I have a set of AC toggle switches about a yard away from my shower
stall. Light, vent fan, and heat lamp. They are in one box -- one dual
switch, and a single switch with an indicator light (the heat lamp).
I've been wondering if I should be using a GFCI there. But the only
ones I can find are GFCI outlets, not GFCI switches, and especially
dual switches. There isn't any outlet there.
First question is if I need GFCI there. If someone reaches out of the
shower with wet hands and touches an AC switch, are they in danger of
If yes, what do I do about it? Special grade switches? Or is there
really a way of getting GFCI into a dual box with three switches?
It can be fed from the GFCI outlet in the wall or
a GFCI breaker in the electrical panel. The switch
handles are plastic and the cover plate is plastic.
I doubt you have a shock hazard there even from the
painted metal cover screws. The switch brackets are
supposed to be grounded (earthed as my Limey friends
Unless the wiring was done by some home handyman (hack) who was unaware of
GFI requirements, in a bath, the wiring is usually 'already' running thru a
GFI..either in the bathroom outlet itself (where the light switch, fan etc
are downstream from the GFI) or run thru a different GFI outside the
bathroom somewhere. Check around the house for ALL the GFI outlets you can
find..Even outside and in the laundry room and garage..hopefully one of
these will control the bathroom power. Put a 'helper" in the bathroom who
can shout out to you, Turn on the light/fan in the bath, then cycle the GFIs
you find til the helper says "Thats the ONE"
This house (vintage 1960) was inspected successfully about ten years
ago when we bought the house, but I'm not aware of any external GFCI
feeding these switches There is one on an outlet in the other bathroom
(not hooked to this bathroom), and the bathroom we're talking about
has only nongrounded outlets that feed from the wall lamp over the
sink. (No, not that smart either, especially because they are switched
with the light, but at least not reachable from the shower. No
nightlights going on those outlets!)
I guess I have to believe that the inspectors didn't consider it a
code violation. Perhaps they would have if it were an outlet? Probably
right that these switches simply aren't considered shock hazards. I
find that a bit surprising. The fact that there aren't GFCI swtches
handily available would be consistent with that.
Back to the original question. Hacked or not hacked, how would I put
one in? Surely there is a dual toggle switch that has a GFCI built in?
Or are you saying that I need to put in a new box next to the switch
box, put a GFCI outlet there, and feed the switches from that circuit?
Seems unnecessarily hard.
It's not a code violation if the wiring/devices/etc. all predate the
requirement for GFCIs.
If it bothers you, you could change the breaker in the panel for a GFCI
breaker, then you won't have to cut into the wall. There might be a
combination GFCI/switch, although I'm not all warm and fuzzy about using
a combo device with a receptacle in a wet location. Probably the best
solution would be to demo the existing box and put in a two gang old
work box with a switch and a GFCI recep...
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
There are blank faced GFCIs available that do not contain a
receptacle. The are used to provide GFCI protection for loads located
in places were it is undesirable to have a receptacle such as within
ten feet of the waters edge at a hot tub.
re: Put "a 'helper" in the bathroom who can shout out to you
Under no circumstances should this "helper" be your wife/partner/
Do Not, I repeat, Do Not attempt to map the circuit breaker box with
your wife. Get a friend, or better yet, a complete stranger to help.
The mapping of circuits in a house has the same documented
'relationship casualty rate' as wallpapering.
Husband: (at breaker box, yelling through ductwork) Is it off?
Wife: (at far end of house) What?
Husband: I said, IS IT OFF?
Wife: I meant, IS *WHAT* OFF?
Husband: What? Did you say "It's not off"?
Husband: "No, it's not off" or "No, you didn't say it's not off?"
Wife: ARRRRGGGHHHH I hate this!
You are wise beyond your years :)
Fortunately I have a small house so I just did it myself. My ass needs
the exercise anyway.
I've been toying with the idea of having the girlie measure rooms,
windows, etc. as I sit at my computer and draw everything in AutoCAD.
Any feedback on whether that is a similarly bad idea?
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
Being a bachelor, I'm not sure why this is. In my case, I
did map the breakers when I moved in. For sockets, I used a
radio turned to max, and then go find which breaker turns
off the radio. And for lights, trip one breaker and go see
In a larger house, two workers with FRS walkie talkies could
make short work of things.
In a house with forced air heat. If you close a damper (and
you know it was closed not opened) that results in more air
in one room. It's cause you're freezing the woman who lives
there, and is sitting in the living room being ammused by
the hubby and friend running up and down the stairs with
walkie talkies. She's not ammused by having to wear blankets
in the living room.
Leviton does make a combination gfci-single pole toggle switch. Unless the
fan unit is in the shower enclosure or over the tub, there is no NEC
requirement that it or the switches that control it, be gfci protected.
There is a requirement to have a gfci receptacle next to the sink .
I believe there is an electrical code that switches be some distance away so
that it is UN-reachable from a shower stall. Because of this, you may find
there is no GFCI protected switch available. Another reason is that in order
to fully protect a switch, the GFCI needs to be upstream. Otherwise, there
will always be some portion of the switch that is unprotected (e.g. the
incoming hot lead).
In addition to putting in a GFCI breaker in the panel, there is another
If the upstream of the switch is an outlet somewhere, then you can replace
the outlet with a GFCI outlet and let the switch be the downstream load.
Thanks to all. The idea of a GFCI breaker seems like the best idea.
Yes, but isn't that also the case with an outlet? The incoming hot
lead to the outlet is just as dangerous as the incoming hot lead to
the switch. Again, just sort of puzzling why GFCI switches aren't
The GFCI function of an outlet is not intended to protect anyone touching
the outlet plate or screws. It is to prevent whatever is plugged into the
outlet from from becoming a hazard due to leakage or shorts. Since nothing
can be plugged into a switch there is no need for GFCI protection. There are
location and grounding requirements adequate to prevent hazards from
That makes a lot of sense. Specifically, why switches aren't marketed
I was suspecting that. Now, I don't think anyone will reach out of the
shower with heavily
dripping hands to turn on the fan, but it occurs to me that you'd
really have to have a switch
heavily saturated with water to make it dangerous. Not so with an
outlet, since the hot
contacts are just a fraction of an inch behind the plate, and a wet
hand could moisten a plug
just enough to make continuity with the prongs.
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