National Electrical Installation Standards

Standards as High as Your Own

Monday, February 20, 2017


Good morning, Can you please explain the justification behind NEC 210.11(C)(3) including the exception? My understanding is that only one (1) 20-Amp circuit can feed bathroom receptacle outlets. If this is achieved, then the bathroom lighting outlets and exhaust fan can be fed from other circuits. Per the exception, one (1) 20-Amp circuit can feed the bathroom receptacle(s), bathroom light outlets, and exhaust fan as long as this 20-amp circuit only feeds outlets confined to this one (1) bathroom.  

I have three (3) bathrooms and one (1) of them is non-compliant with NEC. Within the non-compliant bathroom, the receptacles are GFCI but also feeds: One (1) lighting outlet in the adjacent bathroom One (1) receptacle outlets and one (1) lighting & ceiling fan outlet in the adjacent bedroom Four (4) receptacle outlets and two (1) lighting & ceiling fan outlet in another bedroom. One (1) additional lighting outlet in the associated walk-in closet One (1) lighting outlet in the hallway

In addition, this non-compliant bathroom has an exhaust fan fed from separate circuit that doesn’t have an equipment ground wire connected to the panel. How come only the receptacle outlets are required to be GFCI? Is excess condensation during a hot shower a concern to consider having lighting outlets and exhaust fans within the bathroom be fed from a GFCI breaker? If using the NEC 210.11(C)(3) Exception and feeding all outlets within the same bathroom from one (1) 20-Amp breaker, should a GFCI receptacle outlet be connected first so that all other outlets (lights and fan) will have GFCI protection or on the downstream side of the other outlets (lights and fan)? It seems condensation is not a factor per NEC.

Thank you,Brandon Portelli


Hey Brandon thanks for your questions, we condensed them slightly to focus on the NEC applications. The need for the 20 ampere branch circuit is based in part on the use of personal grooming appliances. If one (or more) branch circuits supplies bathroom receptacle outlets it must be 20 ampere and can supply no other outlets, such as lighting or exhaust fans as stated in 210.11(C)(3). Even with multiple bathrooms it is not likely that personal grooming appliances will be used in all of them at the same time. And even if that happened the lighting would not be affected as it can't be on that same branch circuit. If a 20 ampere branch circuit is limited to a single bathroom now the lighting and exhaust fan can be supplied from that same branch circuit - if the loads comply with 210.23(A)(1) and (A)(2).

The 15 and 20 ampere 125 volt receptacles installed in dwelling unit bathrooms must be GFCI protected as stated in 210.8(A)(1). This has been based on records of electric shocks and electrocutions related to appliances plugged into these receptacles. Some appliances such as bathroom exhaust fans can include a requirement in the instructions to be GFCI protected and this must be followed as stated in 110.3(B).

In your example several items appear to be non-compliant, especially the lack of an equipment grounding conductor for the exhaust fan. Providing GFCI protection for bathroom lighting is optional unless the luminaire instructions specifically require it.

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