Do Outdoor Lights Need to be GFCI Protected [Explained]

We enjoy having our outdoor spaces illuminated at night. However, lighting your outdoor living area is not the same as lighting your interior.

Do outdoor lights need to be GFCI protected? Installing lighting outside is different from doing it indoors. Outdoor lights will be subjected to a variety of weather elements, including hail, wind, sleet, and snow. This implies that they must feature GFCI protection, often known as a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.

If the applied voltage becomes imbalanced and poses a risk of an electrical shock, the GFCI will shut off the circuit. Keep reading this blog post to find out more.

What is GFCI Protection?

A GFCI or GFI, also known as a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, is a cheap electronic appliance that you can integrate into a power cable or put in the electrical system to safeguard you against dangerous electrical shocks.

It is very important to use caution while utilizing electricity. For this reason, laws and rules are in place. The National Electric Code (NEC) governs all electrical work in the United States and Canada.

As stated in s.90.1(a), the goal of the code is to provide actual protection to individuals and assets against risks originating from the usage of electricity. Thus, safety is the most important factor.

Then again, Section 210.8 of the NEC mandates that all outdoor lights and devices be safeguarded with GFCI. These clever gadgets protect people from electrocution by switching off electrical circuits if they detect an imbalance.

Numerous electrical systems are required to include a ground fault circuit interrupter under these standards (GFCI) to watch over electrical input constantly. They immediately trip and counter the circuit if they notice an electrical flow to a ground surface.

Surprisingly, data from the Electrical Safety Foundation International shows

  • The yearly incidence of electrocutions has decreased by 83% after the invention of GFCI back in the 1970s.

It means that the regulations from the NEC are working. Electrocutions have decreased significantly as a result of GFCIs.

Do Outdoor Lights Need to be GFCI Protected? A Guide to Electrical Safety

When using electrified equipment outside, where it is vulnerable, GFCI protection is necessary. For additional safety, you need to ensure the outdoor lights are GFCI protected. It is essential for outdoor lights to be waterproof and hooked into GFCI-protected outlets.

You may install a weatherproof panel and extend the electricity from your garage via the exterior wall. For the outside lights and outlets that are not related to a particular house or building, we often see underground wires that frequently run from the home to power them. These wires must be buried at least 2 feet deep.

The cable must be waterproof and particularly classified as subterranean feeder cable in order to survive damp circumstances. Once the extended garage circuit is secured, a GFCI outlet and cover might be installed, making it secure and legal.

Additionally, there must be a GFCI outlet or circuit breaker protecting the garage circuit. You must also ensure the wire bushings, electrical conduit, and exterior casing meet either NEC or CEC standards.

Do Outdoor Lights Must Have Their Own Circuits for GFCI?

No, each site does not need to have a GFCI outlet. It makes no difference how many outlets are connected unless the combined amount exceeds the GFCI device’s limit. The majority of GFCIs can safeguard a maximum of 20 amps, which can come from a variety of outlets.

However, there are advantages to placing your outside lights on separate circuits. In other words, even if one circuit fails, the others will still function. If all the outdoor lights fail on the same circuit, then it may leave the exterior of the house in complete darkness.

Where Do You Need to Place GFCI Protected Lights?

GFCIs are frequently utilized in bathrooms and kitchens where the electronic components have a high chance of interacting with water. These are crucial in preventing electrocutions in these places.

But over time, the rules have grown significantly. These days, GFCIs must be installed within 6 feet of all plumbing fixtures in both residential and commercial buildings.

According to NEC Article 210.8, all single-phase (125 volts) 15 A or 20 A receptacles placed in the following places must be protected by GFCIs:

  • Every outlet in a bathroom has to be GFCI protected.
  • All kitchen appliances serving the countertop area must have GFCI protection.
  • All outlets used for sanitation, circulation, lighting, and pumping must have GFCI protection if they are within 20 feet of a swimming pool.
  • The home’s crawl area and basement must be equipped with GFCI protection.
  • Wet bar sinks require GFCI-protected outlets installed within 6 feet of the exterior border.
  • GFCI protection is required for all temporary wiring.

How Do the GFCI Outlets Look?

If you have come this far, you are already familiar with GFCIs and the places where they are typically necessary. Now, it is time to discuss the appearance of a GFCI outlet.

GFCI outlets looks

It has a similar appearance to regular residential outlets. They include two additional buttons that indicate “reset” and “test,” along with the identical three-prong plug-in slots.

Most GFCIs are made to trip if there is a current leakage of more than 4 to 6 mA. This quantity of running electricity is deemed hazardous.

The regulations specify that GFCIs must be placed in areas that are easy to access. This makes it possible to test GFCIs on a frequent basis.

In accordance with section 210.8,

  • GFCIs must be easily accessible for a variety of renewals, operations, or inspections without involving too much trouble or needing staff to utilize the equipment.

As a result, a lot will depend on how you design the outdoor lighting and electrical system. The number of outlets permitted per 15A or 20A circuit is also unrestricted by the NEC.

Nevertheless, it has to come first. This makes it possible for the GFCI to safeguard every other outlet farther down the circuit.


When discussing GFCI outlets and their laws and regulations, many questions come to people’s minds. I have attempted to address a few frequently asked questions below.

Are a GFCI outlet and circuit breaker the same thing? 

Both devices have a lot in common. The general difference between GFCIs and circuit breakers is their sensitivity. This implies that GFCIs are more sensitive to electrical disturbances. Furthermore, circuit breakers are made to guard against electrical overflows and the ensuing fires. On the other hand, GFCI is intended to guard against electrocution.

What are the main 3 GFCI devices that we commonly see?

The GFCI outlet, GFCI circuit breaker, and portable GFCI are the main three types of GFCIs that are frequently used in houses. Although each of these GFCIs serves the same purpose, they nonetheless have unique uses and constraints.

How to tell if an outlet is protected by a GFCI?

A GFCI outlet is clearly identifiable. Just search for the test and reset buttons on the outlet panel. Every plugged-in electrical gadget will be safeguarded against a ground fault after it is installed. An electrical outlet that is linked to the same line is likewise considered to be part of this.

Final Thoughts

Do outdoor lights need to be GFCI protected? Now you know the answer. Over the past 50 years, GFCIs have been crucial to electrical safety. The number of incidents they have avoided is beyond our comprehension.

The final decision lies with your local government, even if the NEC is the foremost authority on GFCIs. You can contact your local construction department if you have questions regarding the standards for GFCI.

Let us know by leaving a comment whether you prefer that your outside lights be linked to one GFCI or more.

About The Author

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Written by Shimul
Hi, I'm Shimul, the founder of Trendy Outdoor. I'm excited about sharing the latest outdoor living trends with you. My goal is to provide you with up-to-date information that will help make your outdoor space stylish and enjoyable. Read About Me More । Follow on Facebook