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I have 5 bathrooms in an older (30 yrs) house, only one of which has a GFCI outlet. The other 4 bathrooms each have a standard outlet. Each bathroom is tied to a single 15A breaker (i hope nobody is using multiple hairdryers at a time!)

My question is: Do I need to install a GFCI outlet in each bathroom in order to provide the safety that GFCI provides? In my reading, it seems that I do not, as daisy chained outlets with a single GFCI provide protection across the entire circuit, but I would love to hear what others have to say. It seems bathrooms and kitchen plugs ideally should be on their own circuit (which is what I'm doing for a basement kitchen addition), GFCI or not.

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  • "Each bathroom is tied to a single 15A breaker. . . " Do you mean ALL five bathrooms are on a single circuit protected by a 15 A circuit breaker? Our 1970 built, two-bathroom house has both bathrooms on the same circuit in 12 AWG aluminum through a 15 A GFCI breaker. This one circuit powers lights, exhaust fan, IR heat lamp (and of course a duplex receptacle in two bathrooms, A hair dryer is used in one one bathroom by one person. In 45 years of use we have never had a breaker trip. Sep 29, 2023 at 15:29
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    If you use the GFCI test button on the one GFCI receptacle, is the power interrupted to all four of the other bathrooms? You could use the lights as an indication of power being interrupted, but confirm that the power is interrupted to the receptacles. Sep 29, 2023 at 17:46

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Assuming your wiring is done properly, what you have is 100% fine. It is not ideal from a total power availability perspective (i.e., two hairdryers at the same time) but from a safety perspective it is just fine.

To double-check the safety part, you can either use a GFCI tester in the non-GFCI receptacles, or press the TEST button on the GFCI receptacle and make sure it cuts power to the non-GFCI receptacles.

The basic rule is:

  • A 20A circuit must feed receptacles in each bathroom
  • That circuit can be shared with (a) lighting in the same bathroom or (b) receptacles in other bathrooms, but not both

Of course, older houses often have 15A circuits instead of 20A circuits or circuits that serve lighting and/or receptacles outside of the bathrooms. Generally speaking if the circuits were installed (more generally, the house was built, but technically each change can trigger new code for that circuit) prior to particular changes, the old circuits are grandfathered. A quick search shows the 20A requirement has been in place since 1996, so any older house can have 15A circuits for bathrooms and/or (as far as I can tell, it gets tricky looking for the older stuff) non-dedicated circuits.

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    An amplification to this excellent answer is that to be safe, the GFCI you have must, when tested, kill the power to all of the outlets. Just having a GFCI on the circuit isn't sufficient if it's not the first one in the series, since only the downstream outlets that are connected to the GFCI's "load" terminals will be protected.
    – Milwrdfan
    Sep 29, 2023 at 3:44
  • @Milwrdfan Agreed. But I think I already covered that in the 2nd paragraph. Sep 29, 2023 at 3:48
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    I agree that you did, but wanted the author to not gloss over the fact that the GFCI needs to be first in line, and not just part of the daisy chain, as the wording of the question did not indicate to me the author's clear understanding of the importance of the GCFI location in the chain, not just that the circuit has one somewhere in the chain of outlets.
    – Milwrdfan
    Sep 29, 2023 at 3:59
  • If multiple bathrooms are being used simultaneously and GFCI trips are anticipated it is extremely troublesome to have a GFCI receptacle in one bathroom interrupt the power in all five bathrooms including the lights! The best arrangement would be five independent GFCI receptacles (pigtail to line) interrupting only the receptacles so lights would stay on in the event of a trip. Of course this would be a lot more costly and more effort. Another possibility would be that one or two bathrooms would be independent and the other 3 or 4 could be on one GFCi receptacle through the load connection. Sep 29, 2023 at 17:01
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    @JimStewart That may be part of the rationale for current (a couple of decades, but not all that long in the grand scheme of things) code of "one circuit allowed for all bathroom receptacles" or "one circuit allowed for receptacles plus lights in a single bathroom". Inconvenient but manageable if you trip the GFCI in the bathroom you are in and the lights go out. Inconvenient but manageable if someone trips the GFCI in another bathroom and your hair dryer goes out. Much more of a problem if someone trips GFCI in another bathroom and your lights go out - current code avoids that problem. Sep 29, 2023 at 17:07
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If tripping the GFCI knocks out power to the outlets in the other bathrooms, then most likely they are fed from that GFCI and (in practical terms) enjoy GFCI protection. A ground fault (shock) will result in that GFCI tripping; though you can always put that to the test with a GFCI tester.

However, that practical protection is about as useful as a chocolate teapot when the inspector arrives. NEC 110.3 and the GFCI instructions require you to label each of the downline outlets "GFCI Protected" with any labeling of your choice which is not hand written. If there is no ground, NEC requires that mark and also "No Equipment Ground" per 406.4(D)(2). Without those (accurate) markings, you will get written up for no GFCI in bathrooms.

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It's not uncommon for several bathrooms in older homes to share a circuit for plug receptacles. When you find the first one on the circuit, that GFCI must protect the other bathroom outlets downstream. Many 15 amp GFCIs are designed to be 20 amp pass through, allowing them to be used on 20 amp circuits but be rated 15 amps maximum when supplying power to a plugged in appliance. Depending on the brand of GFCI used, some have the line circuit on the bottom outlet when the ground is facing the bottom, and some have the line circuit on the top. Leviton is one that has the line on top, while Eaton has the line on the bottom. I'm using those 2 brands at my home. My garage is detached and gets a live wire entering from the floor to the first circuit. It has an Eaton GFCI protecting the whole garage circuit. My bath, kitchen and outdoor circuits have the live line coming from the ceiling, and use Leviton GFCIs, with each box wired separately in the attic, but on a given breaker with multiple outlets on the breaker.

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