Does a Garbage Disposal Need GFCI Protection?

When electrical standards mingle with plumbing standards, the combined result can be complicated. GFCI outlets are a critical part of safety, regulated for specific instances by the NEC. These outlets are generally necessary for places of your home that are “wet,” like your kitchen and bathroom.

Are GFCI outlets necessary for a garbage disposal? Today, we tackle that question, bringing all you need to know to the table. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is The Purpose Of A Garbage Disposal?

Garbage disposals are common devices in many homes. They’re convenient and benefit the environment, which is a win-win. Instead of discarding food waste in the trash, you can use your garbage disposal to routing food waste into the septic system.

Garbage disposals sit beneath your sink, grinding bits of food waste you send down the drain. Once the scraps are ground up, they move through the plumbing to your septic system.

These devices are generally powered via electricity but may be powered by water pressure in some cases. They plug into an outlet beneath your sink, where water exposure is possible. Because of this, a GFCI outlet is generally a good idea.

What Is A GFCI Outlet?

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Before we get started with the rules and regulations surrounding GFCI outlets and garbage disposals, we need to outline what a GFCI outlet is. Since electrical lingo can be pretty complicated, we’ll keep it simple.

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. The purpose of a GFCI is to promote overall safety. It helps prevent electrocution and other associated injuries by cutting off power before an injury can occur.

These outlets are standard in areas where electrical circuits may come into contact with water. The outlet detects electrical current imbalances then shuts off the power to the outlet to mitigate damage and prevent bodily harm.

Why Is A GFCI Outlet Be A Good Idea For A Garbage Disposal?

Given the location of the garbage disposal and the outlet it plugs into, a GFCI outlet is a good idea. GFCI outlets are necessary for “wet” areas of your home, like the bathroom, where water could get into the outlet.

GFCI outlets help prevent fires and electrocutions in the event of a ground fault. If water comes in contact with your outlets, it may result in a ground fault. Installing a GFCI outlet eliminates this issue, as it shuts down whenever it detects a ground fault.

What If I Don’t Use GFCI For My Garbage Disposal?

The National Electrical Code (NEC) doesn’t require garbage disposals to have GFCI. It’s considered optional protection, so it isn’t legally required. However, several garbage disposal manufacturers recommend GFCI installation in the included instructions with the unit.

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However, the NEC outlines regulations that require GFCI within six feet of the sink. With that in mind, it’s not a bad idea to install GFCI for your garbage disposal.

So, does the outlet under the sink need to be GFCI? No, you won’t be breaking the law (as of now) if you don’t install GFCI for your garbage disposal. If the outlet is installed correctly and isn’t at risk for coming into contact with water, you should be fine. With that said, it’s best to install it to be on the safe side.

Do Garbage Disposals Require A Dedicated Circuit?

Garbage disposals don’t necessarily require a dedicated circuit. They should be hardwired or connected to the outlet via a grounded electrical outlet. However, a dedicated circuit is usually recommended.

In some cases, a circuit that is shared with the dishwasher is just fine. If you’re not sure what the recommendations are for your particular garbage disposal model, refer to the disposal’s user manual.

In an ideal setting, your garbage disposal should have its own circuit. Generally, a 15-amp or 20-amp circuit is sufficient. If it’s sharing the circuit with the dishwasher, a 20-amp circuit should be adequate. You should avoid putting the disposal on a circuit that also services countertop appliances.

Why Does My Garbage Disposal Trip The GCFI Outlet?

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In some cases, your garbage disposal may trip the GFCI outlet. There are a few things that have to happen for this to occur. First off, the unit is plugged into the GFCI outlet.

The second factor is water. Your garbage disposal likely has a leak or some type of moisture leaking from under the sink. When it’s safe, take a peek under your sink and see if you can find a leak.

Next, the water needs to be coming into contact with the conducting portion of the wiring. Usually, this part of the wire is covered. However, it can still happen. The combination of these three factors can trigger the GFCI outlet to trip (which is its job).

Alternatively, it may trip because it’s on a shared circuit breaker with another appliance, like your dishwasher. However, this isn’t typically an issue unless the circuit can’t handle the amperage.

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