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GFCI Receptacle or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Replacement

GFCI receptacle is an easy home improvement project that provide safety and security to your home when you follow these step by step instructions.

These easy step by step instructions include a list of necessary tools, safety precautions and other helpful tips.

Rating: 2 This is one of our easy home improvement projects.
1 = Easy ...............10 = Complex

SAFETY FIRST! Working with electricity scares a lot of people. When installing this receptacle, you need to follow these electrical safety tips.
  • Always make sure the power to the subject outlet is turned off.
  • This GFCI receptacle will keep you safe.

  • Anytime you see an outlet and water source such as a faucet, etc. you need a GFCI.

Tools Required for GFCI Installation

This picture shows the basic tools and equipment you'll need to replace an outlet with a GFCI receptacle.

Common tools

Instructions for Installing GFCI Receptacle

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) Receptacles should be installed in circuits which are located in potentially wet areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, workshops and outdoor locations. Although they are now required by code in such areas, older homes were built without them. They are inexpensive, easy to install and they may save your life! Install them now to protect your family and yourself.

These specialty outlets install as easily as basic 110 volt outlets and they fit in the same size box. It is important to note when wiring one of these, to pay attention to the "load" side as compared to the "line" side. These "sides" are marked on the rear of the GFCI outlet.

In fact, there is usually a piece of tape placed over the "load" side of the outlet to help clarify.

In order for these outlets to do their job, you must wire them properly. The "line" side screws are where you hook up the SUPPLY to the outlet coming from the source. The "load" side screws are where you hook up the wires leading to the next outlet in the series of outlets within a typical room.

  1. After turning the power off, remove the cover plate on the outlet to be changed.

  2. Unscrew the two screws in the outlet. It should now pull out of the box.

  3. Unhook the wires attached to the old outlet.

  4. Attach the black wire coming out of the box in the wall to the line side of the GFCI.

  5. Attach the white wire to the line side of the GFCI. (This is on the opposite side of the GFCI from the black wire).

  6. Attach ground wire to ground screw on the GFCI.

  7. Carefully push the GFCI back into the box with all wires. This may be a tight squeeze, but keep pushing.

  8. Install 2 screws to hold the GFCI inot the old box.

  9. Install 2 screws into the cover plate and attach it.

  10. Turn power back on. Your new GFCI outlet should now work. If it doesn't then push the small button on the front of the outlet (between the two plug-ins) and the outlet will be live. Note there is a TEST button there as well.

Remember this:

Electricity always wants to find a ground and it attempts to reach that ground in the shortest route possible. A ground fault is a short circuit in which current travels through a path you don't want it to, in order to find a ground. The path could be you!

Being wet causes you to be a better electrical conductor. This is the reason damp locations should have a this type receptacle at the beginning of the circuit.

GFCI's monitor the current going to and coming from the receptacle. Within a fraction of a second of detecting a current imbalance, a properly installed GFCI shuts that circuit down. You may get shocked, but you should be safe from electrocution. All receptacles installed in line after the GFCI are also protected.


GFCI's have test and reset buttons. Once the circuit has been broken, the receptacles in line after the GFCI will not work until it has been reset. So, in the room you are trying to protect, install the GFCI in the receptacle closest to the service panel. This likely will be closer to the beginning of the circuit. Then, to determine which receptacles are protected by the GFCI, restore the power and push the test button. The GFCI receptacle and any others that follow it in the circuit, will be dead.

If the other receptacles you wish to protect are still active, turn off the power to that circuit, remove the outlet closest to the circuit panel box and replace it with a new GFCI outlet.

GFCI receptacles may come with wire leads instead of screw terminals. The leads are connected to the wires with plastic wire nuts. Typically, however, they will contain screws which appear to similar outlets.

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