Author(s): Derek Vigstol. Published on November 1, 2020.

In Compliance | NEC

Addressing issues around new GFCI requirements in the 2020 NEC


Issues have arisen with some of the new requirements in NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®), related to GFCI protection for dwelling units. The revision cycle for the 2020 edition of the NEC included a significant expansion of these requirements, which now extend to include receptacles up to 250V on branch circuits rated 150V to ground or less, as well as entire basements (finished or not) and all outdoor outlets (receptacle or not). There is no doubt that an inspector has a significantly greater responsibility to ensure that the requirements found in 210.8 are applied properly.

It’s worth reviewing why these revisions were made in the first place. GFCI requirements often require substantial technical reasons to convince the code making panel to add new devices, equipment, or areas to the list. During the revision cycle for the 2020 NEC, several recent deaths were presented as reasons why we need to expand GFCI protection for people in dwellings. Examples included a worker who was electrocuted by the energized frame of a defective range; a child who was electrocuted while crawling behind a dryer looking for her cat; and a young boy who simultaneously came in contact with an energized AC condensing unit and a grounded chain link fence as he cut through a neighbor’s yard on his way home for dinner. These tragic events could have been prevented had GFCI been a part of the equation.

A question that has already been raised in relation to the 250V requirement is how it could affect the range receptacle. The requirements for GFCI protection in the kitchen are not as specific as they are in non-dwelling-type occupancies. First, receptacles installed to serve kitchen countertops must be GFCI protected. This doesn’t really apply to range receptacles, since those aren’t typically installed at countertop height. Even if they were, though, the case could be made that the receptacles are there to serve the range and nothing else. The other list items in 210.8(A) that might require GFCI protection for range receptacles are sinks, where the range receptacle is installed within 6 feet of the top inside edge of the sink bowl. The range receptacle will only require GFCI protection if it is installed within this 6-foot zone.

However, there are other places in a dwelling where the issue is a bit more straightforward, such as the laundry area. There are no conditional distances in those spaces: if the receptacle is installed in the laundry room/area, it requires GFCI protection. Therefore, clothes dryers are now required to be GFCI protected because they are in the laundry area. The same is true for basements; for the 2020 edition, the code making panel removed the “unfinished” qualifications from basements. The garage is another area that is all-encompassing, too, meaning that welders, air compressors, and any other electric-powered tool or appliance that you might find in a garage will need GFCI protection if they are cord-and-plug connected.

Finally, the GFCI expansion receiving the most discussion is the addition of outdoor outlets. Notice I didn’t say “outdoor receptacle outlets”—those were already covered. This new expansion extends to hardwired equipment as well, except for snow-melting equipment and lighting outlets. This means that the condenser unit for an air conditioner needs to be GFCI protected, too. Once this new requirement started to be implemented in new installations, it quickly became apparent that there was an issue with certain mini-split ductless systems that utilize power-conversion equipment to control the speed of the compressor and can cause random tripping of the GFCI protection. Because of this, the NEC is processing a Tentative Interim Amendment on 210.8(F) in order to delay the implementation for these mini-split systems until January 1, 2023. This TIA is currently in the public comment stage before it goes back to the committee for deliberation and action. The TIA makes it clear that the committee still supports the protection of these outlets, but simply seeks to give the industry some time to develop a solution to this issue for these specific units.

With all of these significant changes to the GFCI requirements, it can almost be guaranteed that the 2023 revision cycle will see more work done around these life-saving devices. Staying up to speed with the conversation will not only help the code-updating process, it will also contribute to the NEC being accepted in more jurisdictions nationwide. 

Derek Vigstol is an NFPA technical lead, Electrical Tech Services. NFPA members and AHJs can use the Technical Questions tab to post queries on NFPA 70 at