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Thread: Combo fan/light above shower & GFCI

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    DIY Junior Member diymak's Avatar
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    Default Combo fan/light above shower & GFCI

    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

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    Electrician Chris75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by diymak View Post
    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).
    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.


    Quote Originally Posted by diymak View Post
    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.
    Simply touching the ground and neutral together will tell you if the light is GFCI protected. But I highly doubt it is....

    Quote Originally Posted by diymak View Post
    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.
    Never did, never will....


    Quote Originally Posted by diymak View Post
    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).
    I would just install a GFCI breaker at the panel.

  3. #3
    Code Enforcement codeone's Avatar
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    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.

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    DIY Junior Member diymak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris75 View Post
    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.
    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?

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    DIY Junior Member diymak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by codeone View Post
    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.
    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!

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    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.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    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.
    http://www.inspectpa.com/forum/forum.php
    My answers are based mostly on the ICC codes. Advice given is my personal opinion and every person performing work should acquire a permit from his/her jurisdiction and get the work inspected. My opinions are not directions to follow for DIYs or professionals

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    Electrician Chris75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jar546 View Post

    * 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.
    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. #9

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    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.
    http://www.inspectpa.com/forum/forum.php
    My answers are based mostly on the ICC codes. Advice given is my personal opinion and every person performing work should acquire a permit from his/her jurisdiction and get the work inspected. My opinions are not directions to follow for DIYs or professionals

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    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????

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    Electrician Chris75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    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????

    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.

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    Electrician Chris75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jar546 View Post
    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.

    .

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

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    Licensed Electrical Contractor Speedy Petey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris75 View Post
    What the heck do you do in the shower to splash water on the ceiling?
    Did you say you had kids?
    Answers based on the 2008 & 2011 NEC. If you're on the '14 already I feel sorry for you.

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    Code Enforcement codeone's Avatar
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    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.

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    Electrician Chris75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy Petey View Post
    Did you say you had kids?
    Still not a problem.
    Last edited by Chris75; 01-11-2009 at 02:47 PM.

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