In the United States, are outdoor receptacles required to be GFCI receptacles? Or can they be non-GFCI receptacles but downstream from and protected by an indoor GFCI receptacle? This NEC draft says:

All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed... [outdoors]... shall have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel.

Does the word "have" in this context mean the outdoor receptacle itself must contain/provide its own GFCI protection or that it may receive protection and/or provide its own protection?

I don't have a copy of the current official NEC spec. Does that excerpt still apply now?

2 Answers 2


Any GFCI protection will do

When the code says something "shall have ground fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel", it does not care where that GFCI protection is provided -- at the outlet via a receptacle-type GFCI, upstream of the outlet using a receptacle or deadfront GFCI device, or via a GFCI branch or feeder breaker.

  • I agree any GFCI protection will do but is not always required. It depends when the home was built. If your home was built prior to GFCI requirements outside, the national electric code has not required updates.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 0:21
  • 1
    @Ed Beal I agree that NEC does not require electrical updates, but many building codes or fire codes may require electrical updates when there is a change of use or a "major rehab", or other events, as locally defined.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 3:50
  • It is also a good idea to have all outdoor receptacles have GFI protection.
    – Paul Logan
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 7:29
  • 1973 NEC * required for outdoor receptacles at dwellings. 1984 NEC * covered replacement receptacles, and also added hotel bathrooms. There has never been a repeal of any GFCI protection. The reason being is that the most frequent cause of electrocution was people picking up to either plug or disconnect in extension cords in wet conditions. So yes install them because (A) they save your life and (B) its really not that hard to do. Exactly where in the circuit you can install them depends on which grandfather code you fall under. Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 13:55
  • Legality questions aside, for an extra 20 bucks of materials, it's really convenient for everybody to not have to chase around trying to find the gfci outlet or breaker that has tripped a regular outdoor outlet. Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 18:17

GFCI+receptacle combo devices (that's what they are, you know) are not required anywhere. Nor will they ever be, as there will always be people who want more complete protection.

The achilles' heel of GFCI+receptacle combos is the LINE side wiring on the back. If the junction box becomes soaked with water, or water penetrates the receptacle, those wires are entirely unprotected and can deliver a lethal shock through the water.

Unfortunately, there is a pop-culture sensibility that those combo critters "are what a GFCI is". That is not true, GFCI is a protection regime which can apply to any part of a circuit and be delivered by a variety of devices.

Code requires the protection regime. How it is provisioned, they care not.

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