Do Bathroom Lights Need to Be GFCI Protected?

Building a new bathroom or remodeling one substantially may seem like any other home project and in many ways, it is. It comes with a combination of easy and complex tasks that you need to get done properly to end up with a worry-free bathroom.

However, there are a few things you need to know about in detail to ensure that you don’t run into hassles down the line. One of those things is the importance of a GFCI protected outlet.

You may even have heard about GFI as well and wondered what the difference is between that and GFCI. Let’s take a deeper dive into everything you need to know about GFCI.

Do Bathroom Lights Need to Be GFCI Protected?

As per the NEC, there is no need for bathroom lights to be GFCI protected. If you are planning to install a fan or a fan with light in your bathroom above the shower or your bathtub, then you will need it.

It is also important to note that receptacles in the bathroom must always be on a 20 amp dedicated circuit. GFCI protection is mostly required only if you plan to install exhaust fans/lights on top of a shower or bathtub.

If any such requirement is there, the manufacturer will state so on their products as it ties in with their warranty. Failure to comply might result in your warranty being void.

Why Do You Need GFCI Outlets in a Bathroom

Do Bathroom lights need to be gfci protected

GFCI or the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter is a device that offers protection against fatal electrical shocks and is required in wet or damp areas such as a bathroom.

The device compares the input current to the output current on the hot and neutral side respectively to gauge if there is any difference. If there is even a very small difference between both currents, it will shut down the power supply within 30 milliseconds to prevent you from fatal shocks.

GFCI protection is required whenever there is a receptacle installed in a place that is damp or is exposed to moisture. As per the NEC, some of the rooms where you need GFCI protection are bathrooms, garages, laundry rooms, unfinished basements, and so on.

The same applies to external places as well such as boathouses and wet bar sinks. To know exactly where all you need GFCI protection, you can contact your local building authority.

Important NEC Regulations to Follow for Your Bathroom

When it comes to GCI protected outlets in your bathroom, as per the NEC, you will need to have at least one to prevent you from getting shocked. However, to be on the safer side, it would be better to install two or three of them especially if your bathroom is quite big.

The reason why it is recommended to do so is to provide you protection against shocks in case of a ground-fault. You can do this either through GFCI receptacles or GFCI circuit breakers to protect the entire circuit.

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Also, make sure that all your switches are grounded and placed outside the shower and tub areas. If they are part of the bathtub or shower, you don’t need to remove them of course.

When it comes to general lighting and fans, the NEC requires every bathroom to have a 15-amp circuit for just lighting and a 10-amp circuit for an exhaust fan. To know all the details and requirements, do visit the NFPA website or contact your local building authority.

The Difference between GFCI and GFI for a Bathroom

When it comes to GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) and GFI (Ground Fault Interrupters), there is no difference between. They are exactly the same, apart from their names. Most people also use GFCI more than GFI. So it’s perfectly fine if you use one term or the other.

The Difference between GFCI and AFCI for a Bathroom

  1. When it comes to GFCI and AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters), the main difference is that the former detects the tiniest of energy leaks and shut down the circuit whereas the latter does the same when it detects an arc fault.
  2. GFCI outlets are required in wet and damp areas whereas AFCI outlets need to be installed for 120-Volt, 15-amp/20-amp circuits.
  3. GFCI outlets protect you from ground fault shocks while the AFCI circuits offer protection against arc faults and fires.

There is one thing that both of them have in common though. Both GFCI outlets and AFCI outlets need to be tested once every month.


You don’t need GFCI protection for bathroom lights but if you want to install an exhaust fan in your bathroom on top of the shower or tub, then you will have to install a GFCI outlet. In most cases, the larger the bathroom, the more GFCI outlets you might need.

If you know that a particular outlet can potentially get exposed to water or moisture, then don’t skimp out on these devices as they might save your life one day. To get more clarification on where all to install and how many, feel free to contact your local building authority.

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