Does A Tankless Water Heater Need A GFCI Breaker? [Answered]

Does A Tankless Water Heater Need A GFCI Breaker? [Answered]

With the rising energy cost, more people rely on tankless water heaters to meet their hot water needs. But safety standards, alongside their implications, are significant. 

Now, does a tankless water heater need a GFCI breaker?

GFCI breakers are not required for tankless water heaters due to the hardwiring, lack of risk of electric shock due to its sealing, and a thermal cut-off switch. Since the heaters don’t need an external power source that generates less heat, GFCI breakers are unnecessary.

We won’t go further, but we’ll explore some intriguing insights that will fascinate you. Keep reading!

NEC Requirements for GFCI Breakers for Tankless Water Heater 

GFCI Breakers for Tankless Water Heater

Source: conquerallelectrical.ca

A GFCI breaker is designed to detect ground faults and reduce the risk of electric shock. It is used in areas where the water heater is exposed to moisture, such as a bathroom or kitchen. 

Although the NEC does not require using GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) technology for water heaters, it does list specific areas in a home where GFCI outlets are necessary. If the water heater is located in one of these areas, it is recommended to use a GFCI outlet for the appliance. 

These areas are usually outdoors, in garages and basements, and any area within 6 feet of a sink or water source. It’s important to note that local codes and regulations may vary, and it’s always a good idea to consult with a licensed electrician. This is to ensure compliance with all local codes and regulations.

However, tankless water heaters are usually located in dry indoor spaces, so they don’t need a GFCI breaker. With proper installations, water heater gas leak chances are also reduced.

Do Electric Tankless Water Heaters Require GFCI Breakers?

No, electric tankless water heaters generally don’t require the GFCI breaker. However, If you believe the danger presented by electric water heaters merits the extra cost of a GFCI breaker, you can submit a proposal to the NEC. 

The proposals can be backed up with evidence such as the level of current running the water in plastic pipes or any related emergency room visits. 

Excerpt from the 2017 NEC state that in unfinished basements, receptacles must be GFCI-protected unless they supply a permanently installed fire or burglar alarm system. Much like the TRC 12/13, Gauge Shockshield, and the 10 Pack Faith Socket Outlet that improves electric current performance. 

These are not readily accessible or are on a dedicated branch circuit and labeled to be used with plug-in equipment.

According to the 2020 code, there are very few exceptions to the requirement for GFCI protection in the required areas. The exceptions that come to mind are snow and ice melting equipment and fire/burglar alarms.

All basement and garage receptacles, including dedicated freezer and refrigerator circuits, are expected to be GFCI-protected, and ceiling receptacles plug-in lights. In Iowa, however, there is an indefinite exemption on 250-volt receptacles.

5 Reasons Why Gas Tankless Water Heaters Don’t Need GFCI

One of the most important benefits is that they don’t need to be connected to a GFCI outlet. This is because they don’t have any exposed electrical components, which makes them much safer than traditional water heaters.

Reason 1: Hardwired In A Safe Location

If your local regulations don’t require using a GFCI for your water heater, you can bypass this requirement by hardwiring the appliance. This is much like piping water heaters in parallel for the best service. 

The wiring must be done in a protected area, so it is less likely to be exposed to water or other elements that may cause a short circuit. Hardwiring also eliminates the possibility of a loose connection. It provides better protection against electrostatic discharge (ESD) and makes the two components solid and reliable. 

This keeps the electric circuit uninterrupted, provides better insulation, and prevents the current from other conductive objects. However, some electric codes may still recommend using GCFIs even when the device is hardwired.

Reason 2: No Risk Of Electric Shock Due To The Sealed System

does a tankless water heater need its own breaker

Source: callprogressive.com

A tankless water heater is a sealed system that does not involve any direct contact with electricity. 

The system is completely sealed off from the outside environment, so there is no risk of electric shock. The water is heated from inside the tank, preventing any electricity from traveling through the water.

Furthermore, the tank has no exposed electric wiring; the heat exchanger is also sealed inside. The tankless water heater is designed to be safe, efficient, and reliable without extra safety measures.

Reason 3: The Thermal Cut-Off Switch Shuts Off Power To The Unit

A tankless water heater has a thermal cut-off switch that shuts off power when the temperature exceeds the preset limit. This is a safety feature that helps to prevent overheating and potential fire hazards. 

The thermal cut-off switch works by monitoring the temperature inside the water heater. It also automatically cuts off the power when the temperature reaches a certain point. 

It’s a more reliable safety feature than a GFCI breaker. It continuously monitors the temperature, even when the unit is not in use.

Tankless water heaters also have other safety features, such as pressure relief valves. This valve is designed to open when the pressure within the unit exceeds a certain level, releasing the tension and preventing the unit from exploding. 

Reason 4: Doesn’t Require External Power Source

A tankless water heater does not need a GFCI breaker because it does not require an external power source. Tankless water heaters heat water directly from the water supply line, so an additional power source isn’t needed. 

It is, however, essential to ensure that the water heater is correctly sized for the home to provide enough hot water. Improper tankless heater installation leads to water damage and an electric shock. 

The tankless water heaters have a built-in safety system that protects against dangerous electrical shocks. This system automatically shuts off the flow of electricity if it senses a high level of electricity. 

The system works even if the tankless water heater is not connected to an external power source. This eliminates the need for a GFCI breaker, as there is no need to monitor the power levels of the tankless water heaters. 

Reason 5: Generates Less Heat

Generates Less Heat

Source: galvinpower.org

A tankless water heater does not need the GFCI because it generates less heat than a traditional tank heater. In a tankless water heater, no large tank of water needs to be heated, so less heat is generated.

This means there is less of a risk of electric shock, thus eliminating the need for the GFCI. In addition, most tankless water heaters are designed to have a lower wattage than a traditional tank heater, further reducing the risk of any electrical shock. 

Tankless water heaters also require less energy than conventional tank heaters due to their ability to heat water when needed. The tankless water heater doesn’t need to keep a large hot water tank heated, reducing energy consumption and saving on utility bills.

What Does The Manufacturer State for Tankless Water Heater?

It’s best to listen to your heater’s manufacturer when using GFCI devices. They may have valid reasons for discouraging GFCIs, and disregarding their instructions could void the warranty.

Brands such as Stiebel-Eltron Rheem Paloma or Rinnai Tankless Water Heater, alongside several other Rheem and Steibel brands, don’t require a GFCI breaker. These brands are among the best-rated electric tankless water heaters with the best service. 

Does An Electric or Gas Tankless Water Heater Require Dedicated Circuits?

Yes, electric and gas tankless water heaters require dedicated circuits to function correctly. A dedicated circuit serves only one specific appliance or piece of equipment instead of being shared with other devices.

An electric tankless water heater requires a 240-volt dedicated circuit exclusively used to power a water heater and nothing else. The course should be wired with a minimum of 8-gauge wire and be protected by a GFCI. 

A gas tankless water heater may require a separate 120-volt electric circuit dedicated to the unit’s gas control valve and fan motor. A 15-amp circuit breaker protects this circuit.

What If You Still Want To Set Up GFCI Breaker for Tankless Water Heater?

If you still need GFCI protection for the tankless water heater, you will need to install a GFCI breaker in the box. This will provide the same protection as the GFCI outlet but require additional wiring.

The organization responsible for granting permits and performing inspections is the Authority Holding Jurisdiction (AHJ). The organization possesses the authority to analyze the NEC and tailor it to satisfy local requirements. 

And so, they have the ultimate authority to address inquiries or issues and can make a definitive decision. This means that if all safety standards are met through the assistance of pro technicians, you can add a GFCI breaker to the tankless water heater.

Moreover, as per the NEC, installing a receptacle that is not a GFCI for your water heater is permissible. This is if the manufacturer’s instructions, for example, from Rheem, indicate to do so. 

Changing one receptacle to a non-GFCI type will not cause any adverse effects on the other GFCI receptacles as long as they are correctly wired with pigtails or multiple wires attached only to the specific terminals. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Why does my tankless water heater keep tripping the breaker?

An electrical issue with the breaker or the water heater can keep tripping the breaker of your tankless water heater. Check the breaker id. It’s not overloaded or faulty. If the breaker is in good working order, the problem may be with the water heater’s electrical wiring or connections.

Do I need to upgrade my electrical panel for a tankless heater?

Yes, you should upgrade your electrical panel to install a tankless heater. This is because tankless water heaters require a higher amp electrical circuit than traditional heaters. This is at least a 20-ampere 120-volt circuit. 

Can a water heater be on a 20 amp breaker?

Yes, a water heater can be on a 20-amp breaker. The size of the breaker required for a water heater depends on the size and age of the water heater. Generally, newer water heaters require a larger breaker than older water heaters.

Final Words

Does a tankless water heater need a GFCI breaker has a few multiple-sided answers. In conclusion, a tankless water heater does not generally require a GFCI breaker to be installed. However, installing one can be a good idea to protect the electrical system from shocks and hazards.

We hope we served you well with the necessary insights and time for us to leave.

Bye for now!


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