Garage GFCI

Here’s the scenario: Attached garage. New home. Ceiling lights, automatic garage door opener, AND all GFCI outlets on SAME circuit!. If I’m in the garage, at night, running a power saw (example), and I trip the GFCI, the lights go out, and the opener shuts off. I’m stuck in the dark!! I can’t find a code anywhere that says the GFCI outlest and the light/opener have to be on separate circuits. I wrote it up as a safety violation that needed service. Any thoughts? Have a code number?


You should retract that completely-inaccurate statement. It is not a “violation” and it is not a “safety-concern.”

It may be considered a nuisance, but there is nothing that prohibits this set-up.

Agreeed with my friend the " POPE "…retract that statement as it is not correct.

The NEC® tells us what is REQUIRED to be GFCI protected…thats about it…if the client wants to put all 120V 15 & 20 Amp circuits on GFCI they are more than OK to do so…inconvience is not a mandate of the CODE.

So, I (home owner) accidentally trip the GFI, my saw shuts off, I’m stumbling in the dark, I trip and fall, which spills gas from an old can of gas I use to clean stuff, I drop my saw, it causes a spark, and I go up in flames, and thats not a safety concern? (Not to mention the home inspector ends up liable for his/her death/injury because I didn’t mention it).

I didn’t actually write in my report that it was a “violation”. I merely stated that it may be a safety concern and that they may wish to add a separate circuit so that in case a GFI is tripped, the lights and opener won’t go out. Sorry to have confused you.

The ONLY answer I was looking for here was… is there a ‘code’ or ‘standard’ on an attached garage that says these circuits must or ‘should’ be separate? This is the first attached garage in over 400 inspections that was wired this way. So, there must be a reason the other 399 were wired separately!

I wasn’t looking for someone to criticize how inaccurate I am/was. Geeze.

Except for the refrigerator Paul! Don’t forget the refrigerator must be by itself!..LOL

Mr. Dale

Let me first say that you saw something that you feel is a danger and you should never be criticized for this.
If there is one thing that I try to teach it is;
Safety first
Safety last
Safety always

To address the code issues concerning the use of one circuit in the garage and protecting the entire circuit with GFCI, there is nothing that prohibits this.
As a matter of fact in the 2008 code cycle all the receptacles in the garage will be required to be GFCI protected.

Personally I don’t put the light on the load side of GFCI although I have ran into situations where it had to be due to the way the circuit was installed originally. Without a doubt this is what happened in this instance. The circuit was installed where it would have to have the light on the load side of the GFCI.

Let me also say that through my thinking of safety first, safety last, safety always, it would be a greater danger to be using an electrical tool around a can of gas in daylight than the way the circuit is installed.

Should this person die through the scenario you presented I would have to rule it a clear case of accidental suicide.

No confusion here, I merely responded to your post, as it was written.

That question was answered. The answer is “no.”

“Common practice” would be the reason for that. As I stated, you would certainly be justified to report it as a potential nuisance.

If you stated in your report (as you “implied”) that this is a “violation” and “unsafe,” it was necessary to let you know that you were inaccurate (wrong), so that lesser-experienced inspectors are not misdirected.

Who says…the NEC® sure does not…

It says it CAN be by itself…not that is is required to be so…:wink:

I don’t think anyone is crticizing you my friend…just trying to remove an inaccurate statement is all, This is the on going battle to help electricians and inspectors work together as if you put that in your statement the local electrician would make a comment probably that would not be in your best interest…trust me…we are only trying to be helpful.

We can’t give you a code…because none exists regarding your question.

Ok…I removed my trip statement above…lol…as I dont want it to be taken the wrong way. But in your example of a series of events it would more than likely be staged…we should not store gas in open areas that could be tripped over…and should not store gas in the garage really. Depending on the floor convering I am not sure a spark would be produced really and well many things COULD happen I guess…but they are not really a GFCI related thing.

I would have put the GFCI in the recepticales not in the panel… That would solve the problem.

As far as safety- you need to store you gas better!!!

Some municipalities may have ordinances that they enforce that go beyond the NEC. I used to run into that all the time when I was still doing remod work. Sometimes you run into a muni inspector who just misunderstands the code or ordinance and enforces it wrong.

A little off the thread

How many and what is the required spacing of garage outlets??

I assume that the one per wall and 12 ft rule does not apply

Are any required??


As the garage is not considered a habitable room there are no spacing or required receptacles.’

Agreed…heck I have seen some Muni-Inspectors require receptacles in the garage to be a minimum of 18" high…not understanding that this applies to commercial garages and not dwelling garages…but it happens.

Come on Paul, they have to justify their salaries.

The thing you have to remember about the code is in

90.1© Intention. This Code is not intended as a design specification or an instruction manual for untrained persons.

There are lots of stupid design decisions that are not specifically prohibited in the code.

So don’t live in a garage


Absolutely Paul. My intent was just to point out that it wouldn’t be a wise idea to place it on a GFCI. I’m sorry if I caused any confusion.


Please let us know when this happens so we can submit it to the Darwin Awards. :shock: Cleaning with gas? Working with a power saw without a clean work area or path? Sure, just rest the board on your leg… Now I know why they have to put warnings like “do not stick hand in running mower blades” on lawnmowers. :roll:

My wise ol’ grandmother said, “Ain’t that the truth?”

Common sense also is not specifically prohibited, or encouraged, or even addressed in the code.

I would not want to be stumbling around in the dark if the GFCI tripped, so whenever I find lights on the GFCI, I always call them out as a safety concern and recommend individual circuits. Additionally, when I find the first, second, and third-floor bathrooms on the same GFCI located out in the garage, I call it out as a safety concern. I would not want to be traveling down three flights of stairs just after getting out of the shower and still wet to reset the GFCI. Trip hazards are the number one cause of accident and injury around the home, and that would certainly be a trip hazard in my opinion.

So far, in 6 years of home inspecting, I haven’t had a Client who disagreed with me. Some electricians have, but as I tell my Clients, electricians work to code, which is an absolute minimum requirement and doesn’t address common sense. Additionally, the very essense of how codes are decided certainly means that everything that is code isn’t necessarily right, or that something that isn’t code isn’t better than that which is code. That’s why codes get updated every 2-4 years, and sometimes why there are delays in implementing new codes.

After all, who decides what is code and what isn’t? Is it not a committee of some type, at a minimum? So let’s imagine a committee of, say, 21 electricians sitting around deciding whether or not to implement JPGR. 11 say no, and 10 say yes. Consequently, it’s not code. Three years from now, with either the original 21 people or a different set of 21 people, the vote now is 11 yes and 10 no. What changed? Sometimes nothing, other than a few deaths and property damage from not having implemented JPGR three years ago.

Sometimes, new codes are not implemented because they are inconvenient to the manufacturers (i.e., expensive). But at what price? A few deaths, injuries, or property damage? Ah, yes, gotta the lobbyists and the system, one of the reasons why I left the “home inspector” industry to become a “property consultant.” Consultants have a lot more leeway to work with common sense, mere opinions, etc.