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Under the NEC (it was 210(7)(d)(3), but appears to have moved around some), it is permissible to replace an ungrounded receptacle with a GFCI receptacle, then wire further ungrounded or non-grounded (i.e. a NEMA 5 without a ground wire hooked up) receptacles on the circuit to the load side of the GFCI, all in lieu of running a ground wire in order to replace the existing ungrounded receptacles with grounded receptacles.

However: does this permission extend to replacing the branch circuit overcurrent protection device with a GFCI-type circuit breaker (or a CAFCI breaker that provides ground fault protection for personnel)? Or can only GFCI receptacles be used for this retrofit? The NEC's verbiage does not make mention of breaker-type GFCIs...

  • 1
    The answer aside, I would always recommend rewiring in this situation even if annoying to do so (as long as it is possible). – user4302 Oct 21 '14 at 4:14
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The NEC simply states "where supplied through a ground-fault circuit interrupter" in this instance, so you can achieve this either by a GFI receptacle, a faceless GFI device, or a GFI breaker.

You cannot however use an AFCI breaker, unless it is one of the new (and rare) AFCI/GFCI breakers. Good luck finding one though. I find one Siemens on Amazon and that's about it.

See "(c)" below.

From the 2011 NEC:

406.4 General Installation Requirements

Receptacle outlets shall be located in branch circuits in accordance with Part III of Article 210. General installation requirements shall be in accordance with 406.4(A) through (F).

(D) Replacements.

Replacement of receptacles shall comply with 406.4(D)(1) through (D)(6), as applicable.

(2) Non–Grounding-Type Receptacles.

Where attachment to an equipment grounding conductor does not exist in the receptacle enclosure, the installation shall comply with (D)(2)(a), (D)(2)(b), or (D)(2)(c).

(a) A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with another non–grounding-type receptacle(s).

(b) A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a ground-fault circuit interrupter-type of receptacle(s). These receptacles shall be marked “No Equipment Ground.” An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter-type receptacle to any outlet supplied from the ground-fault circuit-interrupter receptacle.

(c) A non–grounding-type receptacle(s) shall be permitted to be replaced with a grounding-type receptacle(s) where supplied through a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Grounding-type receptacles supplied through the ground-fault circuit interrupter shall be marked “GFCI Protected” and “No Equipment Ground.” An equipment grounding conductor shall not be connected between the grounding-type receptacles.

  • It appears that the situation has changed in a few months' time -- the new requirements in the '14 NEC for AFCI protection of kitchens and laundry areas have motivated both Square-D and C-H to come out with GFCI/CAFCI combos. – ThreePhaseEel Jan 16 '15 at 0:32
  • As to availability...they seem to be somewhat spotty online (the Siemens units are more common), but they do turn up – ThreePhaseEel Jan 16 '15 at 0:35

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