Sure, the most elegant option is an underground cable and a junction box, but then you have to dig a trench and you are fixed on certain points (which should be defined beforehand).
Extension cables, cable drums or garden sockets that are laid above ground are simpler, cheaper and more flexible. We show what to look out for when buying and how to use solar to supply places that are far away from the power grid with electricity.
A word in advance: If you want to have sockets installed outside permanently, you should have an electrician come to you. Electricity is no fun, especially outside. An outdoor socket or a moisture-proof socket must meet other requirements for protection against water and dust.
Electric hedge trimmers, a 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 mains pay less when buying them than if they use a battery model.
This device class is characterized by the fact that you don’t use it all the time, but take it out every few weeks or months to do special tasks with it. 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 means of 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 “larger than 1 mm” and against “splash water from all sides”. You should be a little more generous with the length, it’s better to have five meters too much than five meters too little.
Cable reel for outside
A cord reel is a step above the simple extension cord. It delivers electricity over long distances and usually has several junction boxes to which consumers can be connected – such as hedge trimmers and a shredder (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. This makes the drums interesting, for example, 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 covers. With cable drums, you should pay attention to the maximum specifications for watts and volts. These differ greatly depending on whether the drum is wound up or completely unwound.
Because the tightly coiled cables can otherwise only poorly dissipate the heat generated when the current flows through, 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 always unwind the drum completely when in doubt.
However, most cable drums for the construction site have a problem for the garden: there is a long cable to the cable drum, but then you have to use an extension cable or lug the drum along with you. Special garden cable drums help here. These are more or less an extension cord wrapped around a cord reel. They are primarily suitable when only one device is to be operated, such as the lawn mower.
Garden sockets: practical power distributors for outdoors
Extension cords and cable reels are suitable for short-term use, while the garden sockets create flexible sockets in the garden that defy wind and weather. You can use it to operate the Christmas lights, create external sockets in the garden shed or supply the base station of the robot lawn mower (theme world) with an outdoor access point for the WLAN (guide) with electricity.
The devices have a simple structure. They differ from the extension cable in that they usually have a significantly thicker, more heavily protected cable and one or more Schuko sockets. IP44 is also the minimum required protection here, and the sockets are often additionally secured. The ground spikes from Brennenstuhl, for example, which are driven into the ground, are well known. Alternatively, there are columns or distribution boxes with a stone look that are beautiful to look at.
It is practical that many of the devices can do more than just distribute the electricity. Garden sockets from REV or the Kopp energy station have a timer with which one or more sockets can be switched on or off automatically. This is ideal for applications that do not require constant power, such as evening lighting or a fountain in the garden. Other products, such as the Royal Gardineer garden socket , come with a light. Still other devices, such as from Brennenstuhl or Meross, are connected to the home network via WLAN and can be switched on via language 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 trips over it. Ideally, the connector should also be protected, even if it has an IP44 rating. The less the elements can rush directly onto the device, the better it is.
Solar generator and photovoltaic module for self-sufficient electricity
For almost a year, power generators with petrol or diesel have had real competition. Because solar generators are quiet, don’t smell, generate green electricity from photovoltaic modules and supply everything you need to sockets. This makes them particularly suitable for gardens that are completely without a connection to the public power grid, including cottages in the country or allotment gardens. The large power stations are also a practical electricity supplier for the mobile home, at festivals or when camping.
Photo gallery – The best power stations with solar generators
If you want to find the right solar generator, you should know your requirements. If only one or two consumers are to be charged or the power station is to keep an LTE router running for the surveillance camera, then you do not have to plan high expenses. It is different when the devices are supposed to supply luxury products such as an ice cube maker. Our guide Price, performance or capacity – how to find the right power station with photovoltaics is the right place to go for anyone who is interested in such a device.
In the budget for the acquisition costs you should also plan generously for solar modules. When in doubt, more is better here, with an output of 100 W, the charging process takes forever. However, it does not have to be a permanently installed system, we have repeatedly had good experiences with mobile or foldable panels in the tests. Several solar modules can often be connected in series, but then you usually need the right adapter. It is different when connecting to the solar generator. There are only a handful of plug types, most of which come with the solar modules. However, you should check in advance whether the respective solar cells are compatible with the power station – the easiest way to do this is to buy the solar module and generator from one manufacturer. We recommend our article for thisSolar modules: what is important for mobile photovoltaic panels.
The prices for solar modules are currently fluctuating enormously. But you can always get really good deals, especially if you are on China sites such as Banggood , Geekbuying or Geekmaxi . In addition, there are always bundle offers of power stations with solar modules. In the list we show the modules with which we have had good experiences:
- Xmund XD-SP2 100W , 153 x 54 cm, 4.5 kg for about 149 euros
- FF Flashfish 100 W, 156 x 40 cm, 3 kg for 240 euros
- Ecoflow solar panel 110 W, 158 x 51 cm, 6 kg, for about 308 euros
- Bluetti Poweroak SP120 120 W, 169 x 42 cm, 4.3 kg, for about 339 euros
- Jackery Solarsaga 100 W, 122 x 52 cm, 4.7 kg, for around 300 euros
- Ecoflow solar panel 160 W, 157 x 68 cm, 7 kg, for about 385 euros
- Bluetti Poweroak SP200 200 W, 220 x 52 cm, 6.5 kg, for about 499 euros
Autonomous cameras and lights with solar
What if you can’t or don’t want to lay any electricity? 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 in the ground and forget. The same applies to lights that illuminate the house number, making it easy to find even in the dark.
Wall lights with solar and integrated battery are also no longer a problem. These usually come with twilight sensors, during the day the lamps are deactivated and charge the battery. There is also motion detection, so that the lamp only comes on when something is happening 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 there. However, it is important that the solar panels do not sit directly on the camera, but ideally supply it with power via a cable. Then you are much more flexible when it comes to positioning the camera and solar panel.
If you want to use the cameras completely independently, for example to monitor the allotment garden house without WLAN, you will also find solar-compatible cameras with an LTE module. These offer space for an LTE SIM and can transmit images, videos and sound via the mobile network. However, a separate contract is necessary for this, and 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 (neither are mutually exclusive). Anyone who only mows occasionally is well advised to use an extension or a garden cable reel. An outdoor cable reel is worthwhile for larger gardens or if the small barbecue hut in the garden needs to be supplied with electricity for a longer period of time. 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, circuits should be used that are separated from the other circuits in the house or apartment by their own RCDs. This provides additional protection if the integrated security functions fail. And, as mentioned, outside sockets should always be fitted by a specialist.
If there is no line to the house or camper, then solar generators with suitable photovoltaic modules are the right choice. They are quiet and easy to operate. After the first investment in a power station and solar panel, they no longer fit into the budget and can therefore supply electricity “for free”.
The article is part of our theme world all about the garden . Other articles have also appeared there, such as our self-sufficiency in a garden shed or allotment garden , our test report on inexpensive shredders , our top list of smart irrigation systems and the large pool guide .