A weatherproof socket it a receptive connector, typically for electrical current, that has been specially modified for outdoor use. A receptive connector is a connector into which another cord can be plugged. Ordinarily, anyone exposing a powered electrical socket to water risks creating an electrical short circuit, which can be very dangerous. By using a weatherproof socket, a person can greatly reduce the risk of physical injury or equipment damage.
The most simplistic weatherproof sockets are created by taking an ordinary indoor electrical outlet and adding a cover, usually hinged, to protect it from the elements. Socket covers are frequently made out of a hard plastic, but other materials, such as painted wood or flexible rubber, can also be used. This type of weatherproof socket is usually referred to as an outlet box.
More advanced outlets frequently incorporate a reset circuit called a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI). The GFI prevents dangerous electric shocks when water reaches the circuit by detecting any abnormal difference in current between the two wires. The presence of such a difference usually means that the electricity is being diverted elsewhere. If a difference in power level is detected, the GFI automatically disconnects the outlet from power.
The GFI circuit can be mounted directly at the outlet or in a breaker box elsewhere in the building. The breaker location is less convenient for circuits that must be reset frequently, but has potential safety advantages. Sockets with GFI circuits installed, whether at the socket or at the breaker, have a test button. Pushing this button will send an uneven current to the GFI, which should shut down the outlet. In most cases, a weatherproof socket integrates both a GFI and a water resistant cover.
Local building codes sometimes require weatherproof socket installations outdoors or near swimming pools. In addition to home use, weatherproof sockets are frequently used on boats and the exterior of motor homes. Outlets on boats and other vehicles are powered by battery packs or generators rather than the grid, but the amplitude and voltage of the power is the same as if it were in a home.
In addition to a standard power outlet, a weatherproof socket can also be used for other type of outdoor power or data connections. For example, a Universal Serial Bus (USB) can be mounted in a waterproof rubber box for use on a motorcycle. This type of low power weatherproof socket would not be outfitted with a GFI. Data can also run over the same type of connection but, except in the case of extremely high bandwidth applications, wireless is usually the preferred solution.