We all have outlets in our bathrooms for nightlights, hair tools, etc. But have you ever noticed how far away the outlet is from your toilet? While you may not have considered it before, specific safety codes prevent outlets from being too close to a toilet. However, with modern technology, there are now electric-powered toilets, which require an outlet nearby. Today, we’ll take a look at the safety requirements for outlets.
You’ve probably never done your hair while using the bathroom (if you have, you’re either talented or weird… we’re not sure which one), so you’ve never needed a close outlet to the toilet before. But, let’s say you’re hopping on the electric-powered toilet trend, and you need an outlet; then what?
What Does GFCI Mean?
Let’s start with all the technical mumbo-jumbo. There are a couple of acronyms and commonly used terms when it comes to the electrical world. Let’s take a look.
Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
The GFCI, or ground-fault circuit interrupter (we know, it’s a mouthful), was created to protect people from electrical shock. Prior to the GFCI, around 800 people died every year as a result of electrical shock. After GFCI outlets were invented, the number dropped to about 200. As you know, water and electricity, in this case, the toilet and outlet, have never mixed well.
To understand a bit about how this interrupter works, let’s take a look at what happens when an appliance is dropped in water. As soon as you plug the appliance in, we’ll use a curling iron; for example, the GFCI outlet begins to monitor how much power flows from the outlet into the curling iron. If the iron is dropped into water, the GFCI detects the current and cuts the power, preventing electrical shock.
National Electric Code (NEC)
In order to follow the requirements of the National Electric Code, the toilet needs to be at least three feet away from the nearest outlet. In some cases, such as a bidet toilet, an electrical outlet is required for the toilet to properly function, and the three-foot rule does not apply.
Does the outlet near the toilet need to be GFCI?
Now that we know what a GFCI is and what it does, let’s look at it in relation to a toilet. In the United States, there are strict codes requiring GFCI outlets. According to the NEC, there needs to be at least one GFCI outlet in every bathroom. Given the benefits of this outlet type, it is recommended that most, if not all, of the electrical outlets in your bathroom be GFCI. However, only one is technically required to be.
How far away does an outlet need to be from a toilet?
It is required by the NEC to have an electrical outlet at least three feet from the bathtub or shower space. Because many toilets are placed next to showers, this guideline also includes toilets.
That being said, sometimes, some barriers or walls make it difficult to install outlets, and it can be costly to reposition them. So, the NEC proposed that with a GFCI protector, an outlet can be installed wherever necessary. This excludes the shower (obviously).
What If My Toilet Requires An Outlet To Function?
If you are high-tech and enjoy a bidet toilet, your toilet will require an outlet in order to function correctly. The outlet can be placed behind the toilet as long as the guidelines are followed. That being said, it cannot be placed behind the toilet tank because, as previously mentioned, water and electricity don’t mix.
If you would prefer not to place the outlet anywhere near the back of the toilet, that is ok. Instead, place it within the bidet cords reach near the toilet. This can be on an adjacent wall as well.
Outlet Requirements In A Bathroom
When installing outlets in bathrooms, there are a few requirements. The NEC put these in place to avoid overloading the circuit and preventing electrical shock. Let’s take a look at them.
The NEC now requires two dedicated circuits for each bathroom in the house. A dedicated circuit means the electrical circuit is not used for any other room in the house apart from the bathroom.
- The first required dedicated circuit is a 20-amp circuit. This receptacle must be GFCI protected and is used for plug-in appliances (hair dryer, curler, etc.).
- The second is a 20-amp circuit dedicated to switches and light fixtures. This circuit may also power the fan in the bathroom.
Multiple outlets in the bathroom are to be expected but do not place more than one outlet near the toilet. In a bathroom, outlets should have at least six feet of space between them to avoid electrical risks.
If two outlets are placed within six feet of each other, the components of the circuit run the risk of overloading.
According to the NEC, all wall switches must be outside the shower area and not near any water. The only exception to this is if the switches are part of the manufacturer’s assembly (which tends to be few and far between).