A comment thread on GFCI outlet on 2-wire ungrounded question led to a discussion of whether GFCI is better/worse or even permitted at point-of-use (GFCI/receptacle) instead of GFCI/breakers in the panel:

But regardless of how much people sing the praises of "point of use reset" in GFCI it's still going the way of the dodo bird since code is now requiring the panels GFCI.

and later:

It is simply no longer code for new installs for a reason, the NEC is not stupid. I've tried explaining why if you don't want to accept it that's fine but it is where things are headed no matter what you want. Sorry.

Presumably this is a non-issue for any existing installations as many panels are perfectly, legally, functional, but incapable of adding GFCI breakers due to technical limitations or simply because there are no listed GFCI breakers available.

Can the code experts please clarify whether or not, in new work with a modern, GFCI-capable, panel, GFCI/receptacles are permitted instead of GFCI/breakers? Reference to any such change in NEC 2017, NEC 2020, any officially proposed changes or specific jurisdiction code modifications are appreciated.


The Code doesn't specify location of protection.

NEC 2017

210.8 Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection for Personnel. Ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel shall be provided as required in 210.8(A) through (E). The ground-fault circuit interrupter shall be installed in a readily accessible location.

Th 2020 Code changes (E) to (F), and reorganizes paragraphs.

The biggest issue is interpretation of "readily accessible".(e.g. Is the receptacle behind the fridge or microwave readily accessible?)

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    Also, there may be some confusion on the 2020 code. It requires nearly everything to be AFCI protected at the main panel, not GFCI protected. So say for a kitchen circuit, you'd have an AFCI breaker in the panel and a GFCI outlet first in the circuit. When wiring my sons new home, he decided on combination GFCI & AFCI breakers, so there were no GFCI outlets needed. I cautioned him that nuisance trips would require a trip to the panel, but he was OK w/that. – George Anderson Jan 6 at 15:59
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    @GeorgeAnderson Yes the AFCI requirements are much more restrictive, and convenience of location of the gfci can be a practical consideration. The answer to the previous question specified what he would do, but doesn't even seem to address the actual question, and I can't even be sure what the pronoun "it" in the comment even refers to. – NoSparksPlease Jan 6 at 16:18
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    Geeze "no sparks please". Are you the grammar cop now? "It" in a sentence would normally refer to the noun most recently used, which in my case was the "2020 code" in the previous sentence. The OP specifically asked about changes made or proposed in the 2017 or 2020 code. I believe my comment (not even an answer) contributed. – George Anderson Jan 6 at 16:26
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    @GeorgeAnderson Never a grammar cop, I think maybe I confused you. I was referring to the "it" in the first word of the comment by TM that is subject of the question above: It is simply no longer code.... – NoSparksPlease Jan 6 at 16:35
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    Damn,. I'm sorry, I thought you were referring to the "it" in my comment! LOL, take care and as JACK would say "stay safe out there"! – George Anderson Jan 6 at 16:40

As NoSparksPlease has pointed out you can find the requirement for GFCI protection in the NEC Article 210.8 and right in the first paragraph its states;

The ground fault circuit interrupter shall be installed in a readily accessible location.

As far as I know, that is the only requirement the NEC has for new installations. So whether you decide to use a breaker or an in-line device is really at your discretion. Experience will teach you that the farther the load is from the device, the more nuisance tripping occurs. Also originally in-line devices were less expensive than breakers.

I will also say that different municipalities have different ideas on what is correct. Some don't care, some require breakers and some require in-line. You might want to check in with them and get their input before proceeding.

Good luck



There is often confusion between GFCI with AFCI.

AFCI is arc fault protection and is mainly aimed at protecting wiring in the walls from arcing and sparking, which starts fires. . As such, in new work it must be at the breaker, since putting it at a receptacle would put the relevant wiring on the wrong side of the AFCI device.

AFCI is required on many circuits.

On some circuits, in NEC 2020, both AFCI and GFCI are required. There's nothing wrong with splitting the duty between an AFCI breaker and a GFCI receptacle, switch or deadfront. However,

  • A CAFCI breaker is typically $40 and a GFCI recep is $18.
  • A CAFCI+GFCI dual-mode breaker is typically $50.

GFCI can help protect wiring too, two ways. First, they can protect humans from shocks if they make contact with wiring in the walls (e.g. a plastic junction box gets drenched with water). Second, they can detect hot-ground and neutral-ground parallel arc faults, because those are also ground faults.

However, that second role is already covered by current AFCI breakers, which are actually CAFCI -- Combination AFCI. The "Combination" means they detect both parallel arc faults (hot-ground or neutral-ground, many use a weaker version of GFCI detection for this purpose) and also series arc-faults (a loose wire poorly completing the circuit).

  • I'm not confusing GFCI & AFCI. I'm trying to verify (and I think it is pretty clear now) that GFCI, unlike AFCI, does not need to be at the breaker, even on new work. The comments discussion I was having with someone else who insisted on GFCI needing to be at the breaker, and actually started with something along the lines of "the GFCI receptacles these days aren't very good quality." – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Jan 7 at 4:36
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    @manassehkatz Sorry, I hadn't noticed the asker was you :) Edited. I don't think there's any support in Code for what that person claimed, however it's an understandable confusion given a) the AFCI requirement and b) the favorable price point for dual-mode breakers. Sort of like all the people who believe outbuildings need main breakers because of the savings from using a main-breaker panel to get a disconnect. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 7 at 5:06

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