How to install a GFCI

GFCI Installation

Installing a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) can be simple and easy. A GFCI can prevent electrocution by cutting off power when it detects a foreign object coming into contact with it. It works by detecting a ground fault or leakage current and tripping the electrical circuits within milliseconds. Electricity is the cause of more than 100,000 fires each year and results in thousands of injuries. Let’s not forget the billions of dollars in economic losses! Avoiding electrical hazards are essential for modern day safety. A properly installed GFCI is the best safety device a home or business can have when it comes to preventing electrical fires. So how easy is it to install?

Safety First

Always remember to shut off the power to the outlet before you start the installation of the GFCI to avoid any risk of electrical shock. After shutting off power to the circuit, mark the breaker switch with a pen so you’ll be able to find it again in the future and if necessary, place a note on the panel warning others not to turn it on. You should wear shoes with rubber soles and use tools with rubber handles for extra precaution. The amp rating of the GFCI should match the amp rating of the wiring and breaker, this is very important! If this is your first time installing a GFCI you may want to take a photo of the current outlet before you disconnect the wires should you need to reference it later. Next, you should remove the wall plate and use the tester to verify the power is completely off.

Existing Outlet

After removing the outlet cover plate and using the circuit tester to verify the power is shut off, remove the two screws that hold the outlet in place. Gently pull the outlet out of the box. Now, you can start disconnecting the wires to the outlet. There are typically three wires connecting to the outlet. These wires include a green or pure copper wire, a black “hot” wire and a white “neutral” wire. Sometimes outlets have two pairs of white wires or two pairs of black wires connected to it, which means the outlet feeds power to the other outlets connected to the circuit. In this case, you will have to find out which pair of wires provides power from the primary panel.

After identifying the wires, remove them from the outlet and separate the ends so their bare tips will not touch each other or anything around. Restore power at the panel and use the circuit tester to determine which pair of wires carry the power. Those wires should be marked with masking tape. Now you can s hut the power off again to the circuit at the main panel.

GFCI Installation

GFCI outlets are pre-wired with two sets of wires marked “Line” and “Load.” The line wire functions similar to the hot wire and supplies incoming power. The load wire distributes power to additional outlets installed on the same circuit. Load wires on the GFCI also provide short-circuit and shock protection to those outlets. So the additional outlets also have shock protection, making it unnecessary to install GFCIs on every outlet.

  • Unscrew the terminal screws on the new GFCI then connect the black “hot” wire to the brass screw terminal labeled “line” on the GFCI outlet by inserting it into the wire hole and tightening the screw.
  • Next, connect the white “neutral” wire to the silver terminal screw labeled “line” wire on the GFCI outlet, remembering to tighten the terminal screw.
  • Tip: Always attach white to white and black to black.
  • If the outlet box includes four wires and a ground, take the second black wire and connect it to the brass screw terminal marked “load” and the second white wire to the silver screw terminal marked “load.”
  • Remember, the ground wire is always green or bare copper. Connect the ground wire to the green ground screw terminal and secure it in place by tightening the terminal screw.

Bend the wires carefully and push the GFCI into the wall, then tighten the mounting screws to secure the GFCI into the wall. Lastly, install the wall plate and go restore the power. Press the reset button on the GFCI. If it does not reset, then line and load wires may have been reversed during the installation process. In this case, contact a qualified electrician or refer to the “Testing” section of the manufacturer’s instruction sheet.


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