Are GFCIs Required in the Garage?

2018 Mar 20
Posted in: Electrical
NEC GFCI requirements in garage 2018

Yes, all garage outlets must be GFCI-protected—no exceptions.

Since 2008, GFCI outlets have been required for “all 125-volt, single-phase, 15 and 20-amp outlets” in the garage. In fact, both the NEC (National Electric Code) and the IRC (International Residential Code) require this.

The actual verbiage from the NEC states that GFCI outlets be installed in:

“Garages, and also accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade level not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and areas of similar use.”

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why GFCI outlets are required in the garage
  • How GFCIs work
  • What to do if you have a garage outlet that isn’t GFCI-protected

Need a Phoenix electrician to install a GFCI outlet? Just contact us.

Why GFCI outlets are required in the garage

GFCIs are required in garages because they prevent “ground fault” situations that can result in electric shock.

Ground faults cause more than 80% of all electrical equipment failure and can be caused by:

  • Worn insulation
  • Moisture
  • Dust
  • Old electrical appliances

(Spoiler alert: all of the above are commonly found in garages.)

Let’s take a closer look at what a “ground fault” is and how a GFCI prevents this…

How GFCIs prevent ground faults

GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) are designed to constantly compare the amount of electricity flowing out of the outlet (and through the appliance) with the amount of electricity flowing back into the outlet. When everything is working properly, this current should be balanced.

But if there’s an unequal amount of current between the two sides, that means electricity is straying away from its intended path and is now searching for a new, unintended path into the earth (this is called a “ground fault”).

And if you come into contact with it, that stray electricity will use your body as a path to the ground. Translation: you’ll receive a nasty electric shock (seen in the image below).

Ground fault current illustration

The scenario above shows current loss of .06 amps on an outlet that is not GFCI-protected, resulting in a ground fault.

To prevent any possibility of electric shock, a GFCI trips and cuts power almost instantly when it detects even a very small current loss.

What should I do if I have a garage outlet that isn’t GFCI- protected?

If you have outlets in your garage that aren’t GFCI-protected (outlets that don’t have a “reset” or “test” button), you need to replace the regular outlet with a GFCI outlet. Because this requires running electrical wiring, we suggest leaving this to a professional.

Installing GFCI outlets helps prevent electric shock but also keeps your home up to code.

Why is it important to keep your home up to code? Well, code violations will make your home hard to sell. Most state laws require sellers to disclose electrical code violations to interested buyers.

If you’re not sure whether your home’s garage is up to code or not, have an electrician inspect the garage.

Need help from a Phoenix electrician?

If you need to replace a regular outlet with a GFCI outlet, just contact us.

We’ll get the job done quickly and safely and make sure that the rest of your garage is completely up-to-code. Learn more about our outlet installation services here.

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