GFCI and Additional Outlet

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  #1  
Old 07-04-04, 08:57 AM
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GFCI and Additional Outlet

Greetings,

We just purchased a new house (built in 1977) and I'm in the process of evaluating the electrical system for GFCI. The home inspection report that we received shows GFCI as acceptable at GFCI outlets only. I don't see any evidence of GFCI receptacles anywhere in the house. What am I missing here?

Next, if there truly is no GFCI where do they need to be installed? One in each bathroom, one by the kitchen sink (and under the sink where the disposal is connected), and how about by the washing machine?

Lastly, I'm in the process of replacing a vent hood with a vented over the range microwave. The current hood was directly connected by a wire coming out of a hole in the wall. I'd like to add a receptacle in the cupboard directly above where the hole and wire currently are. Is it safe to just add a junction box and pull the wire up and through the new box? Is there anything else I should take into consideration here?

One other side note, I cautiously (and in hindsight, stupidly) removed the old hood without shutting the breaker off. I now need to figure out which circuit this wire belongs to. Any suggestions on how to fix my blunder (other than shutting down the entire house)?

Thanks in advance!

Brian (electrically inept)
 
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  #2  
Old 07-04-04, 10:16 AM
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There are severalways to GFCI protect a circuit. You can use a GFCI circuit breaker and protect the entire circuit. Alternately you can use a GFCI receptacle outlet. With a GFCI receptacle outlet you protect the built in outlet, and you can additionally protect the rest of the circuit that follow or is downstream from the GFCI recetacle outlet. The third way is with a GFCI switch. This is simply a GFCI that contains no receptacle. You use this to protect downstream outlets.

What the home inspector is saying is that the GFCI recetpacle outlets you have do not protect any downstream outlets. This may or may not be okay.

In new construction GFCI protection is required for kitchen countertop receptacles, unfinished basement receptacles, outside outlets, garage receptacles, and bathroom receptacles. Depending on when a house was built or remodeled, you may or may not find GFCI protection in these locations. You may also find a single GFCI protecting multiple locations (say a basement GFCI protecting the bathroom).

If I were you I would install GFCI receptacle outlets in those areas if they are not already there. I prefer to have GFCI at the point of use, rathe than at another location in the house. Depending on the the wiring (age and manner in which run), one or two in the kitchen can usually protect the countertop outlets, while one can usually protect each bathroom. I would certainly start with the kitchen and bathrooms, and then eventually add the outside, garage and unfinished basement. The disposal does not require a GFCI, and it is not recommended to have it on one.

In regards to your kitchen hood. Yes, you can convert the existing wiring to a rece[tacle outlet. They sell "old work boxes" that are designed for existing construction. To find which breaker controls these outlets will require trial and error. Buy an inexpensive two wire tester. Witout touching the exposed wires with your fingers, touch the tester wires to the black and white wires. The lihgt should come on. Have you partner turn off each breaker one at a time to find the one that controls the circuit. After doing this, label each breaker as to what it controls. This way you won;t have the same problem in the future. You should be able to go to your panel and immediately turn off the correct breaker for any plave in your house.
 
  #3  
Old 07-04-04, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by xbpr
Next, if there truly is no GFCI where do they need to be installed? One in each bathroom, one by the kitchen sink (and under the sink where the disposal is connected), and how about by the washing machine?
What is the motivation for putting GFCI in? Does your local code require upgrading homes to the latest code when sold? Does your insurance company require it to insure the home under a new owner? Do you just want the personal safety?

If local code specifies the upgrade, then you probably have to upgrade it to the current full code. Likewise the same if your insurance requires it. If you are doing it for you own reasons, just the fact of making the change, may, in some jurisdictions, put you in a position to have to bring everything you touch up to the latest code.

So if you have to (or want to) meet the latest code, you're going to be putting every outlet in bathrooms and kitchen under GFCI protection, as well as upgrading them to 20 amps, separate from circuits in other rooms, with at least 2 such circuits in the kitchen. Dedicated single outlet circuits for specific loads (like microwave, disposal, refrigerator, etc) I believe do not need the protection, but you might want to have it in some cases (and maybe not in others due to possible nuisance trips).

GFCI receptacles are the least costly (as opposed to GFCI circuit breakers), and can protect downstream circuits wired to the "load" side. If you are in the process of putting in new wiring, I suggest making the first outlet on the string of outlets (the one which will be a GFCI outlet protecting the rest) be located where it is still convenient to access, but will be the least often used (one for each of the 2 such circuits in the kitchen). The reason for this is that I have found that some people, when plugging-in or un-plugging cords, will accidentally press the test switch, and knock out the whole string.

Originally Posted by xbpr
One other side note, I cautiously (and in hindsight, stupidly) removed the old hood without shutting the breaker off. I now need to figure out which circuit this wire belongs to. Any suggestions on how to fix my blunder (other than shutting down the entire house)?
I presume you are talking about a directly wired device, and not an outlet, and that you simply capped and taped the wire ends and left them hot in the box. What you need to get, if you don't yet have, is one of those "voltage present" testers. It's available in a battery powered pocket pen shape. It beeps and/or flashes when near a hot circuit or hot wire. Use one and verify that it shows the capped wire of that circuit to indeed be hot. Then switch off candidate breaker(s) and test again and see if it stops giving that reading.
 
  #4  
Old 07-05-04, 08:00 AM
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Wow, thanks for all the great information. There is a lot to learn here.

First off, the GFCI protection is for my personal safety only. It wasn't mandated by code or insurance. I did a little more investigating yesterday and there is a GFCI breaker that is protecting the two (single outlet) bathrooms and according to the notes on the breaker box, the outside receptacle. The kitchen and the laundry room are not protected. I think I'm going to just buy and install GFCI receptacles for those locations. My plan for the kitchen is to get one and put it at the beginning of the chain and test to see if it protects downstream. If not, I guess I'll have to add others.

And as far as the over-range microwave scenario goes, the hood that I removed was directly wired through a hole in the wall (no junction box). After it was removed I just capped the wires and they are hanging out the hole. I have purchased a tester and I will be locating the proper circuits today (as well as mapping out the rest of the house). From there I plan on getting an "old work" box for the inside of the cabinet and will just pull the existing wire through there.

Finally, as an FYI, this house was built in 1977.

Thanks again for all the valuable input.
 
  #5  
Old 07-05-04, 09:18 AM
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according to the notes on the breaker box
You should never trust the notes on the breaker box. Always check for yourself!

The kitchen and the laundry room are not protected. I think I'm going to just buy and install GFCI receptacles for those locations.
I recommend against a GFCI for the laundry, especially for the washing machine receptacle. This receptacle is rarely accessed by a person, and the washing machine could cause annoying trips. It is uncommon, and not required, for the washing machine to be GFCI protected.

My plan for the kitchen is to get one and put it at the beginning of the chain and test to see if it protects downstream. If not, I guess I'll have to add others.
Yes, that's a good plan. If you see any red wires in the boxes in the kitchen (in addition to the black and white wires), stop immediately and post back for further information.
 
  #6  
Old 07-05-04, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson
I recommend against a GFCI for the laundry, especially for the washing machine receptacle. This receptacle is rarely accessed by a person, and the washing machine could cause annoying trips. It is uncommon, and not required, for the washing machine to be GFCI protected.
I wasn't really sure about the laundry one, I was just concerned because the outlet is probably within 10 inches of the water source on an adjacent wall.

Originally Posted by John Nelson
Yes, that's a good plan. If you see any red wires in the boxes in the kitchen (in addition to the black and white wires), stop immediately and post back for further information.
The box to the left of the sink has no red wires, but the one to the right of the sink does. What does this mean?

Thanks,
Brian
 
  #7  
Old 07-05-04, 06:18 PM
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Tell us more about the wiring in that receptacle box to the right of the sink. Detail exactly how many wires you have in the box (all of them) and exactly how they are connected to the receptacle (or how they are otherwise connected if not to the receptacle). You'll need to gently pull the receptacle out of the box to get a good look.
 
  #8  
Old 07-06-04, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson
Tell us more about the wiring in that receptacle box to the right of the sink. Detail exactly how many wires you have in the box (all of them) and exactly how they are connected to the receptacle (or how they are otherwise connected if not to the receptacle). You'll need to gently pull the receptacle out of the box to get a good look.
Well, first off, I made a mistake. There is not a receptacle to the right of the sink (there is one to the left and two others on an adjacent wall). It is the switch for the garbage disposal.

I don't know if it is relevant any more, but I'll *try* and explain what is happening inside the disposer switch box.

There is a wire coming in from the top of the box that contains a black, brown, and bare wire. All three of which are attached to pigtails. There is a wire coming in from the bottom of the box that has a black, brown, red, and bare coming in. All of the wires with the exception of the red are attached to the aforementioned pigtails. The red is connected to the top of the switch. Finally there is another black wire connected from the switch to the black wire pigtail.

What next?

Thanks again for all your help..

Brian
 
  #9  
Old 07-06-04, 09:17 PM
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Red wires in a switch box are of no concern to this project. Proceed wth your original plan. As for the laundry, I recommend against GFCI for the disposal, dishwasher, and refrigerator.
 
  #10  
Old 07-07-04, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by John Nelson
Red wires in a switch box are of no concern to this project. Proceed wth your original plan. As for the laundry, I recommend against GFCI for the disposal, dishwasher, and refrigerator.
I figured that, but I thought that I'd post the info anyway. Thanks again for the great info. It probably saved me a lot of grief.

Brian
 
  #11  
Old 07-15-04, 08:38 PM
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Followup

I finally got around to mapping out the electrical system and here are my findings.

The wire that powered the old fan/hood (the one that was just pulled through the wall) is on the the same circuit as the kitchen light, the laundry room light, two lights in the garage, two outlets in the garage (one runs the garage door opener), and three outside lights. Do you see an issue with using this circuit for the over range microwave? If so, can an electrical neophyte easily make this a dedicated circuit?

Secondly, the outlet directly to the left of the sink is on a circuit with 4 other outlets in two adjacent rooms. It is physically furthest away from the breaker panel. My plan is to switch that over to a GFCI. Next, there are two other countertop outlets that are on a wall adjacent to the sink (to the left and right of the stove and on the same circuit as the refrigerator). Should these be GFCI protected as well?

Thanks,
Brian
 
  #12  
Old 07-15-04, 10:40 PM
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Be sure not to open or close the garage door while using the microwave oven.

To meet current code (and if you do any changes to them they probably have to meet current code to pass inspection), you have to have kitchen outlets on at least 2 circuits not shared with anything else. Sadly, if you make an incremental improvement like changing to GFCI protection (which is better than not having it at all), you could be forced into making other improvements right then. And if you can't afford that much at once, you may well end up not making the improvement at all, leaving things less safe than they could be. It just depends on what your local AHJ wants.
 
  #13  
Old 07-16-04, 08:04 AM
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Although some incremental improvements can indeed force further code compliance, as has been discussed in another thread started by Skapare, I really doubt that anybody is going to quibble about adding a GFCI. So yes, add GFCI protection for all your kitchen countertop receptacles, while avoiding it for the refrigerator.

A dedicated circuit for your microwave is an excellent idea.

There are many deviations of your current situation and the current code. If you ever do a kitchen remodel, you'll have a lot of things to correct.
 
  #14  
Old 07-19-04, 06:55 AM
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Some more questions regarding GFCI receptacles.

I recently replaced 2 outlets with GFCI receptacles in the kitchen on either side of the sink. The install went well, and each GFCI tests fine.

The problem/question is that I used the "back connectors" on the receptacle. And each GFCI only protects itself, and not the downstream receptacles. On the sides of the GFCI were the Load and Line screws. In using the "back connectors" the Line was easy to setup, but the Load connectors don't seem to be working correctly. Can the "back connectors" be used to protect the entire circuit? Is there any harm in just protecting the individual outlets and not the entire circuit?

BTW. The outlets were replaced just as a safety concern since they were about 18" from the sink. We also use a rice cooker which emits lots of steam, and it is near the outlet.
 
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