Fix-It Chick: Installing a GFCI outlet

Ground fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) outlets should be installed in areas where moisture is a concern, such as kitchens, bathrooms and unfinished basements. They should also be used for electrical outlets mounted on the exterior of the home and for outlets that are within 6 feet of a water source. Follow these steps to replace an existing outlet with a GFCI one.

Step 1: Use the breaker or fuse in the service entrance panel to turn off the power to the outlet.

Step 2: Once the power is off, touch a voltage sensor to the outlet to confirm there is no electricity running through the outlet.

Step 3: Remove the cover plate and unscrew the mounting screws holding the outlet in place. Gently pull the outlet out of its box. Touch the voltage sensor probe to each wire to confirm the power supply is off.

Step 4: Make sure the electrical box is deep enough to accommodate the GFCI receptacle and wiring before proceeding.

Step 5: The top set of screws on the GFCI receptacle is labeled “Line” and the bottom set of screws is labeled “Load.” Line refers to the black and white wires that bring the power into the outlet. Load refers to a second set of wires used to supply power to other outlets in the room. If there are four wires attached to the existing outlet, then it has Load wires and the GFCI receptacle will also protect the additional outlets powered by these wires.

Step 6: Attach the black wire that supplies power to the outlet to the brass Line screw on the new GFCI outlet. Attach the corresponding white wire to the silver line screw. For outlets with four wires, attach the remaining black and white wires to the corresponding gold and silver Load screws. If there is a ground wire, attach it to the GFCI’s green grounding screw.

Step 7: Wrap electrical tape around the edges of the GFCI receptacle to cover the screws and wires. Press the receptacle into place and secure it with the mounting screws.

Step 8: Turn the power back on at the service entrance panel and test the GFCI by pressing the reset button. If it does not stay in, turn the power back off and recheck the wiring connections. If there is no power, chances are the line and load wires are reversed.

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