Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection for Personnel

By Mike Holt for EC&M Magazine

Since 1971, the National Electrical Code has expanded the requirements for Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter protection for personnel. See Back-to-Basics for information on how a GFCI operates. Initially GFCI protection was only required for temporary wiring at construction sites and dwelling unit bathrooms. Since 1971, the NEC has been expanding the requirements for GFCI protection for personnel and the following list contains the references to some of the more common GFCI requirements:

  • Agricultural Buildings, 547.5(G)
  • Carnivals, Circuses and Fairs, 525.23
  • Commercial Garages, 511.12
  • Commercial Occupancies, 210.8(B)
  • Dwelling Units, 210.8(A)
  • Electric Space Heating Cables, 424.44(G)
  • Elevators and Escalators, 620.23 620.85
  • Fountains, 680.51(A) and 680.56(A) 680.57
  • Health Care Facilities, 517.20(A)
  • Hydromassage Bathtubs, 680.71
  • Marina’s and Boatyard, 555.19
  • Mobile and Manufactured Homes, 550.13(B)
  • Portable or Mobile Signs, 600.10(C)(2)
  • Receptacle Replacement, 406.3(D)(2) and 406.3(D)(3)
  • Spas and Hot Tubs, 680.43 and 680.44
  • Swimming Pools Permanent, 680.22(A), 680.23 and 680.27
  • Swimming Pools, Storable, 680.32
  • Temporary Installations, 527.6
  • Therapeutic Tubs, 680.62

Agricultural Buildings
547.5 Wiring Methods
(G) Receptacles. All 15 and 20A, 125V general-purpose receptacles installed in the locations specified below must have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel. Figure 1 (Note: Graphics are not contained in this newsletter)
(1) In areas having an equipotential plane [547.10(A)]
(2) Outdoors
(3) Damp or wet areas

Section 547.10(B) requires GFCI protection for all circuits providing electric power to equipment that is accessible to animals in dirt confinement areas.

  • Author’s Comment: The term "general purpose receptacles" is not defined in the NEC, but the intent is that GFCI protection is not required for a receptacle installed for specific pieces of equipment such as brooders, incubators, feed mixers, feed grinders, feed conveyors, and the like.

Carnivals, Circuses and Fairs
525.23 GFCI Protection for Personnel
(A) Receptacles. GFCI protection is required for 15A and 20A, 125V receptacle outlets used by personnel at carnivals, circuses and fairs. The GFCI protection can be by circuit breaker, receptacle, an integral part of the attachment plug, or a listed cord set incorporating GFCI protection. Figure 2

(B) Appliance Receptacles. GFCI protection is not required for receptacles supplying cooking, refrigeration equipment and other equipment, which are incompatible with GFCI devices.

(C) Other Receptacles. All other receptacles [other than 125V, 15A and 20A receptacles not covered within the scope of 525.23(A) or (B)] must be GFCI-protected or be protected by compliance with the assured equipment grounding conductor program in accordance with 527.6(B)(2).

  • Author’s Comment: The assured equipment grounding program requires grounding tests of cord sets, receptacles, and cord-and-plug-connected equipment. The tests must be performed before their first use, when there's evidence of damage, before equipment is returned to service following repairs, and at intervals not exceeding 3 months. These tests must be recorded and made available to the AHJ, see 527.6(B)(2) for details.

Commercial Garages
511.12 GFCI Protection for Personnel
GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles used for service and repair operations such as electrical automotive diagnostic equipment, electrical hand-tools, or portable lighting devices etc. Figure 3

Commercial Occupancies
210.8 GFCI Protection for Personnel
(B) Other than Dwelling Units. GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles installed in bathrooms, rooftops and kitchens in commercial/industrial locations. However, GFCI protection is not required for receptacles outside a commercial or industrial occupancy. Figure 4

(1) Bathroom Receptacles. If a receptacle is installed in a commercial or industrial bathroom, it must be GFCI-protected. Figure 5

  • Author’s Comment: According to Article 100, a bathroom is “an area including a basin with one or more of the following: a toilet, a tub, or a shower.”

(2) Rooftop Receptacles. All 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles installed on rooftops shall be GFCI-protected. Figure 6

  • Author’s Comment: Section 210.63 requires a 15 or 20A, 125V receptacle outlet be installed within 25 ft of the heating air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment.

Exception: GFCI protection is not required for fixed electric snow melting or deicing equipment receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit in accordance with 426.28.

(3) Kitchens. All 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles installed in kitchens, even those receptacles that do not supply the countertop surface, shall be GFCI-protected. Figure 7

  • Author’s Comment: Section 210.8(A)(6) for dwelling units only requires GFCI protection for 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles installed to serve dwelling unit counter surfaces, yet this rule 210.8(B)(3) requires all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles in a commercial kitchen to be GFCI-protected. A kitchen is not defined in the NEC, so this new rule will lead to some lively debates.

Dwelling Units
210.8 Ground-Fault Protection
(A) Dwelling Units. (1) Bathroom Area Receptacles. GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles in the bathroom area of a dwelling unit. Figure 8

  • Author’s Comment: Proposals to allow receptacles for dedicated equipment in the bathroom area to be exempted from the GFCI protection rules were rejected because the code panel members felt that it was not in the interest of safety to allow appliances without GFCI protection in this area.

(2) Garage and Accessory Building Receptacles. GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles in garages and grade-level portions of unfinished or finished accessory buildings used for storage or work areas of a dwelling unit. Figure 9

Exception No. 1: GFCI protection is not required for receptacles that are not readily accessible, such as a ceiling-mounted receptacle for the garage door opener.

Exception No. 2: GFCI protection is not required for a receptacle on a dedicated branch circuit located and identified for a specific cord-and-plug-connected appliance, such as a refrigerator or freezer.

  • Author’s Comment: Receptacles are not required in accessory buildings, but if a 15A or 20A, 125V receptacle is installed, it must be GFCI-protected. Figure 10

(3) Outdoor Receptacles. All 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles outdoors of dwelling unit, including receptacles installed under the eaves of roofs shall be GFCI-protected. Figure 11

  • Author’s Comment: Receptacles are not required outdoors of a multifamily dwelling, but if a 15A or 20A, 125V receptacle is installed, it must be GFCI-protected. Figure 12

Exception: GFCI protection is not required for fixed electric snow melting or deicing equipment receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit in accordance with 426.28. Figure 13

(4) Crawl Space Receptacles. All 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles installed within a dwelling unit crawl space must be GFCI-protected.

  • Author’s Comment: The Code does not require a 15A or 20A, 125V receptacle to be installed in the crawl space, except when air-conditioning or heating equipment is installed in this area, see 210.63.

(5) Unfinished Basement Receptacles. GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles in each unfinished portion of a basement not intended as a habitable room, but used for storage or as a work area. Figure 14

Exception No. 1: GFCI protection is not required for receptacles that are not readily accessible.

Exception No. 2: GFCI protection is not required for a receptacle on a dedicated branch circuit located and identified for a specific cord-and-plug-connected appliance, such as a sump pump.

(6) Kitchen Countertop Surface Receptacles. GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles that serve kitchen countertop surfaces in a dwelling unit. Figure 15

  • Author’s Comment: GFCI protection is not required for receptacles that serve appliances, such as dishwashers or disposals or convenient receptacle that do not supply counter top surfaces.

(7) Wet Bar Countertop Receptacles. GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles that serve the countertop surfaces, located within 6 ft of the outside edge of a wet bar sink. Figure 16

  • Author’s Comment: GFCI protection is not required for receptacles not intended to serve wet bar countertop surfaces, such as refrigerators, ice makers, water heaters or convenient receptacle that do not supply counter top surfaces.

(8) Boathouse Receptacle. GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles located in a dwelling unit boathouse. Figure 17

  • Author’s Comment: The Code does not require a receptacle to be installed in a boathouse.

Electric Space Heating Cables
424.44 GFCI Protection for Personnel (G)
Ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel must be provided for electrically heated floors in bathrooms, and in hydromassage bathtub, spa, and hot tub locations. Figure 18

Elevators and Escalators
620.23 Branch Circuits for Machine Room or Control Room/Machinery Space or Control Space Lighting and Receptacle(s).
(C) Duplex Receptacle. At least one 125V, duplex receptacle shall be provided in each machine room or control room and machinery space or control space. Figure 19

620.85 Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection for Personnel. Each 15A or 20A receptacle installed in pits, in hoistways, on elevator car tops, and in escalator and moving walk wellways shall be of the ground-fault circuit-interrupter type.

All 15A or 20A receptacles installed in machine rooms and machinery spaces shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.

Fountains
680.51 Luminaires (Lighting Fixtures), Submersible Pumps, and Other Submersible Equipment.
(A) Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter. Fountain equipment, unless listed for operation at 15 volts or less and supplied by a transformer that complies with 680.23(A)(2), shall be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

680.56 Cord-and-Plug-Connected Equipment for Fountains.
(A) Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter. All electrical equipment, including power-supply cords, shall be protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters.

680.57 Signs.
(B) Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection for Personnel. All circuits supplying electric signs installed within or adjacent to fountains shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel. Figure 20

Health Care Facilities
517.20 Wet Locations.
(A) Receptacles and Fixed Equipment. All receptacles and fixed equipment within the area of the wet location shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel if interruption of power under fault conditions can be tolerated, or be served by an isolated power system if such interruption cannot be tolerated.

Hydromassage Bathtubs
680.71 Protection.
Hydromassage bathtubs and their associated electrical components shall be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter. All receptacles not exceeding 30 amperes at 125V and located within 5 ft measured horizontally of the inside walls of a hydromassage tub shall be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter(s). Figure 21

Marina’s and Boatyards
555.19 Receptacles
(B) Other Than Shore Power.
(1) Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter (GFCI) Protection for Personnel. All 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles installed outdoors, in boathouses, in buildings used for storage, maintenance, or repair where portable electrical hand tools, electrical diagnostic equipment, or portable lighting equipment are to be used shall be provided with GFCI protection for personnel. Figure 22

Mobile and Manufactured Homes
550.13 Receptacle Outlets
(B) Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI). All 15A and 20A, 125V receptacle outlets installed outdoors, in compartments accessible from outside the unit, or in bathrooms, including receptacles in luminaires (light fixtures), shall have GFCI protection for personnel. GFCI protection for personnel shall be provided for receptacle outlets serving countertops in kitchens, and receptacle outlets located within 6 ft of a wet bar sink.

Exception: Receptacles installed for appliances in dedicated spaces, such as for dishwashers, disposals, refrigerators, freezers, and laundry equipment.

Portable Signs
600.10 Portable or Mobile Signs.
(C) Wet or Damp Location. (2) Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter. All portable or mobile signs shall be provided with factory-installed ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel. The ground-fault circuit interrupter shall be an integral part of the attachment plug or shall be located in the power-supply cord within 300 mm (12 in.) of the attachment plug.

  • Author’s Comment: All signs are required to be listed, see 600.3.

Receptacle Replacement
406.3(D)(2) Where GFCI Protection is Required. When receptacles are replaced in locations where GFCI protection is required, the replacement receptacles must be GFCI-protected. This includes the replacement of receptacles in bathrooms, garages, outdoors, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, kitchens, wet bar sinks and rooftops, etc. See 210.8 for GFCI protection requirements.

406.3(D)(3) Where No Ground Exists. Where no grounding means exists in the outlet box, such as old 2-wire NM cable without a ground, nongrounding-type receptacles can be replaced with: Figure 23
(a) Another nongrounding type receptacle
(b) A GFCI-receptacle if marked ‘No Equipment Ground’.
(c) A grounding-type receptacle, if GFCI protected and marked ‘GFCI Protected’ and ‘No Equipment Ground.’

  • Author’s Comment: The equipment grounding conductor plays no part in the operation of a GFCI protection device, therefor it will provide ground-fault protection on a 2-wire circuit without an equipment grounding conductor. Figure 24

CAUTION: The permission of replacing nongrounding type receptacle with GFCI protected grounding type receptacles does not apply to new receptacle outlets that extend from an existing ungrounded outlet box. When you add a receptacle outlet, the receptacle must be of the grounding type and it must have its grounding terminal grounded in accordance with 250.130(C). Figure 25

Spas and Hot Tubs
680.43 Indoor Installations.
(A) Receptacles
(2) Protection, General. Receptacles rated 30 amperes or less at 125V and located within 10 ft of the inside walls of a spa or hot tub shall be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Figure 26
(3) Protection, Spa or Hot Tub Supply Receptacle. Receptacles that provide power for a spa or hot tub shall be ground-fault circuit-interrupter protected.

680.44 Protection.
The outlet that supplies a self-contained spa or hot tub, a packaged spa or hot tub equipment assembly, or a field-assembled spa or hot tub shall be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Figure 27

(A) Listed Units. GFCI protection is not required for a listed self-contained unit or listed packaged equipment assembly that includes integral ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for all electrical parts within the unit or assembly (pumps, air blowers, heaters, lights, controls, sanitizer generators, wiring, and so forth). Figure 28

Swimming Pools - Permanent
680.22 Area Lighting, Receptacles, and Equipment.
(A) Receptacles.
(1) Circulation and Sanitation System, Location. Receptacles that provide power for water-pump motors or for other loads directly related to the circulation and sanitation system shall be located at least 10 ft from the inside walls of the pool, or not less than 5 ft from the inside walls of the pool and they must have GFCI protection.

(5) GFCI Protection. All 125V receptacles located within 20 ft of the inside walls of a pool or fountain shall be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Receptacles that supply pool pump motors and that are rated 15 or 20 amperes, 120 volt through 240 volts, single phase, shall be provided with GFCI protection.

680.23 Underwater Luminaires (Lighting Fixtures).
This section covers all luminaires (lighting fixtures) installed below the normal water level of the pool.
(A) General.
(3) GFCI Protection, Relamping. A ground-fault circuit interrupter shall be installed in the branch circuit supplying luminaires operating at more than 15 volts. Figure 29

680.27 Specialized Pool Equipment
(B) Electrically Operated Pool Covers.
(2) Protection. The electric motor and controller shall be connected to a circuit protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

Swimming Pools - Storable
680.32 Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters Required.
All electrical equipment, including power-supply cords, used with storable pools shall be protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters. Figure 30

Temporary Installations
527.6 Ground-Fault Protection for Personnel.
Ground-fault protection for personnel is required for all temporary wiring installations used by personnel during construction, remodeling, maintenance, repair, or demolition of buildings, structures, equipment, or similar activities in accordance with 527.6(A) and (B).

(A) Receptacle Outlets. All 15A, 20A, and 30A, 125V receptacle outlets that are not a part of the permanent wiring of the building or structure shall have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel, Figure 31

If a 15A, 20A, or 30A, 125V receptacle is part of the permanent wiring of the building or structure and it is used for temporary electric power, ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel must be provided. For the application of this rule, cord sets or devices incorporating listed ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel identified for portable use shall be permitted. Figure 32

Exception: In industrial establishments only, where conditions of maintenance and supervision ensure that only qualified personnel are involved, an assured equipment grounding conductor program as specified in 527.6(B)(2) shall be permitted for only those receptacle outlets used to supply equipment that would create a greater hazard if power was interrupted or having a design that is not compatible with GFCI protection.

(B) Use of Other Outlets. Receptacles other than 15A, 20A, or 30A, 125V shall be protected by a GFCI protection device or the assured equipment grounding conductor program. Figure 33

Therapeutic Tubs
680.62 Therapeutic Tubs (Hydrotherapeutic Tanks).
(A) Protection. The outlet that supplies a self-contained therapeutic tub or hydrotherapeutic tank, a packaged therapeutic tub or hydrotherapeutic tank, or a field-assembled therapeutic tub or hydrotherapeutic tank shall be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

(E) Receptacles. All receptacles within 5 f) of a therapeutic tub shall be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter.

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