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My house has all of the GFCI outlets (approx 7 outlets/ 2 bathrooms, kitchen, and shed) running to a single GFCI breaker. Is this a proper setup for GFCI? I'm looking for a solution to keep the breaker from tripping when several devices are pulling power at once.

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  • You have GFCI outlets AND they are all connected to one GFCI breaker? And no if kitchen, 2 baths and a shed are all one one breaker that's not right. The first thing to do those is clarify if you have double protection... i.e. GFCI breaker (with a test button), and GFCI outlets (with test button).
    – Tyson
    Dec 12 '16 at 20:40
  • That is correct, all of the GFCI outlets go to 1 GFCI breaker (with test button).
    – Hank
    Dec 12 '16 at 21:10
  • Two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a shed on one breaker (whether GFCI or simple over-current) is not acceptable. How many times has the breaker tripped? I don't believe in over-providing power, but the arrangement you describe is sub-standard by a wide gap. The bathrooms draw current for lights (including an infra-red heat lamp), fans, and a hair dryer. A 1600 W hair dryer used on high simultaneously with a microwave oven will max out or trip a 20-A breaker (120 V x 20 A = 2400 W). How did this wiring arrangement arise? Dec 12 '16 at 21:13
  • Hank, so you have a GFCI breaker in the panel and no GFCI receptacles, right? What size is the breaker in the panel 15 A or 20 A? Dec 12 '16 at 21:15
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    Both, breaker and outlets are GFCI.
    – Hank
    Dec 12 '16 at 21:29
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No.

You should not put a GFCI outlet on a GCFI breaker. You need GFCI protection in only one device per circuit. Or stated better, you should not have a GFCI outlet downstream of a GFCI breaker. It's not unsafe per se, but it will be an unpredictable pain to deal with when it trips and you don't know where to go to reset it.

GFCI Outlets do not require GFCI breakers. GFCI Breakers make regular outlets and other devices GFCI protected.

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  • Could I remove the GFCI breaker and replace it with a higher amp regular breaker?
    – Hank
    Dec 12 '16 at 21:23
  • What is the current limit value for the existing GFCI breaker? What is the size of the wire used in this circuit #14 or #12? If #14, the max breaker allowed is 15 A. If #12, the max allowed is a 20 A breaker. Dec 12 '16 at 21:29
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    Never increase the amperage of a circuit breaker unless all downstream wiring and outlets are rated for the increased amperage. Since you are talking about GFCI outlets, I'm assuming you're in North America and are talking about a 120V outlet circuit. In this case, you can go up to 20 amps, but only if all of the wiring on the cur unit is 12awg copper or larger.
    – DoxyLover
    Dec 12 '16 at 21:32
  • A GFCI receptacle can be wired into the circuit in two ways. One of those ways provides GF protection for all of the receptacles downstream (even if those are just standard receptacles). The other way to wire a GFCI only gives GF protection to the receptacle itself. Do you know how your GFCIs are wired in? Did you do it or someone else? Dec 12 '16 at 21:36
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    No, you may not replace it with a higher amp regular breaker. it's not some sort of bargaining negotiation where the value of gfci is added to the value of the amps or something. Whatever amperage the gfci breaker is, is the same amperage you should use for its non-gfci replacement.
    – Billy C.
    Dec 12 '16 at 21:40
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Stacking GFCI protection does nothing.

Feeding a GFCI device from a GFCI device is utterly redundant. It does nothing for safety and adds a lot more stuff that can go wrong.

An exception: if your main/upstream GFCI device has a much higher threshold than the downstream device. That would apply to Europeans, who commonly have a whole-house GFCI (they call it an RCD) with a fairly high threshold so that trips are infrequent. This also means places that need max protection like bathrooms are underprotected. Then yes, you want a better GFCI for that circuit.

And by the way Euros, the trouble with whole-house GFCI protection is it means any ground fault will trip your refrigerator and furnace circuit, with potentially serious consequences, especially if the person who resets the breaker does not mention this to the cook.

It's actually worse than nothing.

7 GFCI's on a GFCI breaker means 7 other circuits are NOT protected that could be.

What's more, when a fault occurs, every GFCI upstream of the fault trips. When users get sick of hunting them all down, this will cause a door to start binding due to the extension cord running under it and stapled along the baseboard to serve that location from an unprotected circuit.

Legal or code violation?

This is arguable, but I argue codevio for two reasons: first, resets are supposed to be readily accessible, and not made any more complicated than practicality requires. Second, work must be neat and workmanlike.

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Stacking GFCI is the least of your concerns.

The first issue here is that code requires that some of the things that are on this single circuit are required to be on separate circuits. The receptacles for the bathrooms should be on a separate circuit. The kitchen small appliance circuits should be separate.

The second is that that circuit is just plain overloaded - run the toaster and a hair dryer at the same time, it will likely trip.

Correcting this could be quite a bit of work, depending on how the wiring was done. If they're all wired as separate circuits but combined at or near the panel, it might be easy.

Stacking GFCI protection is not wrong, and you could argue it's very right.

But to the original question, I will respectfully submit a dissenting opinion on stacking GFCI protection - protecting at both the panel and the receptacle.

I can't see a code violation on the basis of accessibility; if that was the case, GFCI breakers wouldn't satisfy the code at all, but of course they do.

On the basis of "neat and workmanlike" - that very vague requirement is the "disorderly conduct" of electrical violations, and as such almost impossible to defend. But vague as it is, it's usually reserved for sloppy work, not design issues.

Using a GFCI breaker and GFCI receptacle on the same circuit is like wearing a belt and suspenders. It is, of course, by definition, redundant; but redundancy can be a good thing, especially with safety devices.

If one GFCI device fails to operate, the other can still prevent a shock. I have seen more failed GFCI devices recently than I have in the past, including failure to trip.

It may be more trouble to reset, because you have to check two places, and you may check the one that didn't trip first. But it may be well worth the trouble. Keep in mind that GFCI trip might be saving someone's life.

I agree that it would be nice if they could be coordinated at personnel safety levels. In theory you could make 4ma trip GFCI receptacles and 6ma trip GFCI breakers, so the more readily accessible receptacle would normally trip first. In reality, getting that kind of coordination from GFCI devices is probably not practical.

In particular, I think redundant ground fault protection may prevent some of the electrical accidents involving swimming pools we see every summer.

It might also be wise to put a label at the GFCI receptacle that indicates that the circuit is GFCI protected at the breaker as well, so the end user knows there's another place to check.

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  • Doubling of GFCI'S can create random tripping. There is no advantage it is not safer and because of random tripping events I would call that unsafe. A while back I was called to a home the owner thought if 1 GFCI was good why not all of them, he could not keep them from tripping, after removing all but the first on each circuit he had no more problems and every outlet in the home was protected.
    – Ed Beal
    Dec 27 '18 at 21:26
  • @EdBeal - I have never seen them stacked more than two deep, I couldn't say why that would cause trouble but I am not surprised that it does. I have seen them stacked here and there, usually where a GFCI breaker is added where there's already one or more GFCI receptacles. No nuisance tripping, other than a bit of a runaround to have to check two places when the GFCI trips. Dec 27 '18 at 23:01

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