DIY Network

How to Install a GFCI outlet

Electrical expert James Young shows how to install a GFCI outlet -- a job that a DIYer can accomplish in a fairly short time.

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Step 1: Turn Off the Power

Turn off the power to the circuit. Over the breaker, place a strip of tape with Do not touch written on it; it's also not a bad idea to place a similar sign on the front of the breaker box.

 use extreme caution when working with electricity

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 2: Remove the Cover Plate

Use a tester to make sure the power to the outlet is indeed turned off (Image 1).

Remove the screws holding the cover plate and take the plate off (Image 2). Then test the outlet again -- and be sure to use the tester to probe all around the box to make sure there's no "juice" at all.

Step 3: Remove the Wires

Remove the mounting screw and take the outlet from the wall.

Remove the wires from the outlet in the following order: Starting with the black (hot) wire, loosen the screw that holds it by turning it counterclockwise. Then do the same to remove the white (neutral) wire and lastly, the ground wire.

remove wires from outlet in the correct order

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 4: Strip the Neutral and Ground Wires

Straighten out the neutral and ground wires and strip about 1/2" from the end of each. Leave the hot wire as is.

neutral and ground wires trimmed on ends

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 5: Attach the GFCI

To attach the GFCI, start with the ground wire. Attach it to the green screw by forming a hook on the end of the wire, hooking it around the screw and tightening it, turning the screw clockwise.

GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, and it means an outlet that can prevent electrical shock in wet locations such as bathrooms, kitchens and outdoor areas.

A GFCI has two buttons: a test button and a reset button.

start with ground wire to attach GFCI

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 6: Attach the Neutral Wire

Note that the GFCI receptacle has two holes in the back; this is called a stab-in receptacle. Starting with the neutral wire, push the end of it into the hole on the side with the silver screw. Tighten the screw to hold the wire.

Repeat with the hot wire, attaching it through the hole on the side with the brass-colored screw. Tighten the screw.

neutral wire goes first in stab in receptacle

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 7: Push the Wires Back Into the Box, and Replace the Cover

Gently push the wires back into the box, then line up the mounting screw with the corresponding hole and tighten.
Replace the cover plate.

To test the unit (which should be done periodically), plug in an appliance such as a hair dryer and turn it on. While it's running, press the test button. The dryer should stop. Once you've ascertained that the GFCI is working correctly, unplug the dryer and press the reset button.

Remember: If you have any questions or fears about working with electricity, call a licensed electrician. This type of work can be very dangerous, and there's no use risking your life just to save a little money.

gently push wire back into box

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

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