Ground-Fault-Circuit-Interrupter (GFCI) devices were first invented in the 1950’s with the first commercially available devices being produced in the 1960’s. By 1972 GFCIs began to be installed at bathroom and garage receptacle circuits, the first places they were required. For this reason, if your home was built after 1972 but before the 1990’s, it is likely that the only GFCI devices present are protecting the receptacle that is required to be present in every bathroom as well as the garage circuitry. In the San Antonio, TX area, I’ve noticed that this was typically just one circuit that started from the garage subpanel (protecting the garage circuit) and then extending through each bathroom, so that if a ground-fault is detected at the master bathroom on the other side of house, you have to reset the GFCI in the garage.

In the 90’s, GFCI devices were required to protect the circuitry on the exterior of the structure. This GFCI is typically also found in the garage or laundry room area if you live in South Texas. But from the 1990’s, GFCI devices began to be required in many more areas, eventually being required basically anywhere water could be present. For someone who doesn’t work with electricity every day or inspect houses for a living, this can be difficult to track, so we’ve written this article to help you find out where exactly you need a GFCI. In general, ask yourself if this area is a “wet” or “damp” area and you will find that GFCI protection is required.

testing laundry receptacle for GFCI protection

At Kitchen and Wet-Bar countertops

All receptacles located at a kitchen or wet-bar countertop require GFCI protection. This is straight-forward: this is an area where food-processing devices and water are present, so shock-protection is needed. But if you have a receptacle that is near the kitchen countertop but not quite over it, does it need GFCI protection? How about this next one…

 

Any Receptacle Within 6-feet of the Edge of a Sink

The code answers the question above with an easy to understand solution. Measuring from the edge of the sink bowl, any receptacle within 6-feet of the sink edge needs to be GFCI protected, period.

 

Receptacles Under the Kitchen Sink (in the cabinet)

Generally, this means the receptacle for the food waste disposer and sometimes the dishwasher. This is an area where water can be present if a leak were to occur and it is almost certainly within 6-feet of the sink edge.

 

The Dishwasher Receptacle (must be accessible!)

The dishwasher is required to have its own dedicated GFCI device and it must be accessible as well. What does this mean? Usually the easy way of accomplishing this is to install GFCI protection at the panel board for the dedicated GFCI circuit.

 

All Bathroom Receptacles

All bathroom receptacles need to be GFCI protected, period. This is a wet area and wet areas need GFCI protection.

 

The Laundry Area

This area makes sense; its potentially wet. But Up until recently, the receptacle for the washing machine did not require this protection, as it was for a dedicated appliance. That is no longer true. ALL receptacles are required to have GFCI protection. Bonus: The Dryer Receptacle is ALSO required to be GFCI protected as of 2020 National Electrical Code. Yes, this is a 250v receptacle.

testing dryer receptacle

All Garage Receptacles

All receptacles in a garage require GFCI protection. This does in fact include the garage door opener, which up until the last decade wasn’t required (there was an exclusion for dedicated appliance receptacles).

garage receptacle didn't have gfci protection

All Exterior Receptacles

No exceptions. Any receptacle on the exterior of the home, including soffit receptacles and receptacles in enclosed patios require GFCI protection.

 

All Unfinished-Basement Receptacles

I’ve seen one basement in South Texas in my entire life, so this isn’t really a thing in the San Antonio area. But if you live in an area where unfinished basements are common, make sure all receptacles have GFCI protection.

 

All Crawlspace Receptacles

Crawlspaces are only present on very old homes or mobile homes in San Antonio, but occasionally I will see a receptacle in the crawlspace and it is never GFCI protected. For some reason, if one is present in your crawlspace, it needs GFCI protection.

 

The Service Receptacle in the Attic (if equipment is present, not all homes)

So, if you have air-conditioning equipment present in your attic, it is required that there be a 125v receptacle within 20-feet of the equipment so that anybody servicing the equipment has a receptacle to energize their tools. If this receptacle is present, it needs GFCI protection.

 

The Pool Light and Basically All Pool Equipment

This is another post entirely  to itself, but if you have a pool, make sure the light and the equipment is protected.

 

BONUS: The Cooling System Condenser (if you don’t live in Texas!)

2020 National Electrical Code requires all exterior condenser units under 50-amps to be protected by a GFCI device. Unfortunately, the manufacturers have not caught up to this requirement yet, and having a GFCI device on a condenser can cause a lot of problems, such as nuisance tripping in the summer as well as wearing on the equipment. In early 2021, the State of Texas declared that this code is effectively non-valid until at least 2023 because of the problems this was causing. If you live outside of Texas, check with your local building authority about this one.

 

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