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I'm considering installing an exhaust fan in my bathroom which includes light and heat, and requires a dedicated 20 amp circuit. Would this circuit need GFCI protection? The instructions for the unit don't say anything about it. Even if it's not required, would it be a good idea to do anyway?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

The National Electrical Code (NEC) does not require bathroom exhaust fans to be GFCI protected, however, there is this bit in Article 110.

110.3 Examination, Identification, Installation, and Use of Equipment.
(B) Installation and Use. Listed or labeled equipment shall be installed and used in accordance with any instructions included in the listing or labeling.

Which means you have to follow all of the manufacturers instructions while installing the fan. If you read the installation instructions that came with the fan, you might find something like this.


If you install this fan over a tub or shower, the fan must be GFCI protected according to the manufacturer.

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If he has to install it on a dedicated 20 amp circuit then wouldn't running it ahead of a GFI outlet allow for the possibility that one could also plug in other devices to the outlet, like a hair dryer? In this case it is no longer dedicated. – maple_shaft Oct 15 '12 at 15:49
@maple_shaft Huh? If it's a dedicated circuit, the GFCI protection would be at the load center. Where would they be plugging in the hair dryer? – Tester101 Oct 15 '12 at 19:03
Breaker -> line -> GFI outlet -> load -> switch -> fan If I plug a hair dryer into that GFI outlet then then the fan is not on a dedicated circuit anymore... or perhaps my understanding of the term dedicated is completely incorrect? – maple_shaft Oct 15 '12 at 19:31
@maple_shaft there's no outlet on a dedicated circuit. The diagram is GFCI breaker -> switch -> fan – BMitch Oct 15 '12 at 19:33
@BMitch Ahhh! I get it. Never seen JUST a GFCI breaker before, thought they only come in outlet form. Thanks – maple_shaft Oct 15 '12 at 19:35

needing would depend on your local codes and whether the device has a build-in GFCI breaker

though if the fan needs a ground you probably should add one

however it can't hurt adding one given that a GCFI breaker doesn't cost much

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No. GFCI protection is only needed for outlets.

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Your answer is incorrect. There are certainly circumstances in which devices require GFCI protection. – Matthew Oct 15 '12 at 16:26

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