GFCI receptacle controlled by a switch

Reply

  #1  
Old 09-07-06, 12:50 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Albuquerque
Posts: 31
GFCI receptacle controlled by a switch

Hi,

The crawlspace beneath my home is actually almost a basement (6-foot clearance), so we use it extensively for storage. Currently, it has just one standard receptacle, on a 20A circuit that otherwise controls a sunroom, so it's pretty poorly lit down there. I'd like to remove that receptacle and add a branch with maybe 4 to 6 receptacles on it (it's a large crawlspace), all controlled by a switch near the access trapdoor to the crawlspace, so that I can power up a bunch of worklights down there with one switch. (I considered hard-wiring fixtures, but that seems silly for a crawlspace; plus, I'd rather have outlets for the flexibility of locating worklights or powering other equipment.)

I believe GFCI receptacles are code for crawlspaces, but is it permissible (or desirable) to control a GFCI receptacle via a switch? Or is there a GFCI switch I can use that will protect all receptacles after it in the circuit, so that I can use standard receptacles? And in that case, would 4 to 6 receptacles on the GFCI switch's load be too many and cause tripping?

Thanks a bunch,
Joe R.
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 09-07-06, 12:57 PM
Member
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: New Bern, NC
Posts: 1,623
No problem, you can control the gfi with a switch.
 
  #3  
Old 09-07-06, 01:30 PM
Member
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 97
"Or is there a GFCI switch I can use that will protect all receptacles after it in the circuit, so that I can use standard receptacles?"

Use one GFCI receptacle as the first box, then place each downstream box on the "load" terminals of the GFCI. Anything connected downstream of the load terminals will be protected by that receptacle. So yes, you don't need to buy 4-6 GFCI receptacles (a bit pricy, no?), just one. The rest can be standard duplex receptacles.

"And in that case, would 4 to 6 receptacles on the GFCI switch's load be too many and cause tripping?"

Impossible to say without knowing what else is being served by that circuit, breaker size, etc. If the entire crawlspace is being put on its own branch circuit, I think you'd be fine. If it's just lights, you could completely flood the crawlspace with light on a 15A circuit. If you're sharing this branch circuit with other parts of the house, it's tougher to say. Run a new branch circuit if you can, if not, you should sit down and figure out the loading on the circuit you plan to tap, and see if you're close to maxing out that branch.
 
  #4  
Old 09-07-06, 01:42 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Albuquerque
Posts: 31
Thanks, guys. Yep, 4 to 6 GFCI receptacles would run up to the $100 range! As for tripping one GFCI receptacle if used before a bunch of receptacles, I doubt I'll ever have anything more than maybe ten worklights plugged in, 60W each, so I guess I'll be fine. Maybe the occasional need to bring a power tool down there, but rarely. I just recall that my mother-in-law's kitchen GFCI oulet used to trip constantly, until an electrician came in and informed her that its load was pretty much the rest of the kitchen and dining room (her house is from the early '70s).

Anyhow, thanks again!


Joe R.
 
  #5  
Old 09-07-06, 02:04 PM
Member
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 97
"I just recall that my mother-in-law's kitchen GFCI oulet used to trip constantly, until an electrician came in and informed her that its load was pretty much the rest of the kitchen and dining room (her house is from the early '70s)."

There's a difference between a GFCI tripping, and a circuit breaker tripping. GFCI outlets don't have any overcurrent protection, they sense low-amperage ground faults. If the GFCI itself was tripping constantly, that would be a different problem than simply overloading the circuit. It would mean the GFCI was faulty, or else your mother-in-law was using some wonky appliances that were leaking current.

What probably happened what that your mother-in-law was tripping the circuit breaker when she plugged in a toaster, blender, etc to the GFCI. In that case, the fact that it was a GFCI outlet had nothing to do with the trip. Instead, she was overloading the circuit breaker in the main panel, which would then cut out the entire circuit, including the GFCI outlet. This is why the NEC requires dedicated small appliance circuits in the kitchen now - makes it very hard to overload nowadays.
 
  #6  
Old 09-07-06, 02:13 PM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Albuquerque
Posts: 31
Ah, makes sense. It was a toaster in fact. When I saw her kitchen again after the electrician had been there, every outlet was a GFCI, so I assumed that was all he'd done, but I guess he must have actually installed a new small-appliance circuit or two, since previously, the kitchen and dining room were served by probably no more than two circuits. Probably a good thing also because the new ones would have copper wiring, whereas the rest of the house is the dreaded aluminum.


Joe R.
 
  #7  
Old 09-07-06, 03:21 PM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
One word of caution:

If you put all your lights on a single GFCI protected circuit and you are using a power tool down there, what will happen if the power tool trips the GFCI? Or the breaker for that matter? Answer: You will be in the dark.

At the very least, separate into two runs. You could use 12-2-2 and make the top receptacle of each duplex switched and the bottom one always hot. This would allow you to keep your lights separate from your other loads.

Better yet would be two circuits, one for lights the other for receptacles.
 
  #8  
Old 09-07-06, 03:38 PM
Member
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 97
Unless I'm thinking backwards, if he does that, he'll need two separate GFCI outlets, one to feed the switched tops, and one to feed the unswitched bottoms. Otherwise, if it's all fed downstream on the LOAD side of just one GFCI outlet, a ground fault trip will kill everything anyways.

Perhaps he can just have one switch controlled light fixture for 'emergency' light that's not on the GFCI, and everything else protected. I know the OP said he didn't want to hard-wire light fixtures, but just one light fixture at the entrance to the crawlspace is probably a good idea anyway.
 
  #9  
Old 09-08-06, 07:26 AM
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Albuquerque
Posts: 31
Yeah, that occurred to me as well. But in fact there already is a light fixture right at the trapdoor entrance to the crawlspace, which I installed when we first moved in. It's just a basic ceramic, one-bulb fixture that plugs into an outlet in the room that contains that trapdoor, which puts it on a different circuit than my new receptacles in the crawlspace will be on. So if I lose all my lights down there, that one will still be lit to guide me to the exit. (Unless of course all power goes.) Also, during the daylight anyway, the vents to outdoors let in a bit of light, just enough to make my way out without walking into a support column.


Thanks!
Joe R.
 
  #10  
Old 09-08-06, 07:48 AM
Member
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: usa
Posts: 274
Smile

Another thought....You could just install a Ground Fault Breaker in the breaker panel to protect the circuit. Then you could use regular receptacles and hook it up any way that you choose.
steve
 
  #11  
Old 09-08-06, 07:59 AM
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
Yes, to end up with half the receptacle switched and the other half always hoit would require two GFCIs to protect the circuit. They could be either two faceless GFCIs, two GFCI receptacles, or one of each.

Personally, I would use the existing light and feed two or three more from it, adding a single switch, if necessary, to control them.

I would then add the desired number of GFCI protected receptacles for tools, lights or whatever, but leave them always hot.
 
Reply

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes