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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.