Is your bathroom safe? How to install a GFCI electrical outlet.

Is your bathroom safe? How to install a GFCI electrical outlet.

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The National Electric Code requires that all electrical outlets near sources of water, such as in a kitchen, bathroom, outside, or in a garage, must have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacles installed. The purpose of a GFCI receptacle is to terminate power supply in the event of an accident such as dropping an electrical device in a body of water.

A GFCI receptacle works by measuring the electricity flowing from the hot wire, through the electrical device, and into the neutral wire. With a normally operating electrical device the power levels from the hot wire and into the neutral wire will be the same. If an electrical device was to be dropped into a body of water and grounded out the GFCI receptacle would detect power usage from the hot wire and recognize that the electricity is not returning to the neutral wire and would instantly trip the internal breaker. Breaking power in the event of unwanted power usage will reduce the risk of electrical shock and possibly a fire.

To determine if you have a GFCI receptacle installed already look for the test and reset buttons on your receptacle. If none are present you do not have a GFCI receptacle installed. If you do have a GFCI already installed use these buttons to test the receptacle monthly.

HGMM GFCI (1)

Before working with any electrical circuits in your house know and understand the risks involved. Electricity is dangerous and can cause severe injury or death if handled improperly. Research and understand what you are doing before you do it and consult a professional if needed.

Luckily installing a GFCI receptacle is easy. Make sure the electricity is turned off to the receptacle before working on it. Remove the old receptacle with a screwdriver and disconnect the wires from the back. Separate the wires completely so that all of the exposed ends are away from each other and are not touching.

HGMM GFCI (2)

A GFCI receptacle needs to be installed first in the circuit. Meaning that if there are multiple receptacles in the circuit the electricity must travel through the GFCI receptacle first before it goes to any of the other receptacles or lights on the circuit. This will extend the protection of the GFCI to everything else in the circuit. If there are two sets of wires present you need to determine what set of wires is the power source and what set goes to the next receptacle or light in the circuit.

With the wires spread apart and not touching turn the electricity back on to the circuit. Use a multimeter to determine what set of wires is powered. Turn the electricity back off and start installing the GFCI receptacle. There are two locations to install the wires. The wires that were powered must be connected to the LINE connections on the GFCI receptacle. The wires going to the next device go to the LOAD connections. If only one set of wires is present connect them to the LINE side only. The connections are made in the same way as a regular receptacle. The white neutral wire goes to the white screw and the black hot wire goes to the brass or gold looking screw. If a ground wire is present connect it to the green ground screw.

HGMM GFCI (3)

Another reason to upgrade to a GFCI receptacle is it will add grounding protection to the receptacle in the event that there is no ground wire present. This is no longer a common occurrence these days but for older homes it could be something you encounter. The wiring in some older homes do not include a ground wire and thus will have non grounded receptacles installed.

HGMM GFCI (4)

Install the GFCi receptacle into the wall box like normal. Turn the electricity back on to the circuit and test the receptacle with the test and reset buttons.

HGMM GFCI (5)

That’s it. This is easy enough that anyone can do it but like mentioned before, if you are still unsure about what you are doing consult a professional.

 

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24 COMMENTS

    • It’s silver and gold screws. Ground wire goes to green screw. And when you put it back in the wall, put the ground nole down, not up like a rookie..

  1. Oh how I envy you Americans – wide choice of wood species, Lowes & Harbour Freight, garages or basements the size of an average British apartment – and Earth connjections!!!

    The house I’m renting in Spain is ‘two-wire’ (i.e. no Earth), as is most of Spain. I’d love to show you the wiring “standards” they are almost unbelievably bad – switches in the Live feed, switches in the Neutral feed, all connections twisted and taped, no colour code, cable being whatever was to hand, from bell-wire to fencing wire (chain-link, not electric fence) and it gets even worse than that…!!!

    I have some photos if you can tell me where to send them…

    The most worrying thing is that wiring like this is not unusual…

  2. Great video guys!

    I just completed a bathroom renovation at my parents house and bought two GFCI outlets to go above the vanity and when I read the instructions I realized I only needed to buy one as the other would be in series and would be covered by the first. I’m glad to see you pointed that out in your video. You live and you learn! 🙂

  3. Nicely done. In the youtube comments, someone gave a great suggestion that I hadn’t done before. They said that whenever they worked on an outlet and found the correct breaker for that outlet, they’d mark the back side of the electrical plate with the #. Tips like this show me that you two have a great thing going.

  4. An easy way to remember which wires go to which screws is “Black (wire) to brass and White (wire) to light (screw)

  5. Couple things:

    Look at ALL outlets on circuit before starting, as a GFCI may be earlier in the circuit. If a non-GFCI outlet is protected by a GFCI upstream, there should be labels on the cover plate to indicate this, but rarely are. (I have had inspectors ask me what the labels are…..)

    A non-GFCI outlet may also be protected by a GFCI at the panel or a dead-front GFCI unit (not an outlet. Looks kind of like a decora light switch, and must be mounted in the room where the controlled outlets are). In a residence BR or kitchen, it is rarely in the panel, and isn’t permitted to be in some places, but should always be checked for. Lighting in a shower is often protected by a dead-front unit, even though not always required, as a careful installer will anticipate that people do dumb things, like fiddle with a blown bulb while the water is running. The fixture over or near a bath or shower must be rated for the location, but, if greater than a certain height and water tight,may not be required to be on a GFCI, depending on the local rules and interpretation.

    Also note that ANY receptacle in a wet location outdoors, which is pretty much anywhere outdoors or in an unconditioned space, much have GFCI protection, as must any receptacle installed below grade or in a basement. Below grade gets kinda open to interpretation in a structure built into a hill, so be conservative. The idea is if water could run near it, or there could be water on the floor near it, it must be protected.

    Last point: in may locales, GFCI’s (and Arc fault interrupters) may ONLY be installed and serviced by licensed electricians. The homeowner is NOT permitted to do this, even though they may be permitted to do non-GFCI outlets, lighting, or in some places even a main panel, themselves, without need for a permit or inspection. This is due to how common it is for them to be miswired, in which case there is NO protection provided. Sometimes even by ‘professionals’.

    If you are going to do the GFCI yourself (and I would not discourage anyone from doing it themselves if they can follow the safety practices and instructions), I WOULD recommend one other tool: A GFCI/outlet tester. It will have lights on it that indicate a) proper wiring of the outlet, b) proper ground connection, and c) has a test button to test the GFCI independently of the internal test. Some units will not let themselves be reset if they are improperly wired, but not all have this feature,and it does sometimes fail, allowing an improperly wired device to be enabled.

    • Good read! My friend had a gfi fail in his bathroom yesterday. The gfi melted, made terrible smoke that screwed up the wall, and all but flamed up. It ruined the Romex and the box too. Funny, it never tripped the main breaker. Anyway, this was a gfi that was ten years old. Lucky my buddy’s wife was home and smelled it. So this gfi almost made a house fire. Not cool…

  6. You’ve installed a GFI not a GFCI. GFCI goes in the breaker box and protects the whole circuit, hence the “C.”

    • The breaker in the pannel is not ground fault. It is a standard breaker for circuit overload caused by a hard short. A GFI IS MUCH MORE SENSITIVE.

  7. If you have a non-GFCI outlet near your wet location I would check to see whether or not there is a GFCI breaker in the panel feeding all the outlets at the wet locations in the house.

  8. If you have a non-GFCI outlet at your wet location I would check to see whether or not you have a GFCI breaker in your panel feeding the outlets at the wet locations in the house.

  9. Phil GFCI and GFI are the exact same thing. It is common for electricians to drop the “C” in conversation. So they are correct in saying GFCI or GFI.

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  11. Well, Morris, you’re just wrong is all. A GFCI is a circuit breaker that protects the entire circuit and is installed in a circuit breaker box. A GFI protects only the one outlet or anything down-line from it if any other outlets are connected to it, which they shouldn’t be.

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