Some electrical outlets in certain parts of your house may have a somewhat different appearance than those in other parts. This is especially common in outlets found in the kitchen or bathroom. And it differs due to the “test” and a “reset” button labeled on them. These electrical outlets are known as GFCI outlets and are essential to current safety standards for electrical systems. This, of course, makes it one of the reasons to upgrade your outlet to the GFCI outlet. In this article, I will explain the GFCI outlet and how you can upgrade your current outlet to a GFCI outlet.
IMPORTANT: I am NOT a licensed Electrician. For your safety and the safety of others, you should ALWAYS consult a licensed electrician before attempting any repairs, modifications, or upgrades to your home’s electrical system, or any electrical system.
What Exactly Is A GFCI Outlet?
In electrical terms, a GFCI is a “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.” This sort of outlet continually checks the electric current passing through it. The GFCI will trip and cut power if the current flowing from the outlet does not match the amount flowing into it. This is a significant consideration for many homes due to its frequent placement near sinks and tubs.
Why Do You Need To Upgrade To A GFCI Outlet?
In a general sense, a GFCI outlet prevents potentially fatal shocks from occurring if an electrical device hooked into the outlet falls into the water. When it detects a change in the current, the GFCI immediately turns off the power, stopping the flow of electricity and preventing it from entering hazardous locations (such as water or your body). So, installing GFCI outlets in your kitchen and bathroom is an easy way to safeguard your house against electrical shock and fire.
How To Upgrade A Normal Outlet To A GFCI Outlet
To do this, you must have:
- Tools for cutting and bending wires, such as wire cutters and needle-nose pliers.
- You’ll need a flathead screwdriver to pry off the cover plate and the current electrical outlet
- A brand-new GFCI socket and cover plate
- A Phillips-head screwdriver to replace the GFCI plug and secure the wiring.
- A device for checking the presence or absence of electrical current in wall outlets.
Phase 1: Disconnect the power from the outlet.
Remember to turn off the power before you start working on this. Proceed to the fuse box and shut off the power to the outlet there. Use your outlet tester to ensure no power is getting into the socket.
Phase 2: Disconnect the outlet from the outlet box.
You may remove the cover plate when confident that power is not supplied through this outlet. Disconnect the old outlet from the electrical box using the flat head screwdriver. Carefully remove the existing socket from the electrical outlet box.
Phase 3: Disconnect the wires from the outlet.
The next step after removing the obsolete plug from the wall is to de-wire it. Checking how many cords are plugged into the wall first is an excellent start. You should contact a licensed electrician if you see more than three wires entering an electrical socket. However, if you have three lines connected to the outlet, you may continue in the following manner:
- As a rule, you should start by removing the “hot” wire from the outlet on the right. This cable carries power from the electrical panel to the wall outlet. It always plugs into the part of the socket that has the brass or gold screw, and its insulation is often black. Loosen the outlet screw with your flathead screwdriver and pull the wire out of the old outlet.
- Next, you will need to disconnect the “neutral” wire, which is located on the left side of the outlet. When anything is plugged in, this wire returns the electricity to the power source, the breaker box. Ideally, this wire would be white and attached to the silver fasteners. Carefully disconnect the cable from the dated outlet by unscrewing the silver screw.
- Lastly, cut the ground wire. It is recommended that you have a professional electrician add a grounding wire if your socket only uses two wires and two holes to ensure the safety of your electrical system. The grounding wire is generally bare or insulated in green and is linked to the bottom of the outlet. A green screw may be used to attach the grounding wire. To disconnect the grounding wire, unscrew the screw.
Phase 4: Rewire the GFCI outlet
Now that the old outlet is out, you can start installing the GFCI outlet. Ensure the cables are straight and can be inserted into the new GFCI outlet by cutting or bending them using needle-nose pliers.
Flip the plug as you get started. Ideally, you’d have two screws in a brass or gold color and two in silver. If you look on the backside of your GFCI outlet, you should be able to distinguish which of these screws are the line screws and which are the load screws. Only the line screws should be used when rewiring a GFCI outlet. Professional electricians alone may use the load screws. However, make sure you know exactly where to screw in your lines by locating the line screws on the GFCI outlet. Get the new GFCI outlet ready by removing the three screws from the back. Then insert the wire into the outlet.
Phase 5: Insert the GFCI outlet into the box.
Bend the cables carefully so that the uninsulated portions do not come into contact with each other, then replace the outlet in the outlet box. Attach the outlet to the electrical box by tightening its screws.
Phase 6: Change out the GFCI outlet panel
A standard outlet plate will no longer fit into your new GFCI outlet. Check that the outlet plate you use is the right size and shape. A flathead screwdriver will come in handy while installing the replacement plate.
Phase 7: Restore electricity to the circuit.
Once you are satisfied the outlet was correctly fitted, you may test it by turning the breaker back on. Sometimes the “reset” button in the middle of an outlet has to be pressed before power may be supplied.
Phase 8: Test the GFCI outlet
The last step is to verify that the outlet is functioning correctly as a GFCI outlet. Put the tester plug into the socket and ensure the meter reads electricity. Try the plug by pressing the “test” button. This should trigger the GFCI outlet to cut off electricity, just as it would if an appliance had fallen into the water. A properly functioning electrical outlet will display no power when tested using an outlet tester. However, you will need to press the “reset” button to restore power to the plug.
So long right? Well, if you’ve followed these instructions carefully, you should have replaced your standard outlet with a GFCI outlet, which protects against electrical shock. You should test each GFCI outlet monthly by pressing the test, reset buttons, and checking it with an electrical outlet tester to ensure it is still working correctly.