How do I install a GFCI receptacle and when do I need to use one?

GFCI – or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters – are receptacles that stop electricity flow when they detect energy leakage, which prevents electrocution. You can tell a GFCI receptacle from a normal receptacle, because a GFCI has two buttons, one marked “Test” and one marked “Reset.” They also have a light indicator on the receptacle that designates when current is reaching the receptacle. To install a GFCI:

  • Turn off the power to the receptacle at the circuit breaker panel.
  • Remove the faceplate on the old receptacle.
  • Disconnect the old receptacle and remove.
  • Use wire strippers to cut off the ends of the old home wiring and expose fresh wiring for your new receptacle.
  • Cut 6” of 12/2 NM cable in each color (black, white and green) and strip away the insulation from the ends.
  • Loosen the two exposed screws on your new GFCI receptacle (leave the two taped screws intact).
  • Attach your strips of 12/2 NM wire to the receptacle around the color-coded screws. (The green wire goes under the green screw. Black goes under black. White goes under white.) Tighten all screws so that there is a secure connection.
  • Attach the color-coded wires to the color-coded wires coming from the wall box with wire nuts.
  • Place the receptacle into the wall. Replace the faceplate.
  • Turn power to the receptacle back on at the circuit breaker panel.
  • The light on the GFCI receptacle should be on indicating that the receptacle has been “tripped.”
  • Press the reset button to reconnect the receptacle to the electrical current and prepare it for use.

Be sure that you know where you need to install GFCI receptacles before you begin this process.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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