GFCI Outlet Purpose and GFCI Location History


The simplest explanation of the GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) Receptacle Purpose would be:

GFCI devices save lives by limiting the duration of electrical shocks.

Kitchen countertop small appliances should be plugged into the GFCI protected outlet

The real life scenario: Let’s say that you’re using a metal knife or fork to pull out your breakfast from the toaster which is still turned on. By touching the interior electrical components, you may become an extension, the path for the electrical current.

If you are lucky to have the toaster plugged into the functional, properly installed GFCI receptacle or GFCI breaker protected receptacle, it will detect that “leaking” current and disconnect the power as fast as 1/40th of a second.

This is fortunately less time that it takes the electrical current to cause damage to our body. Without the GFCI protection… well, you may be out of luck. The electrical current of 30-200mA (200mA is a typical night light current) is capable of causing your heart arrhythmia, eventually stopping your heart and ceasing blood circulation within a few seconds.

GFCI Location History: GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) electrical outlets where first introduced in US in early 70’s. Still in the testing stage, and under development, GFCI outlets where causing a lot of confusion and aggravation in the beginning of their implementation. Becoming more advanced and safer over a few decades of existence, those inexpensive GFCI outlets are currently protecting our lives in various locations in our properties.

The table below shows an introduction of various GFCI required locations and conditions over the 30 year period. However, you should always apply the latest code requirement to your situation. It’s required not because somebody is trying to make a few bucks on you, but because your life might depend on it.

History of GFCI Requirements Introduced by NEC
(National Electrical Code)
Year of NEC
New GFCI Locations or Conditions Concerning GFCI Applications
Introduced in NEC Publication
  • GFCI receptacles required within 15 feet of swimming pool walls
  • All portable swimming pool equipment must be GFCI protected
  • All outdor receptacles must be GFCI protected
  • GFCI protection must be used on construction sites
  • GFCI protection required for bathrooms, fountain equipment, 120 volt pool lights, and boathouses
  • Exemption for exterior GFCI outlets located 6’&6″ above the ground
  • GFCI receptacles required for garages and spas (some local jurisdictions also included hydro-spa)
  • Exemption for garage receptacles for dedicated equipment or not readily accessible (i.e. garage door opener power supply outlet that can not be reached without the ladder)
  • Replacement of non-grounding receptacles with no grounding conductor
  • Pool cover motors require GFCI
  • GFCI receptacle distance from swimming pool wall extended to 20′
  • GFCI required for unfinished basements
  • GFCI required for hydro-spa
  • GFCI protection required for kitchen countertop receptacles located within 6′ from the sink
  • GFCI required in crawlspaces with an exception of sump pumps and any other dedicated equipment
  • GFCI required for wet bar countertop, within 6′ from the sink
  • Any receptacle replaced in an area that currently requires GFCI
  • GFCI protection required for all kitchen counters, not only within 6′ from the sink
  • GFCI required for all exterior outlets except for dedicated deicing tape / cable receptacle
  • Unfinished accessory building at or below grade require GFCI protected receptacles
  • Exception for dedicated equipment in crawlspace area removed
  • “Smart Lock” type GFCI receptacles required

GFCI Locations in Residential Buildings

That’s about it, some basic GFCI outlet purpose and GFCI location history.

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1 Comment
  1. Timothy Willsey says

    I am looking for the first requirement for GFCI protection of receptacles in a commercial repair garage. any idea when this req. appeared in the NEC?

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