Garage doors are lowered and raised by an automated opener linked to your home’s power supply.
The danger of electric fires and shock is real.
The opener may fail as well, dropping the door and crushing everything in the path.
So, Do Garage Door Openers Need to Be GFCI Protected?
Yes, certainly. But it only became a necessity in 2008 in that year’s edition of NEC (National Electrical Code).
More on that later, for now, let’s find out what a GFCI is.
Yes, What’s A GFCI, To Begin With?
A Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter (GFCI) will detect current leakages in a circuit and break it to eliminate the danger of electrical shock.
Often, it works together with an AFCI (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter) which is tasked by detecting an array of arcing electrical faults and eliminating the associated danger of fire.
Why Is A GFCI Necessary For A Garage Door Opener?
Garage door openers intended for residential establishments in Canada and the U.S. are rated at 120 V AC (about 2.9 amps), 60Hz line.
Other countries rate their machines in this region as well.
To know the rating of your machine, take a glance at the label (often with a model number on it).
If you allow a 120 V current leak into the wrong places in the garage or the rest of the house, a pet, toddler, or adult may be shocked.
So rather than endanger the life of your home’s occupants, you’d have one of these devices installed.
What Else Does NEC Say About Garage Doors and GFCIs?
As aforementioned, NEC has made GFCIs a necessity for garage doors since 2008.
And since minor updates are made on the NEC once in a while, we’ll base everything in this article on the 2020 edition.
Not Only Is GFCI A Necessity, But It Must Also Be Installed In A Readily Accessible Area
Article 210.8 – Ground Fault Circuits Interrupter Protection for Personnel – of NEC 2020 recommends that you install your GFCI in an easily accessible location.
If you place your GFCI receptacle, say, 7 – 10 ft. off the ground, that isn’t really accessible.
You are also discouraged from installing it directly on the ground.
Article 210.8 (A) – Dwelling Units: All 125 V through 250 V receptacles serviced by single-phase branched circuits rated 150 V or less to ground need to have GFCI protection as well.
Covered areas include bathrooms, outdoors, and garages.
Accessory buildings with a floor below or above grade level but unintended for human occupation and restricted to storage, and similar use are covered as well.
When it comes to the installation of GFCI in garages, there are zero exceptions.
All 125 V through 250 V, single-phase, receptacles placed in a garage must offer GFCI protection for users of equipment/appliances no matter where the receptacle is installed in the garage.
Key Points So Far:
- GFCI receptacles in your garage must be installed in an easily accessible location and
- there’re no exceptions.
So What Can You Do?
The first thing you can do happens to be the most obvious one – use the GFCI breaker for the circuit serving the receptacle that powers your garage door opener.
In this situation, you will simply use any of the standard receptacles found in your garage as long as you mark it with a sticker saying ‘GFCI protected.’
Alternatively, you can opt to use a GFCI receptacle. How, you might ask?
- Start by locating – or installing – a readily accessible GFCI receptacle somewhere on the wall.
- Proceed to run a cable from it all the way to any receptacle anywhere in the garage.
- The destination receptacle will become a GSCI-protected receptacle and NOT a GFCI receptacle – basically, a standard receptacle enjoying the protection of a GFCI unit located elsewhere.
So…yeah, that’s pretty much it.
You can either go with a GFCI breaker or link a cable (preferably in an EMT (electric metal tubing)) from an easily accessible GFCI to your door opener receptacle.
How Do You Accomplish It?
Just remove the gold tape on the GFCI and hook the white and black wires of the wire running to your garage door opener receptacle to the load terminals on your GFCI.
What’s The Difference Between GFCI Receptacle And GFCI Circuit Breaker?
The two may come across as confusing to a beginner.
However, don’t fret – these two serve the same role:
- breaking the circuit
- and preventing shocks in the event a fault is detected.
When it comes to features and other things outside their function, they can be as different as a lily and a thorn.
So How Do You Tell It’s A GFCI Receptacle?
If you have just moved into a new property and you’re inspecting the garage, if you spot a receptacle with a red/white reset button on the faceplate, you’re more likely to be looking at a GFCI Receptacle.
Unlike GFCI circuit breakers which are only reset at the service panel, GFCI Receptacles are reset right on their own faceplate hence the presence of a conspicuous button. T
he main drawback is that a GFCI Receptacle will protect just one receptacle while a GFCI circuit breaker will protect everything on a specific circuit.
And How Do You Tell It’s A GFCI Circuit Breaker?
If you have to walk all the way to the service panel to reset, that’s a GFCI circuit breaker right there.
Of course, they protect the entire circuit but tend to be black (the counterpart is often white).
They are smaller compared to their counterparts and can be a little harder to install because they need to link back to the service panel.
If you are a DIYer, for instance, you will find a GFCI circuit breaker a nightmare to work with unless you are familiar with service panels.
When it comes to cost, both are about 10x the cost of a regular receptacle.
Also, note that your local codes may have requirements different from those spelled out by NEC.
Which One Is Perfect For Your Garage Door Opener?
Both are great for your door opener, but the GFCI Receptacle is preferable. Why?
The preference has something to do with NEC requirements, that the GFCI intended for this purpose must be placed in an easily accessible location.
GFCI receptacles come with a convenient reset button which you can press quickly provided you’re nearby.
The GFCI circuit breaker is perfect for this application as well except that you will need to dash to the service panel just to reset it.
Although the service panel may be within your reach, it may take you a little longer to reset.
More On The Obstruction Factor
The NEC advises against placing your GFCI receptacles behind obstacles like furniture for obvious reasons.
So, if you must place your GFCI in that specific location (behind obstacles), you’d opt for a GFCI circuit breaker (not a GFCI receptacle) because you won’t need to approach it to reset.
To summarize everything, a GFCI is a must-have for a garage with a door operated by an electronic opener.
You can choose either avenue of the same thing – install a GFCI receptacle or settle for a GFCI circuit breaker.