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How to Wire a GFCI Switch and Light

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

Connecting a Light to a GFCI Outlet: Ground Fault Protection for a Light Fixture. Using a GFCI outlet is one way to provide ground fault protection for a light fixture when the wire connections are made properly.

Wiring a GFCI Powered Light and Switch 

Electrical Question: I have a GFCI, a light switch and a light. My power has a green black and white wire. My light has a green, white and black wire.

How do I add a light switch to this? I tried the following:

  • My power black went on the load side of the GFCI. I added another black wire on the bottom outlet same side. I attached this black wire to the top left of the switch.
  • I added another black wire from the opposite side of the switch to the black wire for the light.
  • I took the white wire from the power and attached it to the top silver screw. From the bottom silver screw I attached it to the white wire of the light.
  • I connected the ground wire from the power to the green screw of the box and took the green wire from the light and attached it to another green screw in the box.

This did not work. What did I do wrong?

This electrical wiring question came from Roger, in Upland, California.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Roger.

Connecting a Light to a GFCI Outlet

Application: GFCI Outlet Wiring to a Switch and Light Fixture.
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate – Best if wired by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and a Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and the number of GFI outlets that will be added.
Precaution: Identify the bathroom gfi outlet circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.
Notice: Installing additional GFCI Outlet Wiring should be done according to local and national electrical GFCI Codes with a permit and be inspected.

Ground Fault Protection for a Light Fixture

Using a GFCI outlet is one way to provide ground fault protection for a light fixture when the wire connections are made properly.

  • In this application, the GFCI outlet has the power entering the LINE side and extends through the GFCI outlet and is fed out to the circuit from the LOAD side of the GFCI outlet.
  • Next, the wiring may extend out to the light switch where only the black power wire is connected through the switch and the white neutral wires are spliced together.
  • From the light switch, the circuit wiring may extend to the location of the light fixture where the typical connections are made with the circuit wires and the wires of the light fixture.
  • The connections of the ground wire are bonded throughout this circuit and making connections to the GFCI outlet and the light switch and to the light fixture as well as bonding to all the electrical boxes within the circuit.
  • Approved circuit components devices must be installed for the specific location as required by code, which would include weather resistant devices, boxes and covers.

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6 Responses to “How to Wire a GFCI Switch and Light”
  1. Wayne says:

    I was replacing a GFCI on an outside pole that has a light on top. The GFCI feeds 3 more GFCI’s and a switch for overhead lights on a dock. When I pulled the old GFI the electrician had pigtailed the line wires together with the load wires and connected them to the line terminals only, nothing to the load terminals. Why would he wire it this way?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Wayne,
      Multiple GFCI outlets may be wired on the same circuit in such a way as you have described to protect each individual GFCI outlet, therefore in the event of a ground fault occurrence at one outlet the other GFCI outlet locations will not be affected, as well as other devices that are wired on the same circuit. This method of wiring GFCI outlets is described in detail complete with photos in the GFCI Outlet area of this website.
      I hope this helps,

  2. tony says:

    I’m replacing a GFI outlet with a blank GFCI outlet and switch. I understand the Line and Load side. The existing box has the feed (black) and a (black) to overhead, works like adding the next outlet, and I don’t know how to. There is only one silver white terminal on the switch, do you need to bundle the white wires?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Tony,
      The Line and Load wiring configuration must be provided for both the black and white wires individually, however if the GFCI protection will be provided to additional devices after the GFCI outlet then the connections for those devices may be spliced together with the Load side wiring. GFCI protection for the switched device is provided using the same method of wiring connection on the Load side.
      I hope this helps,

  3. Patti says:

    I’m installing a new box for a ceiling fan. The fan (and integral light) are operated by a remote control, so it doesn’t need a switch, just a power source. Can I simply run black and white out of the Load side of an existing GFCI outlet up to the light box?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Patti,
      If the ceiling fan is being installed in a location that requires GFCI protection, then yes, connecting to the LOAD side of the GFCI outlet is OK. If GFCI protection is not required then you can connect to the LINE side. Be sure the wiring to the ceiling fan includes the ground wire (I’m sure you already know this), and make sure the box is rated for Ceiling Fans.
      Enjoy Your Ceiling Fan!


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