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  1. #1
    Clint White's Avatar
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    Default GFCI being used as a switch ???

    I did an inspection yesterday on a new construction home (occupied). I ran into something I haven't yet seen, and I cannot find any info on it in my NEC or Code Checks.

    There is a separate exterior circuit, used for christmas lights only, that has what looks like a GFCI outlet (without the plug in's) mounted on the interior of the home. The builder has instructed the homeowner to utilize the TEST and RESET buttons as the ON and OFF switch for the Christmas lights.

    I guess one could say this satisfies the requirement for a GFCI on the exterior outlets, but my concern is the duribility of the TEST / RESET mechanism. Is it resilient enough to handle the constant On and OFF everyday?

    IMO a switch should be installed inline.

    Any input would be appricated.

    Thanks Clint
    Structual Integrity Home Inspection

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Although the "Test" button was not intended to be used like that, it is being tested regularly. Some GFCI's are rarely tested, if at all.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Rather than the NEC you might try checking GFI manufacturer's specs. I seem to remember reading about this somewhere and it's not correct. Common sense tells me it's no correct.... the builder should have his head examined.

    Maybe he could wire the bathroom light bar through a GFI and you could just jump in the tub with a toaster in your hand to turn off the lights


  4. #4
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    I really doubt that was the intent of the GFCI at that location. Why not tell your client that is really not the intended purpose of such a circuit and that if they want to control such lights that they should install a timer that will switch them on and off.

    Sooner of later that test/reset button will crapout and it will need to be replaced. Might be a year or who knows when, but you can bet that it will happen.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
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  5. #5
    Jeff Remas's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    I think the builder is telling the client to use the GFCI as a convenience so they don't have to keep plugging in the lights.

    A better method would be to put them on a switch.

    This is not a code issue no matter how dumb it seems.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    The ‘‘TEST’’ and ‘‘RESET’’ buttons on the GFCIs are only intended to
    check for the proper functioning of the GFCI. They are not intended to be
    used as ‘‘ON/OFF’’ controls of motors or other loads unless the buttons
    are specifically marked ‘‘ON’’ and ‘‘OFF.’’ Products with ‘‘ON’’ and
    ‘‘OFF’’ markings have been additionally Listed under Motor Controllers,
    Mechanically-operated and Solid-state (NMFT).

    From the UL white book --This is an Electrical Code violation under 110.3(B) and should be treated as such...


  7. #7
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Remas View Post
    This is not a code issue no matter how dumb it seems.
    Quote Originally Posted by Roland Miller View Post
    The ‘‘TEST’’ and ‘‘RESET’’ buttons on the GFCIs are only intended to
    check for the proper functioning of the GFCI. They are not intended to be
    used as ‘‘ON/OFF’’ controls of motors or other loads
    .

    Roland is correct:

    This is an Electrical Code violation under 110.3(B) and should be treated as such...


    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  8. #8
    Jeff Remas's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    If the system was installed with the intention of utilizing the GFCI test button as a switch then it is in violation of the NEC.

    If however the contractor was hired to install GFCI receptacles for exterior lighting and that is all that he did then not a problem. How the owner chooses to use the equipment can put him in violation of the NEC but not the installer.

    Scenarios:

    1) Electrician is hired to install GFCI outlets that are controlled by a switch and he forgets the switch so he tells the owner to use the Test/Reset buttons then there is a clear violation based on the expectations of the homeowner with misuse of the equipment.

    2) Electrician is hired to install GFCI outlets and there is no mention of having them switched then there is no violation because GFCI outlets are not required to be switched. Owner decides to use the switch then the owner is violation the NEC but the permit is long signed off by this point. I can easily see the homeowner calling the electrician 2 weeks after the job is done saying, "Hey going outside to unplug all of these lights is a PITA, what else can I do?". At this point if the electrician should not tell the owner to use the Test/Reset button because he is advising the owner to violate the NEC. It is only a violation when the owner actually performs the task of using the Test/Reset button and the installation itself is not an NEC violation.

    In this situation, the intended and desired expectation along with the electrician's contract will determine if this is a violation.

    If I were contacted by a complaining homeowner as an electrical inspector I would have a question:

    * Does your contract state that the electrician will put in switched receptacles? If yes then it is a violation and the permit is not closed out until the switching device is installed. If no then there is no problem and I would advise the homeowner that if they use the Test/Reset button for that reason then they are in violation of the NEC, not the electrician. It would be advisable to hire the electrician to put in a switching device.

    This is a violation by the electrician only if he was contracted to install a switching device, did not then advised the homeowner to use the Test button, otherwise there is no violation and the installation is compliant.

    The homeowner can violate the NEC all he wants to and nothing will ever be done about it once the initial permit and inspection is signed off. Contractual obligation is the deciding factor.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Seems that Leviton does make a GFCI that is intended to be used as a switch, nothing but test and reset buttons.
    I'll try to paste, or search for Leviton 8590RB
    20 Amp Switch Rated Blank Face GFCI Device - White

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Seems that Leviton does make a GFCI that is intended to be used as a switch, nothing but test and reset buttons.
    I'll try to paste, or search for Leviton 8590RB
    20 Amp Switch Rated Blank Face GFCI Device - White
    Ok, it does say that this item is switch rated, but I think that the intended use is as a GFCI for a jetted tub. The blank face does not allow for other devices to be plugged in and it provides a means to test and reset a GFCI on a jetted tub without having to remove a panel.

    Alton

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  11. #11
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    "The blank face does not allow for other devices to be plugged in "

    The OP described it as;
    "like a GFCI outlet (without the plug in's) mounted on the interior of the home"

    So to me, it sounds as though something like this was used

    I could not get the "Product Description" page to come up.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  12. #12
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    I have inspected several new homes in the past year where the GFCI flor the whirlpool tub was in the toilet room. The switches or should I say GFCIs were switches. They were rated as switches. I just could not believe the builder expected the home buyers to go in next to the toilet and bend down to push the button in to turn on the tub. How cheap and rediculous can you get.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Ted,

    Are you sure the GFCI is being used as a switch? Many electricians put the GFCI for the tub in the toilet room as it acts as the "disconnect" or emergency cut-off. It should be a GFCI without the ability to plug into it. It is much easier to get to this "cut-off" than to remove a panel at the tub location. The tub should still work on its own switches on the tub.


  14. #14
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Spermo View Post
    Ted,

    Are you sure the GFCI is being used as a switch? Many electricians put the GFCI for the tub in the toilet room as it acts as the "disconnect" or emergency cut-off. It should be a GFCI without the ability to plug into it. It is much easier to get to this "cut-off" than to remove a panel at the tub location. The tub should still work on its own switches on the tub.
    Nope

    No seperate switches anywhere else for the tub.

    There was also no access in any of the tubs for the access.

    They actually made access to the tubs (different builders) but never added a seperate control for the tubs with the exception of the GFCI switch in the toilet room. It is not very often I don't find and air switch at the tub or even a timer (old or new home) seperataed from the tub area.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Remas View Post
    This is a violation by the electrician only if he was contracted to install a switching device, ...
    .

    Whether or not the switch is or is not in "the contract" *is not a code violation* when the switch is not installed and the contract specified it to be installed.

    If the plans show the switch, then, yes, it was not wired in accordance to the plans, and either: a) the plans need to be changed to reflect that there is no switch, or, b) no sign-off on the inspection until the switch is installed.

    The code inspector is not privy to the contract, and has no need to be, and should not be. They go by the approved plans, that's all.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    I've searched all over the internet for installation instructions for the Leviton 8590 to no avail - including the Leviton site ... nada.

    Being as it is "Switch Rated", that certainly *implies* it is suitable for use as a switch. However, being "Switch Rated" and being "intended to be used as a switch" are not entirely the same thing, only the installation instructions can clear that up.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  17. #17
    Clint White's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Doesn't "switch rated" mean it is acceptable to be installed on a switched circuit? The picture in the previous post is identical to the GFCI I saw in the home. If it was intended to be used as a switch, wouldn't they have designed it so that guys with fat fingers could use it easily?

    I have contacted the owners and nobody knows what the original plans were. At this point, the report is done and the owners are satisfied with my findings. I have told them that the installation is acceptable, but it would be advisable to contact the builder and have a switch installed.

    Thanks for all your input


  18. #18
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Clint White View Post
    Doesn't "switch rated" mean it is acceptable to be installed on a switched circuit?
    .

    Not necessarily.

    Taken switch rated breakers, for instance. They are not really designed and intended to be used in place of actual switches in areas where the switches are turned on and off regularly and frequently, but they are suitable for use as "switches" for some applications, such as (for one example) stores/warehouses/factories/etc., where the lights are turned on using the breakers, then, after all is said and done for the day, the breaker is used to switch the lights off.

    Their construction is really not up to the physical use and abuse "switches" receive on a regular basis.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    As close as I could come to the Manufacturer acknowledging it exist.
    .

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Stephens View Post
    As close as I could come to the Manufacturer acknowledging it exist.
    .
    .

    Billy,

    Leviton acknowledges it exists:

    8590-XE > Blank > GFCI Receptacles > GFCI Ground Fault Devices > All Leviton Products from Leviton Electrical and Electronic Products

    GFCI Personnel Protection Devices, Extension Cords, GFCI Plugs, Power Distribution Box - LevitonProducts.com

    Just have not been able to find any installation instructions on it.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Jerry, many municipalities for years have required a copy of the contract in order to issue an permit since the permit fee is mostly based on the cost of the work to be performed. In addition, for legal purposes, it specifies what work is to be done so that you know what needs to be inspected. I am seeing more municipalities require a copy of the signed contract before they will issue a permit.

    In PA we just passed a law that will require a written, signed contract with specific language in it for any work over $500. so this also goes toward compliance in our state with the contractor registration law.

    I get guys come in all the time giving low numbers for additions and other work so we simply base the permit fee on the ICCs Building Valuation Data. More muni's are adopting the BVD from the ICC since the ICC automatically updates it therefore we automatically get permit fee increases.

    Not to cause any thread drift but going back to the original issue. Depending on what the GFCI is rated for and what was specified in the contract will determine code compliance.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Second link ( click on the picture, click on *Product Brochure shows this item is a Recognized Component.
    (page would not print in PDF.)

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???


  24. #24
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Can't tell if you all think you are home inspectors, God, lawyers, Judges, master electricians, or debate instructors.

    Amazing what you all are saying about this simple device that is being used for Christmas lights in a manner that is just fine.

    It is quite entertaining.... Keep it up...

    Happy Kwanza all
    aj


  25. #25
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Remas View Post
    The photo of the device in the above listed link does show that the device has markings indicating "off" and "on". Based on that I would say that the intended purpose may well be to serve as a switch. The device I installed on the jetted tub in my home is similar, but is only marked as "test" and "reset".
    Alton

    Alton Darty
    ATN Services, LLC
    www.arinspections.com

  26. #26
    Jeff Remas's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by adkjac View Post
    Can't tell if you all think you are home inspectors, God, lawyers, Judges, master electricians, or debate instructors.

    Amazing what you all are saying about this simple device that is being used for Christmas lights in a manner that is just fine.

    It is quite entertaining.... Keep it up...

    Happy Kwanza all
    aj
    You'll understand once you've been cross examined by a satanic attorney.

    Attention to detail is the name of the game for health and safety.


  27. #27
    adkjac's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Remas View Post
    You'll understand once you've been cross examined by a satanic attorney.

    Attention to detail is the name of the game for health and safety.
    I hear you as to lawyers and courts.... as to this switch... it is a no brainer.... quoting you.... health... safety.... the GFI being switched a few times or a million times till failure is not much of a hazard!!!!!! One might break a fingernail possibly... what else? Reading a million posts about said object could cause a cyber induced suicide....



    aj

    Yaa all should see the new home I am working on today... the county inspector let 20 violations go... and the home inspector let another 20 go.... hallways less than 3' wide, uninsulated chimney chase, railings that would break away with one nice push (less than 200 pounds for sure) ice dams with leaks into the home in two places, ground not properly sloped from home, gutters that drain tight to the foundation, wires left going nowhere, stairs with open risers over 30", and much much more... oh a good one... the range hood vent goes up into drywall and stops with no ducting at all, the bath vents go to the attic and just ends in attic... actually two of the bath vent terminations have yet to be even found and may be just as the range vent... the builder has moved and is not to be found and has been fired. fun fun fun... but I love this kind of challenge. Just can't believe what the inspectors let go.


  28. #28
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Jeff,

    I can see a municipality wanting to see the contract AMOUNT, for permitting valuation, but to inspect to?

    That just means the AHJ IS NOT DOING THEIR JOB in requiring the information required by the code.

    R106.1.1 Information on construction documents.
    Construction documents shall be drawn upon suitable material. Electronic media documents are permitted to be submitted when approved by the building official. Construction documents shall be of sufficient clarity to indicate the location, nature and extent of the work proposed and show in detail that it will conform to the provisions of this code and relevant laws, ordinances, rules and regulations, as determined by the building official.

    If the AHJ is doing its job, all of the information will be on the drawings, everything needed to construction the project, and only those drawings will be required do perform inspections from.



    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  29. #29
    Jeff Remas's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Jeff,

    I can see a municipality wanting to see the contract AMOUNT, for permitting valuation, but to inspect to?

    That just means the AHJ IS NOT DOING THEIR JOB in requiring the information required by the code.

    R106.1.1 Information on construction documents.
    Construction documents shall be drawn upon suitable material. Electronic media documents are permitted to be submitted when approved by the building official. Construction documents shall be of sufficient clarity to indicate the location, nature and extent of the work proposed and show in detail that it will conform to the provisions of this code and relevant laws, ordinances, rules and regulations, as determined by the building official.

    If the AHJ is doing its job, all of the information will be on the drawings, everything needed to construction the project, and only those drawings will be required do perform inspections from.


    Jerry, I understand what you are saying. Here is the problem:

    What they put on paper for construction documents and what they do, especially for remodeling is another story. You have a better chance, yes chance of getting the whole story when they provide a signed contract with the homeowner. If they tell me they are going to wire a basement and I only go in the basement because that is what is on their documents but they rewire the attic and 2nd floor I will not know anything about that. It is a lot harder / more risky to fudge a signed contract than it is to give me a piece of paper with a wiring diagram for a basement.

    Either way, we never catch everything that is done and there are always change orders which should also be in writing.

    Contractors and homeowners are always trying to minimize what they are doing when it comes time to pull a permit. Recently a guy pulled a permit to pour a patio off the back of his house. While driving by, we noticed a structure being built. This was a DIY but I think you get the point.


  30. #30
    Richard Thacker's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Gfci protection devices are for protecting load side circuits just like a gfci outlet does and "test" buttons are just that, they are not constructed to have repetitive continuous use as a switch. It would be no different than using the breaker to say turn on and off the stove. That is not their intended use by the manufacturer.

    I would think that there is a switch somewhere up line that controls the power supply to the device, but if not a replacement with a gfci switch could be installed or instruct your clients to unplug the lights when they are not desired.



  31. #31
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    Default Re: GFCI being used as a switch ???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Remas View Post
    Jerry, I understand what you are saying. Here is the problem:

    What they put on paper for construction documents and what they do, especially for remodeling is another story.

    Not if the AHJ does their inspections properly.

    If you have the proper information on the drawing/plans, then it does not matter what is in the contract, and, if you do not have the proper information on the drawings/plans, the plans *do not get approved*.

    It really is as simple as that.

    The AHJ does not care (*has no reason to care*) if the contract specifies a $20,000 dining room lighting fixture, only that the lighting outlet is there, and there is a light fixture installed (could be a keyless with a lamp), and that the wiring to the lighting outlet is correct.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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