Replacing An Electrical Outlet With A GFCI Outlet

Regular electrical outlets cannot be used in wet or damp areas of your home, because they bring a risk of shock or electrocution to residents who come into contact with them under these conditions. Fortunately, a homeowner can minimize the danger by installing a GFCI outlet in a potentially wet area, such as a bathroom, basement, or outdoor area of the home.

What is a GFCI outlet?

A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet is specially designed to detect subtle fluctuations in electrical current, such as those occurring in the presence of moisture. When these fluctuations are detected, power to the outlet is shut off. The power can then be restored by activating a reset button on the outlet. However, the power can only be restored to the outlet if the danger is removed. If not, the outlet will shut off continuously until the conditions are safe.

Preparing to install a GFCI outlet.

Things you will need:

  • A GFCI outlet. These can be purchased at any home improvement store. They will be more expensive than standard outlets, but it is a very wise investment.
  • A Phillips-head screwdriver
  • A small flat head screwdriver

You will begin by turning off the circuit breaker that controls power to the outlet that you wish to replace with a GFCI outlet. If it is not clearly marked on the inside of the breaker box panel door which breaker controls that line, plug something that makes noise into the outlet. Choose an appliance with no battery backup. Begin switching breakers off and on, and when the noise ceases, you've found the correct breaker.

Installing a GFCI outlet.

When the power to the outlet is turned off, you will begin by using the flat head screwdriver to remove the cover plate from the outlet. Place the plate and the small screw away from the work area, because the screw may be easily lost.

Use your Phillips-head screwdriver to unscrew the outlet from the wall. Pull the outlet from the wall, and you will see either three or six wires attached. If the outlet is in the middle of a circuit line, it will have three wires on each side. If it is at the end of a line, it will only have three wires on the left side.

Remove all wires with the Phillips-head screwdriver, and keep them separated. If you have only three wires, connect them to the part of the GFCI outlet marked "line." The black wire will connect to the gold screw, the white wire to the silver screw, and the green- or copper-colored wire to the green screw.

If you have two sets of wires, the wires from the left side of the old outlet are connected to the "line" area of the GFCI outlet, while the wires from the right side of the old outlet are attached to the "load" area of the GFCI outlet.

When all wires are connected, screw the GFCI outlet into the wall, then attach the cover plate. Turn on the breaker, and you've finished. For further assistance, contact a professional electrician.