Garage Outlets (Here’s What I Learned!)

With innovations like electric cars steadily becoming the norm, outlets in a garage are more important than ever.

Installing or planning garage outlets is quite different from planning outlets in a kitchen or any other part of your home. It is guided by specific building codes but don’t worry, they’re pretty easy to implement.

If your garage is more than just a space where you park your cars, you might need more garage outlets than the regular 2 per wall set up.

Navigating this kind of project on your own can be difficult, so we put together a guide to help you plan out a course of action.

With that said, here’s everything you need to know about planning and installing electrical outlets in a garage.

What is the Code for Electrical Outlets in Garages?                

According to the 2020 NEC act, each vehicle bay of your garage requires an outlet branch of 120-volt and 20-ampere. These outlets should be placed about 5.5ft (1.7m) from your garage floor.

NEC stands for National Electrical Code; there are four versions of this code currently used in the United States they are the 2008 version, the 2014 version, the 2017 version, and the 2020 version.

You can reference local codes as well, but most of them follow the provisions of the National Electrical Code.

Where Should Outlets be Placed in a Garage?                              

The placement of your garage outlets depends on what you want to use your garage for or the purpose you want your garage to serve. Nowadays, garages are used as workstations or hang-out spots.

Outlets in a garage should be positioned or placed in an easily reachable spot, so where you place these connection points can be based on your personal preference.

It is best you install your garage outlets during the construction of your garage walls, as they are open and easy to modify.

Installing outlets in your garage when it is fully constructed is quite time-consuming, strenuous, and expensive.

How High and How Far Apart Should Outlets Be?

Garage Outlets should be reachable and easy to access; they should have at least 6 inches of space between them on every wall.

There is no precise height requirement for garage outlets. The National Electrical Code does not provide any specification as regards the height of outlets. So, it is okay for you to place your outlets at any height you prefer.

The most common placement for garage outlets is between 12 inches to 18 inches high or above the finish floor; these units make it easy for you to add workbench outlets later on.

Do Garage Outlets Need to be AFCI Protected?

The 2020 version of the NEC does not specify that garage outlets need to be AFCI protected. This protective measure is only required in dwelling units or livable spaces within a home like a bedroom.

An AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) is a circuit breaker designed to prevent fires caused by electric arcs. It tells the difference between a safe arc and a dangerous arc.

Arc faults have been said to be one of the principal causes of electrical fires in residential areas in the United States.

The following issues can cause an arc fault; damaged wires, faulty appliances, receptacle breakage, worn electrical insulation, loose connections, short wires, wires or cords in contact with a vibrating metal, and overheated electrical wires.

Do Garage Outlets Need to be GFCI Protected?

Not all garages require GFCI-compliant outlets. This specification of outlets is only needed in garages with floors at or below grade level. This information is in compliance with the provisions of the NEC (National Electrical Code).

As you may know, GFCI stands for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter; it is a circuit-breaking device designed to detect and prevent lethal electrocutions.  

Annually, thousands of adults and children experience electrical shocks in their homes, and no fewer than 200 people die from this occurrence.

The IRC (International Residential Code) gives further information on why GFCI-compliant outlets should be installed in garages with floors at or below grade level.

It states that garages with floors at or below ground level flood easily or are prone to flooding, which can affect outlets and cause lethal electrical shocks.

So, ensuring that outlets in a garage are GFCI protected is a really important step in safeguarding your family and home.

These devices are ideal for flood-prone areas or areas constantly exposed to moisture or water, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Kindly note that GFCIs do not assure complete protection from electrocution, so you can still get electrocuted despite installing GFCI-compliant outlets.

What these devices do is, minimize the risk of a deadly shock; they do this by regulating the currents flowing in and out of an outlet.

GFCIs also keep or prevent electrical current from flowing or straying to the earth or ground; this occurrence is known as a ‘ground fault.’

Do Garage Outlets Require 20 Amps?

It was mentioned earlier that a garage should have, at the very least, a 120-volt, 20-ampere electrical circuit. 15-ampere circuits can also be installed in a garage, but they’re not ideal.

Garages are often those parts of our homes where we make use of heavy-duty or regular power tools, so a 20-amp circuit has a lot more to offer in these areas than a 15-amp circuit.

You can run as much as 2,400 watts on a 20-amp circuit and connect as many as ten receptacles to it. Each receptacle should be able to draw at most 1.5-amp of power.

For safety reasons, refrain from putting outlets outside your garage on the same circuit as the outlets or fixtures in your garage.

Final Thoughts

Garages have evolved from simple structures used to house cars to unique and highly functional spaces within a home.

The importance of ensuring that these structures are wired and powered safely cannot be stressed enough.

Going through your local building code should be the first thing you do before planning and installing outlets in a garage or any other part of a home.

Once you get your outlets installed, ensure you check them and your electric wiring every year or two.

Doing the above will save you from ground fault accidents that may arise as a result of an accumulation of debris in your breaker box or damaged wires.

If you have no technical skills or experience, you might want to sit out this project. Get a professional for a safer and seamless garage outlet installation.