How To Replace A GFCI Electrical Outlet
Do you have a GFCI that you want to replace?
Maybe you’ve recently painted and you want to change the color of your outlets.
Whatever the case, being able to replace an outlet is something every home owner should know how to do. I have created step by step instructions on how to replace a GFCI outlet. (with pictures)
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. You may have heard someone call it a GFI and basically GFI is just a trade name for GFCI, just leaving out the (circuit) part.
What is a GFCI and how does it work? WiringHowTo.com/what-is-a-gfci-and-how-does-it-work
Also view GFCI wiring diagram here. Outlet wiring diagrams
Caution: A GFCI does NOT protect against short circuits, overloads, or shocks. You can still get shocked by touching bare wires while standing on a non-conducting surface such as a wood floor or carpet.
Important note: Always comply with the NEC (National Electrical Code) your local and state laws before starting. Some city offices or city libraries might give you access to or help you out with an NEC book. You can even call your local building inspector to find out if you can do your own electrical. Your work might have to be inspected. Do your own research to see if you can DIY your own electrical and what codes are in place.
Working on live circuits is dangerous and not recommended. Always turn off the circuit and check for power before working on anything electrical.
Strait Blade Screwdriver
Drill with a phillips tip (optional) to make the job easier.
Volt meter or volt detector if you forget which wire is which.
A new GFCI. (usually comes with a cover plate) Choosing the right GFCI: They make Residential grade, Commercial grade, hospital grade, you can get just about every color imaginable too. (for a price of course) So, how do you choose the right outlet for your project? In most cases you will only need a 15-amp outlet. In most cases a standard residential grade 15-amp GFCI receptacle is all you need. They start at around $11.00. Expect to pay a little bit more to buy them individually too. You can usually get 3 packs (contractor pack or bundle) for a discounted price per outlet. Most homes in the U.S. are wired with a combination of 15-amp and 20-amp 120 volt circuits. 15-amp outlets can be used on 20-amp circuits in most cases. You will find a standard 15-amp outlets used throughout homes in the U.S. A 20-amp outlet is usually only required if the appliance draws over 15-amps. Large microwaves, refrigerators, freezers usually have 20-amp receptacles and are on a dedicated 20-amp circuit.
Follow These Steps
Here is a quick overview of what I will be going over
- Testing GFCI for power
- Shutting off electrical circuit breaker
- Removing old GFCI cover plate
- Unscrewing old GFCI outlet from the wall
- Removing wires from old GFCI outlet
- Identifying LINE and LOAD
- Installing wires to new GFCI
- Installing new GFCI
- Installing new GFCI cover plate
- Turning on circuit to the new GFCI
- Resetting the new GFCI
Locate the circuit breaker box or the fuse box. Flip the circuit breaker into the OFF position or remove the fuse that protects the receptacle that you are currently working on. (If the panel is not labeled clear enough, turn off one circuit at a time until the lamp or radio that you plugged in turns off)
Identify LINE and LOAD. A GFCI has to be wired correctly in order for it to work properly. Each GFCI is different in the fact of how they are wired. By that I mean, the LINE (power source) on some GFCI’s are to be connected to the top of the GFCI and the LOAD (power out) side on the bottom, or vice versa. Ether way it will be clear to figure that out. On the back of the GFCI it will say what wires go where.
If you lost track of what wires were connected to the LINE an LOAD on the old GFI, here is how to figure that out. A LINE side wire can be identified as a black (hot) white (neutral) and a ground (bare copper/or green) that are in a single piece of romex that provide power to the outlet. The LOAD will be the power leaving the GFI to feed outlets you want to be protected by the GFI. The LINE and the LOAD wires in the box will have the grounds twisted, crimped, or wire nutted. Take the black and the white from one romex and move them to one side of the box and the black and white from the other to the opposite side. Cap each black wire with a wire nut. Be very careful. What you are going to do is turn the power back on and check which pair is hot. Now that the power is back on, I‘m using a volt detector to determine the LINE. If you have a volt meter, remove one wire nut from one of the black wires and touch one lead of the volt meter to the ground wire and the other lead to one of the hot wires. If no volts are detected, recap with wire nut and try other black wire.
Install wires into new GFCI. (if you only have one black, white, and ground. Hook them into the LINE side of the outlet.)
The ground wire is attached to the green ground screw found and the bottom of the GFCI. Attaching the LOAD wires. The white is attached to the LOAD’s silver screw and the black is attached to the LOAD’s gold screw.
Attaching the LINE wires. The white is attached to the LINE’s silver screw and the black is attached to the LINE’s gold screw.
Re-install outlet making sure the the bare ground wire is not touching any other exposed metal parts. Like the neutral or hot screws.
Re-install cover plate
Turn on power
When first putting power to a new GFCI you will need to reset the GFCI. To reset press the reset button on the front of the GFCI. Push the test button to see if it is working properly, then reset.
Here is a recap
- Plug in plug tester into GFCI
- Shut off circuit breaker (Test GFCI to make sure that power is off)
- Remove old GFCI cover plate
- Unscrew old GFCI outlet from wall
- Remove wires from old GFCI outlet
- Identify LINE and LOAD
- Install wires to new GFCI
- Install new GFCI
- Install new GFCI cover plate
- Turn circuit on to new GFCI
- Reset New GFCI
That’s it! You’ve done it!
Congratulations! You have successfully replaced a GFCI receptacle. Stand tall, Be proud, and tell your friends. Also please give back by sharing this content below. Like, Tweet, or Pin for later. Cheers!