Exterior outlets in soffit

New home inspected today, found (4) exterior outlets in the soffits (for heat tape, holiday decorations, etc.) that are not GFCI. Shouldn’t all exterior outlets be GFCI? Or are there some exceptions?
Gerald Wilcox

Hi Gerald,

yes there are some exceptions and I believe that what you have seen is one of them, the best rule of thumb without getting into the code, is that if the receptacles are above a normaly reachable height (not generaly accessable) they do not have to be GFCI potected.



Hi Gerald,

2006 IRC
E3802.3 Outdoor receptacles. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15 and 20-Ampere receptacles installed outdoors shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.

Exception: Receptacles as covered in Section E4001.7

E4001.7 Snow-melting and deicing equipment protection.
Outdoor receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied from a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow-melting or deicing equipment shall be permitted to be installed without ground-fault protection for personnel. However, ground-fault protection of equipment shall be provided for fixed outdoor electric deicing and snow-melting equipment.

Hi Greg,

thanks for the clarification, I was not awake enough to look it up. I had not realised that the current code required fixed heating strips to be GFCI, I thought all dedicated non accessible outlets could be unprotected.

Interestingly I think that the code has it backasswards, as the receptacle used for temporary/seasonal use could be used to plug in an extention lead and power any other appliance, including those that should be GFCI protected whilst being used outside.



If it’s outside (period-no exceptions) or within 6 feet of water, it’s automatically a recommendation to install GFCI’s.

Yeah…basically you have Class A and Class B GFI’s …

The Class A device is your standard GFCI which has a GFCI trip rating of 4-6MA while a Class B device has a trip rating of 20 MA and higher for some manufacturers.

The Class B is for equipment protection afforded your situation by Article 426, Section 426.28 Equipment Protection for fixed outdoor electric deicing and snow melting equipment.

I personally, for my mother like to put all exterior receptacles on a switch & GFCI protect them for her.

I have found kids plugging cords into her home instead of their own home.

Also the switch makes it easy for her to control Holiday lighting etc.

I live in sunny California, so we don’t have much need for snow melting outlets except for the Lake Tahoe area. Do you guys in the snow country call out for “in-use” covers for outside outlets like the one mentioned in this thread? Just curious.

I recommend weather tight covers on all exterior GFCI’s, but not so much in the upper eave areas.


no, not if it is under the eaves and installed IN the soffit …that would be a damp location and would not require an inuse cover.

This is one place where I dissagree with NFPA. I think the snap covers are better for seldom used outside receptacles that will almost never be used unattended. They do a whole lot better job of keeping out the weather when closed and they are not natural wasp condos. Certainly the in use cover is a great idea for places where you leave something plugged in. That was the original intent but it got perverted.

lol…got perverted did it…lol…yeah I agree it should be more like the requirement for wet locations indoors that are used for service rendering only but then again…who are we Greg…:wink:

I hear that!! That’s very good advice depending on where you live. I caught my neighbor last winter stealing my power (because he couldn’t pay his bill, and thought it would be ok :shock: :roll: ). He can buy a BMW, but can’t afford the power for his own home. :roll:

In Baltimore City any exterior receptacle within 10 foot of the sidewalk is required to be switch controlled to prevent people borrowing your power.

If you are worried a would put the metal faceplate with the loop for locking with padlock.

You are correct Gerry. I don’t know when the code changed but I believe the old code was any exterior locations 6’ or greater above grade did not require GFCI protection. I find a lot of 1990’s constructed second story exterior deck outlets not GFCI protected.