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When were exterior (outdoor) receptacle outlets first required to be GFCI?
Friday, May 24, 2019
All outdoor receptacles were first required to be GFCI-protected by the 1971 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). Then it was limited to receptacles “with direct grade access to dwelling" in 1978, and direct grade access was further defined as within 6’-6” of the ground in the 1987 NEC edition. Then that exemption was wiped out in the 1996 NEC, with only an exception for snow melting equipment if on a dedicated circuit and not readily accessible. So, since 1996 all receptacles, including on balconies, decks, and porches—no matter how high above the ground—must have GFCI-protection.
As the NEC has updated with a new edition every three years, the locations required have been expanded or tweaked with almost every cycle since then. For a complete listing of each currently required location for GFCI-protection and when it was instituted, see our blog post When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?
But, while the year that the NEC added a new location requirement is easy to define, each local juridiction’s building codes don’t necessarily adopt the latest edition of the NEC immediately. The state of Florida, for example, did not make the 2011 NEC effective until mid-2015. Other jurisdictions have sometimes waited even longer to adopt a newer NEC edition and, to complicate things further, they might make amendments that exclude parts of the newest requirements. So the year when the NEC first required GFCI-protection for a new receptacle location can be several years before your local building department adopted that edition of the code and began enforcing it.
One last note: GFCI-protection can be provided by a GFCI receptacle (one receptacle will protect others downstream in the circuit, which should be marked as GFCI protected), a GFCI circuit breaker in the electric panel, or a GFCI dead front (often used for indoor spa tubs, essentially a GFCI receptacle without the slots to plug in a cord, usually located in bathroom or next to electric panel).
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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about AFCI and GFCI RECEPTACLES AND CIRCUIT BREAKERS:
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