Do Lighting Circuits Require a GFCI? Answered!

Any electrical circuit is subjected to an unexpected power surge, which means the current passing through the system increases above the average level. An unexpected power surge can have many harmful consequences, like melting the wires or damaging the devices connected to the circuit.

Therefore, electrical circuits must be protected from unexpected power surges to avoid losses or damage. The ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, protects the circuit from these unexpected surges.

Do Lighting Circuits Require a GFCI?

Lighting circuits are like any other electrical circuits and require a GFCI installed to protect them from any unexpected power surge in the circuit. Lights are sensitive to any increase in current, where the lights have a specific limit of passing current; exceeding this limit can damage the lights. 

For example, if you have lights in a room and notice that they burnt out before their known lifespan, this could be due to an unexpected power surge. The increase in the passing current overloads the circuit inside the lights and does irreversible damage, and as a result, the lights are burnt out.

Therefore, if you have any lighting circuits that do not have a GFCI installed, you must install a GFCI as soon as possible to protect your lights and circuit. If any change happens to the current, the ground fault circuit interrupter will cut the power off the circuit.

Do Lighting Circuits in Bathroom Require a GFCI?

If the lights installed in your circuit are not waterproof, like incandescent lighting, fluorescent fixture, or recessed light, you need to install a GFCI. You need to install a GFCI because the fixtures do not have any protection or a method to prevent electrical shocks.

If any fixtures get wet, there will be a probability of electrical shocks or even a fire hazard; fire hazards require only one tiny spark to start. In addition, any bathroom is usually damp due to continuous plumbing, which is another reason you should take precautions.

The moisture always found in the bathroom can be a significant factor in short circuit cases, and as a result of these short circuits, electrical shocks have a high chance of happening. Electrical shocks are hazardous and can lead to severe injuries and death; therefore, you must be careful.

Installing a GFCI to your lighting circuits in the bathroom will ensure that you are always safe, no matter what happens. Modern manufacturers commonly require bathroom lighting circuit protection, especially if the lighting circuits are above the tub or shower area.

This way, you will be safe if you trip the outlet within a tub or shower, and your lights will still be working. Ignoring installing protection in your bathroom can expose you to the danger of electric shocks and even fire hazards in the worst scenario.

Is It Illegal To Not Install GFCI to Lighting Circuits in Bathroom?

According to the national electrical code (NEC), any outlet in the bathroom doesn’t need a GFCI to be installed as long as it is rated wet or damp. Although, if you have a fixture with a switch that needs to be protected from the current flow, you will need to install a breaker box outlet on the exterior walls.

Therefore, it is not illegal if you don’t install a GFCI to your lighting circuits in the bathroom; however, it’s recommended that you install a GFCI. The ground fault circuit interrupter will protect you from electrical shocks and the harmful consequences if anything goes wrong.


How To Tell if Your Lighting Circuit Has GFCI Protection?

In most lighting circuits with GFCI protection, you will find a small black box near the switch or the outlet. This box has a small button on it that is used to test the GFCI if it’s working or not, and there is also a button on the box that is used to reset the GFCI in case you had a problem earlier in your circuit.

If you can not find this tiny black box next to your switch or outlet, your lighting circuit is not GFCI-protected. After knowing that a GFCI does not protect your circuit, the best choice is to hire a professional electrician to install on for you. You can only ignore installing a GFCI to your lighting circuit if the lights do not get wet.

How To Check Your GFCI Protection?

After locating the GFCI protection, which is usually a small black box near the switch or the outlet of the circuit. You should also know that the box’s color could change depending on the manufacturer; some manufacturers use white instead of black. Follow the following steps:

  • Press the “TEST” button located on the box to cut off the power. As a result, the “RESET” button will pop out.
  • Check the GFCI by connecting any electrical device to the outlet. The connected device should not work since you cut off the power.
  • If the connected device works even though you cut off the power, your GFCI is not working, and you need to replace it.
  • Turn back your power on by pressing the “RESET” button, and as a result, the “TEST” button will pop out again.

Do Outdoor Lighting Circuits Require a GFCI?

Outdoor lighting circuits are exposed to all weather conditions like snow, rain, and wind; therefore, every lighting circuit should be GFCI-protected. According to the national electric code (NEC), every receptacle that is located outdoors must be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

The lighting circuits found outdoors are constantly exposed to weather conditions, so the chance of a short circuit is very high. When a circuit is shorted, the current passing through looks for the shortest path, and when you touch the circuit, you provide it with this path.

As a result, you can get electrocuted or shocked, which can cause serious injuries; therefore, you should always ensure that any circuit you touch is appropriately protected.

Do Outdoor Lighting Circuits Must Be On Their Own To Have GFCI?

Each ground fault circuit interrupter device has a specific capacity to handle any number of devices connected to it as long as their consumption doesn’t exceed this capacity. So, lighting circuits can be connected to other circuits and protected by their GFCI device as long as the consumption is not over the limit.

Most ground fault circuit interrupter devices can handle up to twenty amperes, so you can connect from one device to one hundred devices as long as they don’t consume more than twenty amperes. However, there is an advantage of connecting each circuit with its GFCI; if one circuit trips, it doesn’t mean that the other circuits will trip.

Imagine if your front house lighting circuits are all on the same circuit and are protected by the same GFCI. If one of the circuits trips, all the other circuits will stop working, which means that the front of your house will be in complete darkness, which can annoy anyone coming home late at night.


To summarize, ground fault circuit interrupter devices protect against any unbalance in a current or unexpected power surge. The sudden increase in current can cause a short circuit case, leading to user electrocution. Electric shocks and injuries can be hazardous and cause serious injuries.

Lighting circuits are like any electrical circuits, and they can experience short circuit cases; therefore, they need to be protected by installing a GFCI to the circuit. The lighting circuits are not an exception; a GFCI should defend them since they are constantly exposed to moisture and dampness.

Another type of lighting circuit that a GFCI should always protect is the outdoor lighting circuit, constantly exposed to weather conditions like rain and snow. As a result, they can get easily shorted and cause electric shocks.

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