Combo fan/light above shower & GFCI

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by diymak, Jan 10, 2009.

  1. diymak

    diymak New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    New Mexico
    We recently purchased and are remodeling a 12-year old home. We have GFI outlets in all 3 bathrooms, but what we did not discover until after the purchase was that all bathrooms seem to be on the same circuit. For example, if you trip the circuit in the master bathroom, you have to hike it downstairs to the guest bathroom to reset the circuit (as that is the only outlet with a reset button).

    We are remodeling the master bathroom at the current time and have a couple of electrical questions:

    1) We currently have a light-only over the shower area and would like to put a combo light/fan in that spot (tying into the ductwork of an existing fan that is currently located over the toilet). The light/fan combo we are purchasing says "UL Listed for use over shower enclosure / tub with GFCI circuit." We do not believe that we currently have a GFCI circuit for the light over the shower -- but how does one tell for sure? We've tried tripping the GFI circuit in the bathroom (for the outlets) and we can still turn on that light. Did code (12-years ago) require that a light above a shower be on a GFCI circuit? By the way, the current shower light is the same type of semi-resessed light (with a cover) that is in the nearby closet.

    2) Assuming we do not have the GFCI circuit we need for the light/fan -- how difficult/expensive would it be to install one? Can we tie into the existing GFI circuit that the outlets are on? If we have to install a dedicated GFCI circuit, what is the procedure and ballpark cost (we would probably have an electrician do this work).

    - Mike
  2. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT
    Are you saying the GFCI is located in the guest bath but protects the other two bathrooms? This is perfectly fine, if you dont like that setup just install a GFCI at EACH bathroom and remake the splice at the guest bathroom GFCI.


    Simply touching the ground and neutral together will tell you if the light is GFCI protected. But I highly doubt it is....

    Never did, never will....


    I would just install a GFCI breaker at the panel.
  3. codeone

    codeone Code Enforcement

    Messages:
    160
    Location:
    North Carolina
    The code has never required bathroom lighting to be on a GFCI.

    The bathroom recs are not allowed to have anything else on them if the circuit goes from one bath to another. ONLY BATH RECS.

    If the circuit does not leave the bathroom then it can have all the lights fan and rec on that circuit. This is not a common practice.

    So by what you described your light is not on a GFCI.

    Thge bath fan you bought according to UL LISTING has to be on a GFCI to be installed over a tub or shower.
  4. diymak

    diymak New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Yes, the outlets in three bathrooms: guest, kids, and master are all on the same GFCI circuit with the only reset button in the guest bathroom downstairs (what a pain). If I understand correctly we could replace one normal outlet in each of the other bathrooms with a GFCI outlet with a test/reset button for convenience!? What do you mean "remake the splice at the guest bathroom GFCI"? Does this men installing a normal outlet in the guest bathroom and installing a GFCI in the master or kids bathroom? Is only one GFCI outlet allowed on any given line/circuit?

    "Simply touching the ground and neutral together will tell you if the light is GFCI protected." So the system would trip if these made contact with each other?

    So if there is no code for overhead lights/fans in a shower/bath tub area why do manufacturers distinguish between the two as everything that I'm aware of should be UL approved meaning any light should work in the area. If approved for a shower/bath does the unit have extra insulation, a thicker housing, different gauge wires to make it "approved" for this area of the bathroom. Seems silly to me.

    Does replacement of a normal breaker with a GFCI breaker at th epanel require an inspection or permit to be pulled?
  5. diymak

    diymak New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Thanks codeone. Sounds like the IL listing is the driver on the GFCI matter, not electrical code. So unless the instructions state that the fan must have its own dedicated circuit then I should be able to add this fan/light to the existing recs on protected circuit?

    Again, thanks guys for the quick replies today!
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,324
    Location:
    New England
    The easiest way to make the fan/light combo into a GFI protected circuit is to replace the circuit breaker feeding it with a GFI circuit breaker. Then, anything on that line will be also protected.

    At the current gfi recepticle, it has two sets of hot and neutral, one feeding it from the panel, and a second set (labeled load, the incoming side is called line). Remove the wire(s) from the load side that go to the recepticles in the other bathrooms and connect them on the line side. this bypasses that gfi. Cap off the load leads if they are pigtails so they don't short something. Then, put new gfi recepticles in the other bathrooms, connecting the leads to the line side. Now, if one trips, you won't disrupt the power to the other bathrooms. Note, this does nothing to increase the load capacity of the circuit and if the trip is from an overload rather than a gfi fault, they'll all still go out. the better thing to do if you are going to be remodeling, is to run a new 20A circuit up to the bathroom.
  7. jar546

    jar546 In the Trades

    Messages:
    432
    Location:
    USA
    Break this down:

    * since all of your bathroom receptacles are on one circuit, they cannot feed anything else.

    * If you want each bathroom to control its own receptacle trip/reset button, you will have to replace the receptacle with a GFCI receptacle in the other two bathrooms. In order to do this. You will have to disconnect the wiring from the load side of the first bathroom with the current GFCI receptacle and only tap into the line side, otherwise it will continue to trip the other bathrooms. Each new GFCI receptacle(2) will only be connected to the line side fo the receptacle.

    * A light above the shower is not required to be GFCI protected by code UNLESS the manufacturer of the fixture requires it. so if you are replacing the existing light only with a light/fan combination IN the shower and it states it must be GFCI protected in this application then you must comply. You will have to find the circuit breaker that feeds the existing light and replace it with a GFCI breaker.

    * In the shower is a terrible place for a fan assembly, it shortens their lifespan. If you already have a working fan in the bathroom and a working light in the shower, leave well enough alone or upgrade each one of them but don't combine them.
  8. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT
    I do this install all the time, how do you feel this shortens the fans life? What difference would it be if the fan is directly over the shower or directly outside the shower, its still in the same environment.
  9. jar546

    jar546 In the Trades

    Messages:
    432
    Location:
    USA
    In the shower it is subject to splashing and a heavy condensation level. On the outside of the shower, you have a diluted steam level due to the air exchange outside of the shower door/curtain and are not subject to the direct splashing.

    Maybe someone out there makes a great fan that has a lot of stainless steel in it and works great for years but I don't.

    Products designed to work in that type of environment are expensive.

    Of course, this is my opinion and we all have different ones.
  10. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    A light over the shower has to be rated for such use, I believe. It usually means there is a gasket lens. Does a fan/light combo have to be specifically rated for use in/above the shower, or can you put any model there????
  11. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT

    Most if not all fan/lights are rated to be installed over a shower as long as its GFCI protected, not even sure why they included the GFCI protection, must be a lawyer thing. :rolleyes:
  12. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT

    What the heck do you do in the shower to splash water on the ceiling? :D So would you require wet location recess trim in a shower even though they are not required?
  13. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    1,006
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    Did you say you had kids? :p
  14. codeone

    codeone Code Enforcement

    Messages:
    160
    Location:
    North Carolina
    410.:11 Luminaires in Specific Locations.
    (A) Wet and Damp Locations. Luminaires installed in
    wet or damp locations shall be installed such that water cannot enter or accumulate in wiring compartments, lampholders,
    or other electrical parts. All luminaires installed in
    wet locations shall be marked, "Suitable for Wet Locations."
    All luminaires installed in damp locations shall be
    marked "Suitable for Wet Locations" or "Suitable for
    Damp Locations."
    (D) Bathtub and Shower Areas. No parts of cordconnected
    luminaires, chain-, cable-, or cord-suspended luminaires,
    lighting track, pendants, or ceiling-suspended
    (paddle) fans shall be located within a zone measured
    900 mm (3 ft) horizontally and 2.5 m (8 ft) vertically from
    the top of the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold. This
    zone is all encompassing and inCludes the space directly
    over the tub or shower stall. Luminaires located within the actual outside demision of the bathtub or a shower to a height of 2.5m verticallyfrom the top bathtubrim or shower threashold shall be marked for damp locations, or marked for wet locationswhere subject to shower spray.

    Yes it does not directly say a cover however depending on the AHJ they still may require it. Looking at the intent even though it may be listed for a wet location if the bottom were open with the water from below it would not meet the intent of this code.
  15. Chris75

    Chris75 Electrician

    Messages:
    608
    Location:
    Litchfield, CT
    Still not a problem. :)
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  16. diymak

    diymak New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    New Mexico
    Thanks for all the replies!
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