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Does A Washing Machine Need GFCI?

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Electricity is essential to our daily lives, and we cannot overlook that it is full of potential danger. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) were introduced to lessen the risk associated with electrical mishaps and make their usage more palatable.

So, with washing machines dealing with water and the risks of electric shocks increased, does it require GFCI?

The washing machine outlet itself does not require a GFCI. This is because the National Electrical Code doesn’t stipulate protection for washing machines in a residential area. However, a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter is needed in Laundry Areas. This is stated in the NEC 2017, section 210.8 (A) (10): “All 125V, 15a and 20a receptacles installed in “Laundry Areas” shall have GFCI protection.”

Does A Washing Machine Need A Dedicated Circuit?

A washing machine doesn’t specifically need a dedicated circuit. However, it would help to plug it into an outlet on a circuit dedicated to laundry equipment and appliances.

A residential laundry room should run on a dedicated 20 amps GFCI protected circuit. The National Electrical Code states the above. A washing machine is a heavy appliance that draws high amounts of energy. So, not using a dedicated circuit for it may result in overloading. In addition, this could cause the circuit breaker to trip regularly.

Though that may be the case, if you abide by the NEC speculated regulations, there would be no need for a dedicated circuit for your washing machine. However, a right-sized 120 Volts, 20 amps circuit is needed as a smaller one will continually trip and wear out. This enhances safety, protection and enables proper functionality.

The dedicated circuit you would install in your laundry room can function as a designated circuit. As such, one may use a standard receptacle for both your washer and dryer.

When Did Laundry Room Require GFCI?

The 2005 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) was the first to necessitate Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter in laundry rooms. It stated that outlets or receptacles within 6 feet of the laundry sink should be GFCI protected.

Initially, the protection of receptacles in wet areas began with the 1971 edition of the NEC. The locations requiring Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protection have gradually increased with the augmentation of the codes every three years.

In several modifications, household areas with the need for GFCI protection have expanded to include the laundry room. Wherever a washing machine is located in a residential building can be considered the laundry room.

In 2014, a new set of National Electrical Codes (NEC) was introduced, which mandated GFCI protected receptacles in the laundry room. The 2005 edition of the NEC mandates using a GFCI receptacle for a washing machine only if it is within six feet of the sink. The 2014 adaptation mandates GFCI protection for the laundry room.

A further modification in 2017 requires that all 120-Volt receptacles be GFCI protected in laundry areas. Modern homes have three circuits supplying power to the laundry room.

The first is a 20 amp circuit supplying 130 volts of power to the washing machine. Secondly, a 30 amperes dedicated circuit for an electric dryer and thirdly a 15 amp lighting circuit.

It would be best to wire the washing machine receptacle with a two-wire 12 gauge cable containing hot, neutral, and ground wires. This type of circuit is a designated circuit.

Can a Washing Machine Share An Outlet With A Gas Dryer?

A designated circuit powers a washing machine. This means that a washing machine can share an outlet or a receptacle with a gas dryer. However, you cannot share a washing machine outlet with a 240 Volts electric dryer.

A designated laundry room circuit of 120 volts and 20 amperes could function for single-use. Note that this says single-use and not a single appliance. Single-use in this context refers to common use such as laundry use. Hence a cloth washing machine could share a receptacle or outlet with a gas dryer.

Though a cloth washing machine can share an outlet with a gas dryer, it should not contain other electrical equipment, even an electric 240 Volts dryer. An electric dryer that runs on 250 volts is incompatible because it requires a four-pronged, special appliance cord and a ten gauge, three wires cord.

It is stated in the 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code. 210.10(C)(2) Laundry Branch Circuits: In addition to the number of branch circuits required by other parts of this section, at least one additional 20-ampere branch circuit shall be provided to supply the laundry receptacle outlet(s) required by 210.52(F). This circuit shall have no other outlets.

This means that you can not share the laundry circuit with any other area. However, despite this, the circuit can have multiple receptacles to power various home appliances and devices.

How Close Can A Washing Machine Be To An Electrical Panel?

Nothing is allowed to be installed or stored in a working space 2′-6″ wide by 3′-0″ deep and by 6′-6″ high in front of an electric panel, as dictated by the National Electrical Code [NEC 110.26(B)]. This, therefore, prohibits the nearness of a washing machine to a household residential panel by the above specification.

This law is enacted to attain quick access to the electrical panel in the case of an emergency. Assuming you place your washing machine within proximity to the electrical panel, you would have to climb over it in an emergency, and it’s not safe.

Likewise, it is also essential to have a free-way quick escape route in case of any mishap when in front of the panel. Although an earlier Working Space About Equipment section first appeared in the 1940 NEC, The 3’-0″ depth standard was implemented in the 1978 edition of the National Electrical Code [NEC 110.26(A)(1)].

An additional guideline for panel installation is the following; the panel door must swing open a minimum of 90º, per NEC 110.26(A)(2), a panel cannot be located in a clothes closet, bathroom, or on stairs, per NEC 240.24 (D, E, F), and the area in front of the panel must be illuminated, per 110.26(D).  

Therefore, given that the door on the panel can open 90 degrees and there is a total width of 30″, you can place the washer next to the electrical panel.

Conclusion

Although the use of electrical appliances in a residential setting is common, we should not ignore the channels through which energy flows to power up our everyday machines. Instead, we ought to take a look at the physics behind our appliances. But, of course, along with greater understanding comes preventive measures to lessen risks of damages and mishaps.

This is more so for electrical appliances like washing machines near water, which is an excellent conductor. Hence the mandate for the installation and use of GFCI  as a protective measure against ground faults, shock, electrocution, and damage of lives and properties.

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