Are you planning to install an outlet outdoors?
If so, you need to follow proper NEC guidelines to do so. The question is, what does the NEC advocate for outside?
Are GFCI outlets required outside?
I will today answer all these questions and more. Once you go through the post below, it will be clear which type of outlet you need to install.
Are gfci outlets required outside?
The answer to this question is yes and no. No, because NEC recommends that you install a ground fault protection system. The ground fault protection system can be installed anywhere. The NEC does not specifically mention that you should install a GFCI outlet. It just mentions the ground fault protection system. GFCI has a ground fault protection system. Instead of installing the ground fault protection system separately, when you go with such an outlet, not only is the cost on the lower side, but it is much more convenient as well. You can abide by NEC without having to spend a lot of money.
This is only one of the prime reasons why GFCI outlets are required outside. There are quite a few reasons why you must prefer them over others. I will highlight these reasons below.
1. Ground fault protection:
Whenever you’re installing an electrical outlet, installing one with a ground fault protection system is a good idea.
Whenever there is leakage of current, the current might move to the ground through the outlet. It does so with the help of the surface on which the outlet is installed.
For example, if the outlet is installed on the wall, the current might pass through the wall to reach the ground.
In the absence of a ground fault protection system, the current will go into the ground. It means that it will flow through the wall.
Whenever someone comes in contact with the wall, he/she might receive a shock.
However, if the outlet has a ground fault protection system, the moment the current starts going into the ground, it will tip the circuit. The circuit will be broken, and there will be no flow of leakage current into the ground.
Consequently, there will be no shocks in the wall or the surface on which the outlet is installed as well.
The number 1 reason you need to install GFCI outlets outside is to prevent the leakage of current into the ground.
2. Protection of appliances:
The leakage of current also has another unintended consequence.
Whenever there is leakage of current, the current to the appliance reduces. When that happens, the appliance might shut down frequently. When it starts once again, the ground current leakage reduces.
The consistent shutting down and turning on of the appliance can damage the appliance as well.
For example, when installing a light fixture outdoor, without the ground fault protection, the leakage current can easily damage the light. In that case, you might have to change the bulb again and again.
Changing the bulb, again and again, is not only cumbersome but also expensive.
The best way to protect the bulb, in this case, is best outdoor light fixture with a gfci outlet. When there is a GFCI outlet, you can be sure that the moment the current starts going into the ground, it will tip the entire circuit. When that happens, the appliance will not turn on till you fix the problem or till you reset the circuit.
In both the cases above, you will be able to protect the light fixture.
3. Humidity resistant:
The fact that the GFCI outlet can trim the circuit whenever the current flows into the ground makes it humidity resistant as well.
When you get the best outdoor light fixture with gfci outlet or a GFCI outlet in general, you will realize that it is humidity resistant due to the same.
When you’re installing it outdoors, of course, there will be periods of rain and high humidity. Even if you do not experience high humidity in your area, you cannot rule out leakage.
When you’re installing it outdoors, some leakage might happen. It can be water percolating through the roof or gutters or even humid surfaces on which the outlet is installed. If the outlet which you are installing does not have ground protection, once again, it will impact not just the outlet but also the appliance. It can result in an electric shock as well.
Imagine this; on the other hand, when you’re installing a GFCI outlet, nothing of that sort will occur.
Since the outlet is humidity resistant, you will not have to worry about the shock running through any surface or the appliance getting damaged. It is another reason why even though not mandatory, you should use GFCI outlets when installing one outdoors.
4. Reduction of electricity bills:
Did you know that leakage current can cost you?
Even if it is flowing into the ground without affecting any surface or without causing an electrical shock, it is still current.
The more current that is utilized, the higher will be your electricity bills as well.
When you factor in the cost of the GFCI outlet, you will realize that it is pretty minimal considering the level of protection which it provides.
On the other hand, if you’re using a faulty outlet which is making the current flow into the ground, the electricity bill on an annual basis is going to be huge.
It is much more affordable to just install a GFCI outlet.
Rather than just looking at the upfront cost, you have to take into account the leakage current cost. Once you take that into account, it makes perfect sense to install a GFCI outlet outdoors.
As you can see, even though GFCI outlets might not be required but they can certainly provide the ground fault protection which NEC requires. Not only that, the reasons why you should install a GFCI outlet outdoors are plenty.
Considering all these reasons, instead of ignoring the need for a GFCI outlet, you should always opt for a GFCI outlet outdoors.