Your Place: More answers on ground fault circuit interrupters

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Electrical contractor Bill Lutz, of Generation 3 Electric Inc. in Philadelphia, has weighed in on the letter from the reader who recently wondered whether the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) installation in his attached garage was really overkill.

The reader, who had just purchased a new house, said he was surprised to learn that the GFCI in the attached garage also included the overhead lights, but not the light on the garage door opener.

The reader suspected that this would impede safety in the garage if someone were in there when the GFCI engaged, and therefore the individual would not have any lighting to get out of the garage or find and reset the GFCI.

Lutz said he took some time and polled "some members in my professional community and the other licensed electricians in our office."

Apparently, there was much debate about the correct answer to this question.

"In the end we believe this is a topic that is up to interpretation, and ultimately ‘authorities having jurisdiction’ are responsible for making the call," Lutz said.

They, builders, and electricians can all come up with different answers when asked this question.

He was unable to find any code that restricts the use of GFCI protection for lighting circuits.

"The general trend in each code release is for more GFCI protection in more and more locations," he said, "so the electrician in this situation is being safe and protecting against accidental shock."

"I can imagine a situation where a homeowner is changing the light on an aluminum ladder and gets shocked through the ladder and concrete floor," Lutz said.

The GFCI-protected lighting circuit will prevent a shock in such a situation.

There is a simple fix costing under $50: switching out the light bulbs to Smart Charge Bulbs (, he said. These bulbs have a built-in battery back-up. The light will work for several hours even if the GFCI trips. This solution will keep the homeowner safe from electric shock and tripping hazards, Lutz said.