If you don’t have GFCI technology in your home, you’re missing out. First of all, the NEC expects consumers to use GFCIs to protect their homes. You don’t want to run afoul of the law. Secondly, you need GFCI technology to keep your friends and family safe from ground faults. You have to add GFCIs in garages, pool areas, bathrooms, and every other location that exposes appliances and their outlets to moisture. You can also add GFCIs to outdoor outlets.
Can A GFCI Outlet Be Connected To A Light Switch?
A contractor will take the location into account when choosing the appropriate light fixtures. Lights that have to stay outside should be rated for wet locations because they are exposed to wet conditions. In such conditions, you have to add gfci to the light switch.
However, if you want to add a GFCI to the light switch as an extra layer of protection, no one will stop you.
GFCIs have a Line and load side. You can connect any device you want to protect to the load side, including outlets and switches. The GFCI will protect every device on the load side.
Note: It is better to leave this sort of wiring in the hands of an electrician.
The last thing you want is to tamper with a circuit when you lack the relevant experience. However, if you can wire GFCI outlets and lights switches, you can probably connect a GFCI to a light switch without shocking yourself.
Is this practice encouraged?
No, it isn’t, and for obvious reasons. GFCIs trip in response to ground faults. However, GFCIs are vulnerable to nuisance tripping. An appliance with a motor can cause a GFCI to trip in the absence of an actual ground fault.
If this doesn’t concern you because you don’t have any motors on the GFCIs, you should know that a light switch can also trip a GFCI. This happens when you tie the neutral and ground together.
The GFCI will notice that the switch sent a certain number of volts out, but those volts did not return. This phenomenon is dangerous. If you’re lucky, the GFCI will trip. But if it doesn’t, you could start a fire.
Admittedly, this is the worst-case scenario. If a light switch on a GFCI outlet doesn’t kill you, it may become an inconvenience. Think about it. What happens when a ground fault occurs?
The GFCI turns the power off. If the GFCI is connected to the lights, a tripped GFCI will plunge your home into darkness. This is why people are hesitant to place lights on a GFCI. They are not afraid to start fires. They trust the contractors wiring their homes.
These homeowners are worried that the lights will repeatedly turn off because the GFCI keeps tripping unnecessarily. Therefore, you should proceed with caution.
How Do You Wire A GFCI Outlet To A Switch?
If you don’t have a GFCI, you have to start by installing one. The process involves the following:
- De-energize the circuit. Use the main breaker to switch the power off
- Remove the faceplate. If your outlet has screws, remove them
- Pull the old outlet out of the box and disconnect the wires at the back
- Take the GFCI out of its box and identify the load and line terminals
- Use the instructions on the GFCI box to connect the wires. Use the black wire to run to the dark screw while the white wire connects to the light screw. You are still working on the line side. You don’t have to connect anything to the load side. The bare wire goes to the grounding terminal.
- Push the GFCI into the electrical box and screw the faceplate back into place
- The final step is to test the GFCI by pressing ‘TEST.’ ‘RESET’ should pop out. If it does, the GFCI is working. You can switch the power back on.
With the GFCI installed, you can use the following steps to connect it to the light fixture:
- I want you to remember that power enters through the line side and leaves via the load side. This piece of information is important because it affects the wiring process.
- Extend the wiring from the load side of the GFCI to the switch. Connect the black wire and then splice the neutrals together.
- You can extend the wiring even further from the switch to the light fixture.
What if you want to connect the GFCI outlet to a dimmer light switch? Follow the below steps to perform the task. They include:
- De-energize the circuit. Test the GFCI with a voltage tester to ensure that it doesn’t have power.
- Remove the screws holding the faceplate in place. Once you pull it off, do the same thing to the screws holding the GFCI outlet in place.
- Your dimmer switch needs a single-gang electrical box. If you have one, install it.
- Run the black and white wires to the brass and silver terminal screws, respectively.
- Run the ground pigtail wire to the GFCI’s grounding post.
- Connect the dimmer switch box’s ground to the power supply’s ground and the bare copper ground pigtail. You need a wire nut to perform this task.
- Push the GFCI back into the electrical box and insert the screws.
- Use a wire nut to connect the stripped whites at the dimmer switch box and the bare copper wires at the switch box.
- Run a black wire between the GFCI and one of the dimmer switch wires.
- Run a black wire between the light fixture and the second dimmer switch wire.
- Put the dimmer switch in an electrical box and attach the faceplate
- At this point, you have to connect the dimmer switch and the light fixture’s black wires. You should also connect the switch’s white wire to the fixture’s white wire.
- Run the bare copper ground to the light fixture’s ground wire.
Why Do You Need To Wire A GFCI To Switch?
You don’t have to wire a GFCI to a light switch. Outdoor light fixtures are problematic because they are more likely to get wet. If you have to connect them to an outlet, make sure the outlet is GFCI protected.
I want you to apply GFCI technology to external outlets, I don’t expect you to do the same for outdoor light fixtures. Instead, I want you to buy lights rated for wet conditions.
Your electrician will do everything else that is required to keep you safe. That includes running circuit cables through the dry sections of the walls where moisture can’t get to them. They will also run some wires underground, but only if they can survive wet conditions.
You have to be worried about the lights in a bathroom. You have to install GFCIs on bathroom outlets, but not on the lights. And yet, moisture can infiltrate the lights in a bathroom. A malfunction could expose the homeowner to fire and electrocution hazards. However, lights can survive in a bathroom without GFCI protection if they are rated for wet conditions.
In other words, you don’t need GFCI technology to protect your friends and family from electrocution.
Is It Safe To Add A GFCI Outlet To Light Switch?
Yes, it is safe. Your biggest concern is that a tripped GFCI will turn the lights off, which isn’t a problem during the day. But if it happens at night, the GFCI may become an annoyance, especially if it keeps tripping for no apparent reason.
However, if a professional electrician wires the GFCI, you don’t lose anything by adding this technology to your lights. It adds an extra layer of protection.
What Does NEC Say About It?
The NEC doesn’t expect consumers to add GFCI technology to lights. However, you should install GFCIs on outlets that serve light fixtures in places like the bathroom that require GFCI technology.
Precautions To Take While Wiring GFCI Switch Outlet
- Don’t tamper with lights, switches, and outlets without de-energizing the circuit.
- Make sure you test the switches to ensure that the power is off
- Match the wire size to the load you have in mind. One light fixture may not overwhelm a small cable. But if the same cable has to serve the needs of multiple lights, you may start a fire
- Don’t confuse the line and load side. Connect each wire to the correct terminal. Otherwise, you may prevent the GFCI from providing the protection it offers.
- Test the GFCI regularly. Some GFCIs perform automatic tests. Check the instructions.
- Consult a professional electrician if the GFCI trips whenever you switch the light on.