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Advice for Planning Your Electrical Service in a Garage

February 20, 2007

Q: I am planning the electric service in a new, attached 2 1/2 car garage. I’m trying to anticipate future uses and don’t want to miss obvious issues that a pro would spot immediately. I am thinking of a subpanel with 60A of 240V service to feed about 5 circuits: 2 with general purpose outlets, 1 for opener outlets, 1 for lighting, and 1 for a future heater. Switches and outlets will be 42-48″ off the floor. Outlets will be about 7′ apart. What would you change, add or otherwise recommend? Thanks in advance

A: Garages are difficult to plan for everything. You may use it as a wood working shop and the next homeowner may use it as a mechanic’s garage.

I recommend installing a 100 amp sub-panel instead of the 60 amps you are planning. The 60 amp sub-panel will work fine for your needs, but there will almost certainly be a need for more power in the future. I have seen a lot of homeowners install 50 amp welders or 30 amp compressors in their garages.

In a garage, we typically install all receptacles at 42″ to the bottom of the box. This allows for the receptacles to be above any future work benches that may be installed. All receptacles are required to be GFCI protected in a garage.

However, there is an exception to the GFCI protected receptacles if you are going to have a freezer or refrigerator in your garage. The receptacle that feeds you freezer or refrigerator doesn’t have to be GFCI protected. A GFCI will typically nuissance trip with a freezer or refrigerator due to the motors in them. I recommend installing these items on a dedicated circuit. Your garage door opener receptacles do not need to be GFCI protected either.

I also like to install a conduit from the breaker box to the attic space above the garage. This allows you or a future homeowner access into the breaker box to add more circuits. Here I would install a 1″ electrical non-metallic tubing (ENT) conduit to an accessible point in the attic above the garage. This ENT is also referred to as smurf tube. This is the blue, flexible non-metallic conduit. You will find this at your local home improvement center or electrical supply house.


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