How to Install or Replace a GFCI Outlet
A ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI is one of the simplest and most effective safety features you can have in your electrical system. When the time comes that it fails and needs a replacement, many people might instantly call an electrician. Nonetheless, this can also be a DIY task.
The installation or replacement of a GFCI outlet is easy when you have the right knowledge and tools, as well as patience and time to spare. It isn’t as complicated as what it seems. The most important is to stay safe while doing the job. Read on and let’s talk about the basics of installing or replacing a GFCI outlet.
What is a GFCI Outlet?
Before anything else, let’s quickly look at what a GFCI outlet is and what it does. This protective device automatically breaks the circuit when there is an imbalance in electrical supply. It prevents the overheating of wires and receptacles by immediately shutting down the current once it detects a fault. Nonetheless, this should never be seen as a fuse replacement as it does not protect against overheating and short circuits.
A Step-by-Step Guide on Installing/Replacing a GFCI Outlet
You don’t have to be a trained or experienced electrician to install and replace a GFCI outlet. Nonetheless, this isn’t a task for anyone, especially if you do not have the right tool. More importantly, you must observe the necessary safety precautions. Otherwise, you can end up being electrocuted.
1. Turn Off the Power Supply
The first and perhaps most important thing to do is to switch off the main breaker so you can work with peace of mind. This will cut the flow of electricity in the outlets. With too many breakers in an outlet, you might not easily know which one to switch off. A good practice is to plug a lamp on the GFCI outlet that you will be replacing. Turn off the breakers individually so you will know which one is connected to the GFCI. As an added protection, consider wearing electrical gloves.
2. Test the Outlet
To be sure that you have deactivated the right breaker, you must test the GFCI outlet that you will be replacing. Test using a voltmeter so that you will see the electrical reading on the outlet. If there is still significant electricity running, this means that it hasn’t been switched off and hence, it is unsafe to proceed with the task.
3. Remove the Old Outlet
After shutting down the supply of power and testing to ensure your safety, it’s time that you start dismantling the outlet. Begin by removing the wall plate. This is the part that covers the GFCI. You will need the right screwdriver to do this. Having a headlamp or someone to hold a flashlight is a good idea so that your workplace will be highly visible.
Once the wall plate is taken off, proceed to the old outlet. Remove the screws individually. The number and placement of screws may vary, but in most instances, there will be two at the top and two at the bottom. After removing the screws, the outlet will be hanging freely, with the wires holding the outlet.
4. Know the Difference Between the Line and Load Ends
This is an important step so that you are familiar with how the GFCI outlet works. This will also let you know where you will be feeding the wires, making sure that the outlet will work as expected when the installation is complete. The line end is the wire that is connected to your circuit breaker panel. On the other hand, the load end is what connects to the device that you will be plugging in.
5. Install the New Outlet
Now that you know the load and line ends of the GFCI outlet, it’s time to replace it. In the new outlet, the silver screw is the neutral wire and the gold-plated screw is your hot leg. Put the load end first. Before doing this, you will need to strip the end of the wire. Stripping the wires at the proper length is an important part of this step. This will reveal the copper ends of the wire, which is important for ensuring the proper flow of electricity. Insert the bare end as securely as possible then tighten the screws.
6. Insert the Wall Plate
Once the wires are secure, it is time to fit the outlet on the wall. Make sure that it is secure in its position, then return the wall plate. It is best to replace the wall plate with a new one if it already looks old. Tighten the screws of the wall plate and see to it that it does not move. Having space between the wall and the plate can be a safety issue, so ensure tightness of the fit.
7. Test the New GFCI Outlet
At this point, the task is almost complete. However, you need to make sure that the outlet is working. Do not forget to turn on the circuit breaker before testing so that current will be flowing to the outlet. You can use a convenient tool to check it. The GFCI tester is an affordable and handy device that DIY enthusiasts should use. It has three lights, and when plugged, any of these lights will activate. If the outlet is working, then the second and third lights will turn on. Otherwise, there is a problem, and you need to redo to make sure that everything has the right connections.
In sum, removing and replacing a GFCI outlet may seem like an overwhelming and dangerous task for beginners. Nonetheless, if you know the proper steps, then it will be easy. From turning off the breaker to testing the outlet, consider the things mentioned above. You don’t need to be an expert electrician, but you must be careful and meticulous to do everything right while staying safe.