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When it comes to safety at home, we often take a lot of things for granted and pay little or no attention to them. Bathroom lighting is one of those things.
However, bathroom lights are very important for multiple reasons. For one, your choice of lighting can make your bathroom experience either fantastic or mundane. And considering that bathrooms are wet locations, lighting plays a great part in making sure you have sufficient visibility and do not have any accidents.
In keeping with the thread of safety, did you know your lights themselves could pose an accidental hazard, especially if you had a short circuit? The reason is that the water which is always present in bathrooms could cause an electrical hazard if it gets into the lights or circuits even by mistake.
That is where GFCI protection comes into play. Continue reading to learn more about what GFCI is and if lights in a bathroom need to be GFCI protected.
What is GFCI?
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interruption, and it refers to a life-saving safety device. The way it works is by detecting power outlets that have imbalances and shutting them down before any damage is done.
GFCI receptacle outlets constantly monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit and shut the circuit down the second there is a disruption in the flow.
In bathrooms, water in electrical outlets can cause imbalances in power. If you have a GFCI receptacle installed, it recognizes the threat and shuts down power by tripping the circuit breaker before the damage occurs.
If you do not have GFCI protection, you risk electrocution if you come into contact with faulty electrical lights and outlets.
Do all bathroom outlets need GFCI?
Electrical codes for bathrooms are decided by local building codes. These are inevitably based on stipulations from the National Electrical Code as published by the National Fire Protection Association.
All bathrooms have a 20-amp circuit that the lights and outlets are assigned to. In most cases, the code requires at least one GFCI-protected outlet to be present in every bathroom. However, most people choose to have at least two or three protected bathroom receptacles, and with good reason.
The code states that these outlets need to be situated in areas that tend to get wet the most in bathrooms, such as shower stalls, sinks, and bathtubs.
It is good judgment to choose at least one GFCI outlet not only in every bathroom but in every room that qualifies as a damp location. As they say, prevention is always better than cure.
Do all bathroom lights need Ground Fault Circuit Interruption protection?
Not all bathroom light fixtures need GFCI protection. For example, if the lights over your tub or shower are recessed lights, or any other light fixture that is waterproof, they may not need GFCI. In fact, there are no specific codes for bathroom lights.
However, it is always safer to make sure your lights are GFCI protected. If your lights do not have GFCI protection, in the case of an electrical anomaly, they will not do anything to prevent the accident from happening. And electrical accidents can lead to fires, electrocution, and even death.
On the other hand, having GFCI protection, at least on the ceiling lights above your tub or shower, will mean you will at least have lights to see your way out of the bathroom even if the outlet trips.
In fact, many manufacturers of bathroom lights and vent fans require GFCI protection, especially if they are located in the vicinity of bathtubs and showers.
Do you need special lights for bathrooms?
Bathrooms are among the dampest and most humid places in your home. There is the constant presence of water, be it from your sauna, hot tub, shower stall, or sink. A lot of this travels up towards the lights in the form of condensation. And sprays of water often reach these lights as well.
This means ordinary incandescent light bulbs just won’t cut the mustard as bathroom lights. Fortunately, most manufacturers have damp-rated and wet-rated lights specifically for these areas.
Read more: Why does GFCI outlet keep tripping
How do I know if my bathroom lights have GFCI protection?
As we mentioned earlier, not every light in your bathroom needs GFCi, but the ones closest to water sources such as your inks, shower, sauna, and bathtub would definitely be safer with the additional protection.
That being said, because of manufacturer mandates, it is possible some of your bathroom lights may already have the necessary protection. Here’s how you can make out.
Next to the wall switch for the light in question, there will be a small black box with a reset button on it. This small black box is the GFCI circuit breaker.
If a light switch in your bathroom does not have one of these boxes, it either means the light is not located in a damp zone, or that you need to upgrade and get GFCI protection installed.
Read more: Why do my recessed lights flicker