If you still have the two-prong style electrical outlets in your kitchen, bathroom or anywhere else where there is running water, you risk getting a shock. Those outlets won't protect you should the outlet or an appliance you have plugged into them get wet. Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets were made to be in damp areas. They shut off the flow of electricity to the outlet should they detect moisture. Here is how you can change those old outlets yourself into GFCI outlets.
Supplies You'll Need
- flat-blade screwdriver
- wire cutters and strippers
From the electrical supply center:
- GFCI outlet for each one you're replacing
- cover plate to match the outlet (the old cover plate won't work)
Removing the Old Outlet
- Find the breaker in the circuit box for the house and turn off the power to the outlet you'll be replacing.
- Remove the old outlet's cover plate.
- Loosen the screws holding the outlet in the junction box.
- Pull the old outlet out of the junction box followed by the wires connecting it to the house circuit.
- Cut the wires where they enter the old outlet.
- Remove the old outlet. You can discard the old outlet and its cover plate as you won't reuse them.
Installing the GFCI Outlet
- Strip off roughly a half inch of insulation from the black and white wires coming out of the junction box.
- Connect the green wire attached to the back of the new outlet to the copper-colored screw on the back of the junction box.
- Insert the bare part of the white wire into the hole marked "Neutral" on the back of the new outlet.
- Insert the bare part of the black wire into the hole marked "Hot" on the back of the new outlet.
- Push the wires into the junction box followed by the new outlet.
- Secure the outlet to the junction box with the two screws provided.
- Place the new cover plate over the outlet and secure with the screw in the center.
- Turn the electricity on to the new outlet.
Testing the Outlet
- Push the button marked "Reset" on the outlet.
- Plug a small appliance, such as a fan or hair dryer, into the outlet and turn it on.
- Push the "Test" button on the outlet and the appliance should stop running.
- Press the "Reset" button and the device should start again.
Problems You May Encounter
In older homes the wiring may not conform to current standards and what the new outlet expects you to find. If you have any of the following issues, contact a local electrician like Chadwick Electric Services to sort out the wiring and change it to meet local building codes.
- The junction box has no copper ground screw in the back of the box.
- There are more than three wires going to the outlet.
- The wiring doesn't match the black/white/green color code.