Does a washing machine need a GFCI outlet? The answer is: It depends.
Your home’s electrical system can be incredibly complicated. It’s normal to have a lot of questions as a homeowner and to wonder about what’s best for the equipment you use regularly.
Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Using our expert insight, John C. Flood is here to help explain what a GFCI outlet is, if your washing machine should have it, and what you can do to make sure your home outlets are as safe as possible. Let’s dig in:
What is a GFCI Outlet?
Before you can understand if a washing machine should be plugged into a GFCI outlet, it helps to understand what a GFCI outlet is. “GFCI” stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter. This is a unique electrical device that guards against electric shocks caused by any electrical system flaws or surges.
GFCI outlets serve as a type of gatekeeper for any electric current imbalance between the hot and neutral conductors of the circuit. If they detect some unwanted activity, they switch off the circuit to protect any equipment you have plugged into the outlet.
It’s normal for GFCI outlets to be fitted in locations of your home that are exposed to moisture or where water is present. They are most common in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, unfinished basements, laundry rooms, swimming pool areas, and outdoor outlets.
So, does a washing machine need a GFCI outlet?
Should a Washing Machine be Plugged into a GFCI Outlet?
The National Electric Code (NEC) governs electrical safety in homes and businesses. It’s continually updated to always ensure homes and businesses are as safe as possible. They have all the necessary information for homeowners trying to determine what rooms in their homes need a GFCI outlet and which ones don’t.
Back in 2011, the NEC determined that a GFCI device is required for any outlet that is within 6 feet of a bathtub or sink in a dwelling unit. No matter if there is a sink or wash tub present, some homes have GFCI outlets installed everywhere to comply with the most recent NEC updates and to make their home as safe as possible.
All that being said, while the NEC does state that a laundry area must have a GFCI outlet installed, it does not say that the “washing machine” needs to be plugged into a GFCI. That means that if your home has a washing machine, it’s not against electrical codes to have it plugged into a normal outlet. If your washing machine is in the laundry area, then it’s likely to be plugged into a GFCI receptacle but that’s not specifically the code.
But does it make your home safer? Does it help to have a washing machine plugged into a GFCI outlet? We’ll get into that next.
Does a Washing Machine Need a GFCI Outlet?
If you’re specifically wondering, “does a washing machine need a GFCI outlet?” then know the answer depends.
If the laundry area wasn't required to have GFCI outlets installed when the house was built and you are putting a new washing machine with the current non-GFCI outlet, you should be able to pass an inspection.
The washing machine should run. You shouldn’t have any issues getting your clothes washed. If only your old washer was replaced with a new one, nothing else would need to be installed or changed in your current laundry room area.
However, we strongly advise replacing the old outlet with a GFCI outlet because it will shield you from potential electrical shock. While a washing machine will run on a normal outlet, your machine will be much safer and your laundry room more protected if you use a GFCI outlet.
In new homes today, GFCI outlets are required to be installed in laundry rooms to help add safety and security to your home. If you’re remodeling your laundry room, adding a laundry room, or updating your washing machine, it’s a good idea to update the outlet to a GFCI while you’re at it.
Need a GFCI Outlet Update?
If your current laundry room doesn’t have GFCI outlets, it’s time to get those updated so your home is up to code. However, don’t attempt to handle that project on your own. Instead, it’s time to hire a certified and insured electrician to install a GFCI outlet near your washing machine or laundry room.When you work with a professional, your GFCI outlet will be installed properly, safely, and per the NEC rules. Reach out to John C. Flood to schedule an electrical service.