Do Garbage Disposals and Dishwashers Need GFCI Protection? 

Garbage disposals and dishwashers are essential kitchen appliances. Therefore, they must have the correct electrical wiring and outlets to ensure proper operation. One of the most popular questions that non-electricians have regarding their disposal and dishwasher is whether or not they need ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection. 

According to the National Electrical Code (NEC), garbage disposals don’t require GFCI protection. GFCI protection for this appliance is optional.

On the other hand, Dishwashers are much more subject to water and require GFCI protection. Because it’s common to have your dishwasher and garbage disposal on the same electrical circuit, the garbage disposal often inadvertently has GFCI protection. 

The National Electrical Code (NEC) does require garbage disposals and dishwashers to have arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) protection.

People often confuse AFCI and GFCI requirements. Both are safety devices but they detect different types of electrical faults.

GFCI refers to ground fault protection which protects against fatal electric shocks.

AFCI refers to arc fault protection which primarily protects against electrical fires.

Newer combination arc fault circuit interrupters (CAFCI) protect against all types of electrical faults and are a type of circuit breaker that can be used where the NEC code requires both AFCI and GFCI protection.

The vibration caused by the operation of residential disposal can cause a loose electrical connection. The wire entering the bottom of the garbage disposal unit needs a wire clamp to prevent wire movement.

Dedicated appliance circuits such as the garbage disposal, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, and range hood all need AFCI protection in the kitchen.

GFCI RequiredAFCI Required
Garbage DisposalNoYes
DishwasherYesYes

GFCI protection is one of the most innovative and vital aspects of electricity in a modern kitchen. If you’re curious about how it works and why certain things need it and others don’t, you’ve come to the right place. 

What is the Purpose of GFCI Protection? 

GFCI protection aims to give you and your home an extra layer of protection. GFCI outlets and breakers can protect you from electrical shock, injury, and death. These receptacle outlets have unique internal components making them capable of detecting slight differences in electricity.

If the current coming into the electrical outlet on the hot side doesn’t match that of the neutral side, the outlet will “trip” and terminate the flow of electricity. 

Variations in electrical current often happen because of water, electrical overload, power surges, and other anomalies. If these things happen and your outlet or appliance doesn’t have GFCI protection, the electrical current gets redirected to a nearby entity.

If that entity happens to be you or a family member, you’ll get zapped with electricity. Depending on how much electricity the outlet or appliance in question uses, a zap of electricity can turn deadly. 

Because water is one of the biggest culprits of electrical shock within the home, GFCI outlets are specifically get designed to protect against moisture. As a result, GFCI receptacles often get installed in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other parts of your home where water is present. 

Do Dishwashers Need GFCI Protection? 

The whole reason dishwashers are a useful appliance is that they use water as their main ingredient. When everything is working, your dishwasher can operate with water and not leak. However, there’s no way to guarantee that your dishwasher will never leak, so they require GFCI protection. 

The need for GFCI protection applies to dishwashers that get hardwired or plugged into an outlet. If your dishwasher gets hardwired, it’s usually on a dedicated circuit with a GFCI breaker. You’ll have to install a GFCI circuit breaker rather than an outlet. However, for dishwashers that you plug into an outlet, installing a GFCI outlet is sufficient, provided the GFCI receptacle is readily accessible. 

Do Garbage Disposals Need GFCI Protection? 

Although garbage disposals also get used around water and are in your kitchen, they don’t require GFCI protection. The NEC doesn’t deem garbage disposals as high enough of a shock hazard, even though they’re often plugged into outlets directly beneath your kitchen sink. 

Interestingly, disposals don’t need GFCI protection, especially since you’re supposed to have GFCI protection on all outlets within six feet of your sink. Disposals are certainly within that realm but still don’t need GFCI protection. Because many manufacturers disagree with this rule, they often recommend having GFCI protection for garbage disposals. 

Advantages of GFCI Protection on a Garbage Disposal 

Even though garbage disposals don’t get mentioned explicitly as needing GFCI protection, they often do. The need for protection is because most disposals are within six feet of your sink, which means they fall into outlets needing GFCI protection. Therefore, nearly all homes built within the last decade or two have their garbage disposals under GFCI protection. 

For older homes or houses that decide to add disposal after the fact, however, you often have to choose whether you want GFCI protection or not. Here are some of the reasons to opt for this benefit. 

  • Increased protection in case the outlet your garbage disposal is plugged into gets wet. 
  • Rather than shock you, your GFCI outlet will trip
  • GFCI outlets also add protection to anything plugged into them from power surges. 
  • Your garbage disposal will be up to local code if you ever want your home inspected before putting it on the market. 

Are There Risks of not Using GFCI Protection with a Disposal? 

If you decide not to plug your garbage disposal into a GFCI-protected outlet, there are definite risks. These risks are minimized by having your disposal professionally installed and wired, but always present. You can mitigate these risks by regularly checking below your sink for leaks. If you install the outlet yourself and have any doubts about your electrical skills, you should always opt for a GFCI outlet. 

Can a Dishwasher and Garbage Disposal be Plugged Into the Same Outlet? 

Technically, a dishwasher and garbage disposal can get plugged into the same outlet. While both appliances are in your kitchen, they often aren’t close enough to one another to plug into the same outlet. As a result, they usually get hardwired separately or have dedicated outlets. 

Related Questions 

Can a dishwasher and garbage disposal run on the same circuit? 

In modern homes, it’s pretty standard to run a dishwasher and garbage disposal on the same circuit. Often, electricians will both the disposal and the dishwasher to dual wall switch above the kitchen countertop surfaces; one switch for each appliance.

Wiring one branch circuit to a double wall switch allows you to create separate circuits for the dishwasher and disposal and operate each independently.

While they’re both fairly high-powered appliances, they can operate together on a 20-amp 120-volt circuit. 

Can I hardwire garbage disposal? 

While it’s always possible to hardwire electrical appliances, it’s recommended that you plug your garbage disposal into a switch-operated garbage disposal outlet. Plugging the disposal into an outlet underneath the sink makes it easier to disconnect the disposal and perform maintenance. 

It’s important to follow manufacturer installation instructions, as some disposers will vary in size and type.

Do outlets under the sink needs GFCI protection? 

According to the NEC, any outlet within six feet of a sink or other water source requires GFCI protection. However, the NEC doesn’t require GFCI protection for garbage disposals.

Garbage disposal has reset buttons on the side or bottom of the waste disposer. The red button trips in the event of a thermal overload when the motor seizes or overheats.

What kind of outlet do I need for garbage disposal?

Garbage disposal connects to a standard 120-volt electrical outlet under the sink. At this time, the NEC does not require the outlet have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection. The outlet needs to be wired to an ON/OFF switch. If you don’t have access to a switch-operated 120-volt outlet beneath your sink, you’ll need the help of a professional electrician to install one.

Do you need a special wall switch for garbage disposal?

Garbage disposal doesn’t require a special type of switch. A standard wall switch is all you need. However, you can also use other types of switches like a button switch, air switch, wireless switch, or toe kick switch.

Why is my disposal humming?

Generally, a garbage disposal that is humming is caused by a blockage that is preventing the blades from spinning. When the blades can’t rotate, the disposal can seize, overheat, trip the thermal overload switch, and risk damage to the motor or gearbox.

Can I use a garbage disposal with a septic tank?

The simple answer is yes, you can use a garbage disposal with a septic system. However, it’s not a good idea and I don’t recommend it. While some garbage disposals claim to be safe for septic tanks, it is generally not recommended you use a garbage disposal if you have a septic system.

When you use a garbage disposal, the solids in your septic tank will rise which can clog the tank or leaching field. Over time, this can lead to complete septic failure. Using garbage disposal with a septic system will require more frequent professional pumping and cleanout.

Final Thoughts 

Garbage disposals and dishwashers can make your life much easier, but only if they get installed correctly. Proper electrical wiring and GFCI protection play a significant role in the installation. GFCI protection is an absolute must for your dishwasher, and it should be for your garbage disposal as well. Take the next step in protecting you, your family, and your home and install a GFCI outlet for your disposal. 

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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