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Energy CostsIN CHARLOTTEAugust 2, 2022by AndrewDoes Outdoor Lighting Need GFCI?

Outdoor lighting is a little more complicated, with some extra safety factors to know, than interior lighting. According to the National Electric Code (NEC), all outdoor receptacles must be safeguarded by a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter). These safety devices are made to cut electrical circuits if they sense an imbalance or surge, thus avoiding electrocution.

What does this mean for outdoor lights? How can you make certain any outside lights you have, or want to have, around your property are safe?

With outside lighting, the light bulbs you use will be exposed to all the weather Charlotte and the Carolinas can dish out. From lots of rain and humidity to heat, thunderstorms, even the rare cold, ice, and snow, it needs to be safe no matter the conditions. It’s pretty elementary that water and electricity are a very dangerous mix.

What Is GFCI And Why It’s Useful?

A study by the Electric Safety Foundation International shows from when GFCIs were introduced in the 1970s, the yearly number of electrocutions has declined by 83%.

When you’re using electricity, it’s vital to take the right care all the time, that’s why guidelines and regulations exist.
In the U.S. and Canada, all electrical circuitry is controlled by the National Electric Code. The purpose of the NEC is to have the right safety standards and practices for all ways and settings electricity is used in.

Under these standards, numerous electrical systems need a GFCI. GFCIs are created to constantly check electric input. If they sense a circulation of electricity to a grounded surface, they instantly trip and stop the circuit.

They’re based on the fact that electricity flows at a constant rate. Therefore, a rise of electrical energy is a possibly dangerous abnormality.

GFCIs are typically used in rooms, areas or locations where water is likely to come into contact with electricity i.e., bathrooms and kitchens. In these areas, GFCIs play an essential role in preventing electrocutions.

More on What GFCIs Do

A GFCI and a circuit breaker sort of sound the same and they are comparable. You need to use both properly.

I understand the complication; the two tools are extremely comparable. However, GFCIs are usually a lot more sensitive than ac breaker. This means a GFCI is more responsive to a higher number of electrical power variations. Additionally, breakers are developed to protect against electric overloads and resulting fires. GFCIs are developed to protect against electrocution.

Where is a GFCI Needed?

GFCI usage is a reasonably current development, having initially been introduced in 1971. At first, the code mandated GFCI receptacles at the outside of a residence and by swimming pools. However, the guidelines have expanded greatly over the years. Now, GFCIs are generally needed in commercial and residential properties within six feet of all plumbing components.

What Does this Mean for You?

The NEC specifies GFCIs shall be used of for all 125-volt, single-phase 15 and 20 amp receptacles set up in the following areas:

  • Bathrooms: All receptacles must be GFCI protected.
  • Kitchens: GFCI protection is needed for all receptacles that serve kitchen area counter top surface areas.
  • Crawl spaces and basements: GFCI protection must be mounted within house crawl space or in each unfinished part of a basement not meant as a habitable room yet made use of for storage or as a work area.
  • Swimming pools: GFCI protection is needed for all lights, circulation components, sanitation equipment, as well as pump motor receptacles located within 20 feet of a pool.
  • Sinks: Receptacles set up within six feet of the outdoor edge of a bar sink need to be GFCI secured.
  • Wiring systems: All receptacles should be GFCI protected.

– Outdoors: All receptacles outside of a home system, including under the eaves of roof coverings, shall be GFCI protected. The only exception is that GFCI is not required for dealt with electric snow melting or de-icing tools.

Exterior Lights

Interior Lights for a Gazebo
Where is a GFCI Needed?

Outside lighting fixtures need to be rated for wet conditions and connected into receptacles that are GFCI secured. For exterior lights that are attached to your home, standard nonmetallic circuit cords can be run through the walls as long as the area is dry as well as protected from moisture. For lights as well as receptacles that are not part of your home, below ground cords are typically run from the house and has to be buried to a depth of a minimum of 2 feet. The cord itself need to be able to stand up to wet conditions and rated specifically as an underground cable. The electrical path, or external case of the wire as well as their components should additionally be NEC or CEC approved.

Protecting Outdoor Lights with a GFCI Electrical Outlet

  • GFCI security is required when an electric tool is used outdoors where it accessed.
  • You might extend the power from your garage through the outside wall and mount a weatherproof box.
  • After that a GFCI electrical outlet and cover could be installed which would make it secure as well as legal as long as the extended garage circuit is protected too.
  • The garage circuit might already be safeguarded by a GFCI outlet or breaker.
  • Having GFCI device protection will supply security and you will know you did it properly.



Your best bet? Hire an expert to do the job. South End Electric has the background and understanding to ensure a safe and smooth installation. We can provide electrical safety inspections and installation, inspections and work with GFCI outlets. In addition, our professionals provide whole-house generator sales and installation to meet your needs. See everything South End Electric can do for you. Call us direct at 704-368-4694.