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GFCI & AFCI Outlets

In general, the law allows a homeowner to perform an electrical installation on his or her property without electrical licensing or individual certification. Although this exemption exists it does not provide the homeowner with a realization of the potential safety hazards of a substandard electrical installation. The Department's experience with homeowner electrical installations has led us to compile a list of the most common violations. This list is not comprehensive or inclusive. Successfully completing all items on this list will not cover everything that you will need to know to do a compliant installation. For information on a specific electrical contractor or an electrician please visit our website at

GFCI/AFCI Outlets in Washington State

NEC 210.8 At dwellings, ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection shall be provided for the kitchen dishwasher branch circuit and for all receptacle outlets in bathrooms, garages, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, kitchen countertops, laundry areas, boathouses, outdoors and within 6 feet of sinks, bathtubs, and shower stalls. All GFCIs shall be readily accessible.

NEC 680.71 A hydromassage bathtub, (defined as a permanently installed bathtub with a re-circulating piping system, designed to discharge water upon each use, and its associated components] shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection. All 125 volt receptacles not exceeding 30 amperes installed within 6 feet of the inside walls of the hydromassage bathtub shall be GFCI protected. All equipment associated with a hydromassage bathtub shall be accessible without damaging the building structure or finish.

WAC 296-46B-210

Wiring and Protection—Branch circuits.

008(A) Dwelling units GFCI requirements.

(1) In a garage or unfinished basement, a red receptacle, with a red cover plate, supplying a fire alarm system is not required to have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection. The receptacle must be identified for use only with the fire alarm system by an identification plate or engraved cover with letters at least 1/4 inch high.

(2) All fixed electrical equipment with exposed grounded metal parts within an enclosed shower area or within 5 feet of the top inside edge of a bathtub must have ground fault circuit interrupter protection.

008(B) Other than dwelling units - GFCI requirements.

(3) GFCI requirements. GFCI protection for personnel will not be required for:

(a) Three-phase receptacles unless specifically required elsewhere in the NEC; or

(b) Receptacles used for recreational vehicle supply equipment or for attachment of a mobile home supply cord other than 125-volt, single phase, 15- or 20-ampere receptacles.

For the purposes of NEC 210.8(B), kitchen means any area where utensils, dishes, etc., are cleaned or where food or beverages are prepared or cooked.

011 Branch circuits.

(4) A raceway system or one dedicated 15-ampere minimum, 120 volt circuit must be taken to all unfinished space areas adaptable to future dwelling unit living areas that are not readily accessible to the service or branch circuit panelboard. One circuit or raceway is required for each 480 square feet or less of unfinished space area. If the total adjacent unfinished space area is less than 480 square feet, the circuit can be an extension of an existing circuit. The circuits must terminate in a suitable box(es). The box must contain an identification of the intended purpose of the circuit(s). The branch circuit panelboard must have adequate space and capacity for the intended load(s).

013 Ground fault protection of equipment.

(5) Equipment ground fault protection systems required by the NEC must be tested prior to being placed into service to verify proper installation and operation of the system as determined by the manufacturer's published instructions. A firm having qualified personnel and proper equipment must perform the tests required. A copy of the manufacturer's performance testing instructions and a written performance acceptance test record signed by the person performing the test must be available at the time of inspection. The performance acceptance test record must include test details including, but not limited to, all trip settings and measurements taken during the test.

025 Common area branch circuits.

(6) For the purpose of NEC 210.25, loads for septic or water well systems that are shared by no more than two dwelling units may be supplied from either of the two dwelling units if approved by the local building official and local health department.

052 (A)(2) Dwelling unit receptacle outlets.

(7) For the purpose of NEC 210.52 (A)(2)(1), "similar openings" include the following configurations that are a permanent part of the dwelling configuration or finish:

(a) Window seating; and

(b) Bookcases or cabinets that extend from the floor to a level at least 5 feet 6 inches above the floor.

Any outlets eliminated by such window seating, bookcases, or cabinets must be installed elsewhere within the room.

052(C) Countertops.

(8) A receptacle in a wall countertop space shall be permitted to serve as the receptacle for a peninsular countertop space where the spaces are contiguous and the receptacle is located within 8 feet of the outside edge of the peninsular countertop.

(f) Report the location of any inoperative or missing GFCI and/or AFCI devices when they are recommended by industry standards.


What is an AFCI Circuit Breaker? 

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) are required by the National Electrical Code for certain electrical circuits in the home.

Most people are familiar with the term arcing. Arcing may be intended, such as with an arc welder or unintended, such as when a tree falls on a power line during a storm creating a current discharge between conductors or to the ground.

An arc fault is an unintended arc created by current flowing through an unplanned path. Arcing creates high-intensity heating at the point of the arc resulting in burning particles that may easily ignite surrounding material, such as wood framing or insulation. The temperatures of these arcs can exceed 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is a major difference between the functioning of an AFCI as compared to a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). The function of the GFCI is to protect people from the deadly effects of electric shock that could occur if parts of an electrical appliance or tool become energized due to a ground fault. The function of the AFCI is to protect the branch circuit wiring from dangerous arcing faults that could initiate an electrical fire.

AFCI and GFCI technologies can co-exist with each other and are a great complement for the most complete protection that can be provided on a circuit.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements for arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) have become more stringent with each passing Code cycle, stirring up much discussion and debate among builders, electrical contractors, and other professionals involved in home construction. While these devices were previously only required to protect the bedroom, the 2008 NEC now requires the technology to be installed in additional areas of the home, including dining rooms, living rooms, and other habitable areas.