How To Install A GFCI Outlet – Step By Step Guide

With the usage of electrical gadgets multiplying fourfold in modern households, installing circuit breakers that prevent electrocution is an absolute mandate. Gharpedia, through this blog shares a step-by-step guide on how to install GFCI outlet in your house. Yes, Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is the most reliable solution to prevent untoward incidents caused due to power-related issues. Understanding the importance of the GFCI, this GFCI Outlet Installation guide includes all the basic information about what is GFCI outlet, why it is necessary, where to put it, and how to change a GFCI outlet etc.

Navigation to Guide on How to Install GFCI Outlet

  • What is a GFCI Outlet and Why It is Necessary?
  • Where to Put GFCI Outlets?
  • Time Needed for Ground Fault Outlet Installation
  • Tools Required for GFCI Outlet Installation
  • The Process – How to Wire a GFCI Outlet
  • Grounding a Metal Box
  • Important Cues

Let’s have a detailed look –

What is a GFCI Outlet & Why It is Necessary?

GFCI Outlet
GFCI Outlet

Now let’s gain an insight into the term ‘Ground fault’ – it is when electricity leaks from a circuit and looks for the quickest path to the ground. And God forbid, if you happen to be using that particular circuit at the time, you could end up becoming the channel between the receptacle and the ground, resulting in a severe shock or even electrocution. GFCIs function like hyper-alert electrical cops as they oversee any imbalance between the hot and neutral wires running through your home. The moment it detects abnormal behaviour, say for instance leaking electricity, it ‘trips’ or shuts down. In a true sense, GFCIs take the ‘zap’ for you.

Having understood this, go through the below-mentioned electrical safety tips for your safety.

Where to Put GFCI Outlets?

Now, one question strikes your mind, where to put GFCI outlets? Let me tell you, in new constructions, GFCIs are an absolute mandate in kitchens, bathrooms, garages and any place that may have wet or damp conditions. But, for those living in old constructions, there’s a chance that GFCI receptacles may be missing in these areas or perhaps there’s also the possibility that there’ll be ungrounded receptacles spread throughout the house (and these would have two prongs instead of three – and sorry to disappoint you folks, but just swapping them to three-pronged receptacles won’t render them grounded!).

If the safety of your family is a priority for you then the first task in this segment is replacing ungrounded receptacles, especially those in potentially wet areas with GFCIs. All this may give you an impression that the project is extremely complex but relaxed…ground fault outlet installation is not a tough task! In fact, it’s as easy as replacing a light switch.

Now in case you have a metal housing box that’s just two inches deep, then trust us it won’t suffice for housing your GFCI receptacle. So go ahead and commission an electrician.

Time Needed for Ground Fault Outlet Installation

Well, as this DIY Project entails a few steps more than those involved in replacing a switch, albeit it isn’t very complicated, you can aim at completing it for the first time in approximately one hour and post gaining expertise you’ll wind it up even quicker!

Tools Required for GFCI Outlet Installation

Tools Required for GFCI Outlet Installation
Tools Required for GFCI Outlet Installation

The followings tools are required for GFCI outlet installation –

  • Circuit Tester
  • Flat-Head Screwdriver
  • GFCI Receptacle
  • Grounding Jumper (If need be)
  • Masking Tape
  • Voltage Tester
  • Wire Nut (If need be)
  • Paper And Pen

The Process – How to Wire a GFCI Outlet

The Process – How to Wire a GFCI Outlet
Wire a GFCI Outlet

Follow these step-by-step process to get the solution to all your questions like, ‘how to wire a GFCI receptacle’, ‘how to connect a GFCI outlet’ and ‘how to hook up a GFCI outlet’ and much more.

  1. First, switch off the power supply to the circuit for the receptacle you are replacing. Ascertain that it’s off by inserting the circuit tester into the receptacle. If the light doesn’t turn on, then the power is off.
  2. Detach the cover plate and the screws holding the old receptacle to the housing box with the help of the screwdriver. Then remove the receptacle from the wall and checkout how many wires are connected to it – they could range from two to six based on whether the current receptacle is grounded and whether it’s in the middle of a circuit or at the end of a circuit. There is absolutely no need to get into the in and out of this – the significant point here is to note how the wires are connected to the old receptacle before you pull them off. A good thing to do would be to prepare a rough sketch of it and then use the screwdriver to disconnect the wires from the terminals.
  3. In case there are only two wires (a hot and a neutral) or three wires (a hot, a neutral and a bare copper grounding wire) coming out of the box, please go to step 4. In case there are two or three wires coming into the box and another two or three going out, then please test the wires to figure out which ones are coming from the main service panel, and which connect this receptacle to others in the same circuit. Spread out the wires and ascertain they aren’t touching each other or anything else. Then return to the main service panel and turn that circuit back on. Once you are back at the housing box, and then touch each wire with a voltage tester to determine which one is hot. Generally, hot wires are black or red and neutral wires are white, but well they could be other colours too, so do make it a point to check all of them. You ought to find only one hot wire. Once you zero in on it, flip the circuit back off and mark the wire with masking tape.
  4. The posterior side of the GFCI receptacle will carry markings next to the terminals that say ‘line’ and ‘load’. Now, in case you only have two wires, hook the hot wire around the brass terminal that’s on one side of the word ‘line’ and the neutral wire around the silver terminal that’s on the other side of the word ‘line’. If you have a grounding wire, hook it around the green terminal on the GFCI.
  5. If you only had two or three wires, then please progress to step 6. If you have two groups of wires in the box and you have tested them as described in step 3, wrap that wire which you found out was hot around the brass terminal next to the word ‘line’ and the other wire in that same sheathing around the silver terminal on the other side of the word ‘line’. Hook both the wires that tested neutral in step 4 around the terminals next to the word ‘load.’ The black wire again connects to the brass terminal and the white wire connects to the silver terminal. In this case, you probably have two grounding wires emanating from the box, and you’ll need to attach them to each other (which may already be done for you) and to the GFCI. Do this with a grounding jumper, which is a short grounding wire that you can buy at the hardware store. Wrap one end of the grounding jumper around the GFCI’s grounding terminal, and then use a wire nut to connect the other end of the grounding jumper with the two grounding wires coming out of the box.
  6. Post ensuring that everything is connected, shove all the wires back into the housing box and screw it into place. Restore the power to this circuit and test with a circuit tester. If everything is fine, put the cover plate back on. In order to test the GFCI plug in an electrical device, turn it on and press the ‘test’ button – this should ideally turn the appliance off. When you press the ‘reset’ button, it should turn the appliance back on.

Grounding a Metal Box

Grounding a Metal Box
Grounding a Metal Box

In case you are installing the GFCI in a metal box, then in addition to the GFCI, you’ll need to ground the box itself. If you are lucky, that part would already have been done for you by the person who installed the original receptacle; but if otherwise, then it’s critical that you do the needful right away. In case one cable enters the box, attach a short grounding wire from the GFCI to the grounding terminal in the back of the box. If the box has no grounding terminal, use a grounding clip made for this purpose. Further, if more than one cable enters the box and it has a grounding terminal, use a grounding jumper (a short grounding wire) to connect the grounding wires together with a wire nut.

Important Cue

Instead of substituting regular receptacles with GFCIs, opt for supplanting the standard circuit breakers in your service panel with GFCI breakers. Why? Well, there’s a logical reason – these cover an entire circuit rather than just one fixture. So go ahead and request your electrician to provide you with a quotation for replacing all your circuit breakers.

Here’s wishing you luck as you set off on the GFCI Receptacle Installation DIY Project… stay safe!

If you have a thought to add new electrical gadgets or change some, then like this guide on how to install a GFCI outlet, Gharpedia has also written some amazing DIY guides you must go through –

How To Install A Ceiling Fan – A Brief Installation Guide
How to Change a Ceiling Light Fixture- Step by Step Guide

Image Courtesy: Image 2, Image 3(c), Image 3(f), Image 4, Image 5

Author Bio

Huta Raval – An English Literature and Journalism Topper, Huta Raval has graduated from the L D Arts College, Ahmedabad. Post serving for 23 years in the NBFC and Public Library Sectors her desire for ‘writing the unwritten’ brought her to the creative field of content writing. Her clientele comprises of NGOs, Blogging Platforms, Newspapers, Academic Institutions, et al.

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