Purchased a place and we are re-wiring the bathroom and putting in a standing shower. The bathroom is quite small so there is just enough room for this. There is a dedicated circuit, a round box above the medicine cabinet for a bar light, and a shower fan+light above the shower rough-in. They are both fed from a box near the sink which contains a double switch and a GFI outlet. The top of the double switch will control the vanity light, and the bottom will control the fan+light.

I was told that it is illegal [in PA] to wire the shower fan+light using power tapped from the GFI outlet. Is this true? Essentially, if the bath fan+light were to short [water] it would trip the GFI found near the sink....or vice versa if the GFI outlet is tripped from water [hair dryer]. Since the vanity light would not be behind the GFI, it would stay on if a trip occurred....or i could wire that GFI too if needed.

If this is illegal, is there an alternate way to protect the fan with GFI without running ~30 feet more wire to a GFI breaker? This seems extremely overkill to run all that for just a bath fan that is already designed to function in a steamy environment tapped from a GFI that is already there. Thanks.


3 Answers 3


The real answer is "it depends on what else that circuit does". According to the NEC, if your outlet circuit goes to more than one bathroom, powering the fan/light from it is a violation. If it's only in that bathroom, you may be able to do this without violating code, but I'd recommend consulting a licensed electrician for advice, if nothing else.

  • 1
    Ah more info: The circuit is only 1 bathroom that has 1 GFI outlet, 1 fan, 1 vanity bar light. The other bathroom above, as well as the kitchen beside, are on other circuits. (yes the kitchen is 4+ circuit per spec). Im stuck on the "legality" of pulling fan off the load side of a GFI box...or for the sake of argument, a light recip off load end of an outlet box in general. I scoped the NFPA70 but didnt see anything cut and dry about this besides the circuit sharing nogo in wet/bath/kitchen env you mentioned.
    – dhaupin
    Mar 20, 2015 at 16:59
  • So far, it sounds like you're okay pulling from the load side of the GFI - but there may be local code enhancements that you don't know about, so I would still seek a licensed electrician's advice.
    – John
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:01

Bath Fan above shower (or tub)-- per code, must be "rated" for use in wet area/above shower (will be listed on the packaging/instructions of the Fan/light). All such fans I'm familiar with also require GFI protection. So answer is to put fan either on "load" side of existing bath GFI protection (assuming no other bathroom GFIs connected to that circuit) or to install a separate GFI (aka "blank" or "no face" GFI) in a separate outlet box (or enlarge outlet box with existing GFI) off the line that feeds the existing GFI.


Just pigtail the wires (hot and neutral both) before the GFCI, and don't feed the fan through the GFCI, and you'll be fine.

Outlets in the bathroom need to be protected with a GFCI, but the lights and fan do not need to be.

Having said that, if you really want to protect the fan with GFCI, just pigtail the wires (both hot and neutral) off the load side of the GFCI device to feed the fan.

  • Aye brotha my initial thought was to pigem before the GFI. The guy said a bath fan above a shower would be "too dangerous" hence my suggestion to pull from GFI load side...for which i got "its illegal". Im honestly kinda thinking this dude is making excuses so he doesnt have to tile around a fan haha.
    – dhaupin
    Mar 20, 2015 at 17:03
  • You might be right about that (tiling around the fan). Why would it be dangerous? Is somebody going to jump up and hang from it? I guess if the ceiling is really low and you might accidentally stick your hand in it or bump your head on it you might consider relocating it. But if you pigtail both hot and neutral off the load side, the circuit will still be balanced and the GFCI shouldn't trip unless there's a fault or something noisy going on in the fan motor. Mar 20, 2015 at 19:26
  • Yeah im not sure how you would even reach it let alone spray water into it without a garden hose (8 foot above shower, 9 foot above bath ceiling). God forbid there is a drop of water splattered up there somehow, 1/40 of a sec trip is pretty dang fast IMO....if GFI is good enough to lay in a puddle of water in a crawl with a 10 amp drill, its good enough for a tiny 30CFM to live in steam. (Disclaimer: of course you should never lay in water with a drill, even if fault protect haha)
    – dhaupin
    Mar 20, 2015 at 19:35

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