Does A Garbage Disposal Need GFCI? (Find Out Now!)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

When you reach to turn on your garbage disposal with your hands soaking wet from doing the dishes, you might find yourself hesitating. You have GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters) for every other “wet” area in your home, so should you install one for your garbage disposal, too?

A garbage disposal does not need GFCI. This is considered optional protection by the National Electrical Code. Although not legally required, some manufacturers include recommendations in the installation instructions to install GFCI protection. GFCI is usually required within six feet of a sink, so it may not be a bad idea to install it for your garbage disposal.

Here are some considerations to make when you’re trying to decide whether you should install a GFCI for your garbage disposal.

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What is GFCI?

GFCI, also sometimes referred to as GFI, stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. This device protects you from receiving an electric shock in the event that an electrical device that you use in your home becomes faulty.

It works by comparing the input current on the hotter side to the output current on the neutral side. If the system detects a difference in the current, even by just a few milliamps, then that serves as an indication that the current is leaking out somewhere (potentially through someone’s body).

In order to protect the user, the device cuts the power supply within less than 30 milliseconds. This greatly reduces the chance of you being injured from electrocution.

GFCI is typically used anywhere in which there is a chance that a receptacle could be subjected to moisture. As you likely know, the presence of moisture dramatically increases the chances of accidental electrocution.

This includes places such as:

  • Bathrooms
  • Kitchens
  • Garages
  • Exterior receptacles
  • Crawl spaces
  • Unfinished basements
  • Laundry rooms
  • Utility areas
  • Wet bar sink areas
  • Boathouses

GFCI protection can be provided at the outlet (you have likely seen GFCI outlets, with their telltale test and reset buttons) or at the distribution panel. Here, it is done with a GFCI circuit breaker. As a result, you might not be able to tell whether an outlet is GFCI protected just by looking at it.

Does a Garbage Disposal Need GFCI? Pros and Cons

Technically, a garbage disposal does not need any GFCI protection but there’s a good chance that it already is if your home is relatively new. That’s because the law is currently written so that GFCI has to be installed for any outlets within six feet of the sink, which your garbage disposal likely is.

While it’s not a bad idea to install GFCI outlets if you don’t have them for your garbage disposal already, there are a few pros and cons to keep in mind.

Pros of GFCI Protection

There are lots of advantages to installing a GFCI outlet, the most obvious being that it reduces the risk of electrocution caused by wiring problems. Also, a GFCI can prevent electrical fires that are caused by shorts or other issues.

Not only that, but a GFCI outlet could protect your garbage disposal in the event of an electric surge.

Cons of GFCI Protection

There aren’t many disadvantages when it comes to installing GFCI protection for your garbage disposal. After all, it’s your safety we’re talking about here!

However, know that replacing an existing outlet on your own isn’t necessarily easy, especially if you don’t have any knowledge of how electrical wiring works. That’s doubly true if you have old wiring.

In that case, you will likely need to hire an experienced electrician, which can add to the overall expense of installing your garbage disposal.

Electrical Requirements for Installing a Garbage Disposal

GFCI isn’t necessarily required. However, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, there are a few other pointers that you should keep in mind when installing your garbage disposal according

For one, I know that the vibration that is caused when using a garbage disposal can cause electrical connections to separate or come loose. If you’re having trouble getting your garbage disposal to turn on, one of your first steps should be to look for any connections that might be loose in the wire compartment box.

When installing a garbage disposal, it should be hardwired or connected to an outlet via a grounded electrical outlet. A dedicated circuit is recommended, although your second-best option is to share it on a circuit with the dishwasher. Check your garbage disposal user’s manual for more detailed instructions.

Related Questions

Why does my garbage disposal trip the GFCI outlet?

The garbage disposal likely trips the GFCI outlet because the receptacle that the disposal is plugged into is being fed from the “load” side of the GFCI receptacle. There is likely a ground fault between the GFCI and the disposal so you will need to find it and fix it. You may have to call in an electrician to help.

Are garbage disposals required by code?

Garbage disposals are not required by code and in fact, in some areas, local residential building codes prohibit them entirely.

Does the outlet under the sink need to be GFCI?

Yes, as long as it is within six feet. If it is not within six feet (which is highly unlikely) of the water source, then it does not need to have GFCI protection. Again, it doesn’t hurt to have GFCI protection so you may want to add it regardless of the codes.

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Final Thoughts

From fixing loose blades to removing clogs, there are all kinds of things you should be doing to keep your garbage disposal running in tip-top shape. Among them is making sure your garbage disposal is hooked up to the right type of outlet.

A GFCI outlet is not necessary for a garbage disposal, but ultimately, it can help keep you, your family, and your home much safer. If you don’t have your garbage disposal connected to GFCI protection, it might not be a bad idea to get a quote from an electrician so that you can upgrade the wiring and keep things safer.

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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