Functional ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are a must for the safety of your Denver Metro household. Out of all the benefits of residential GFCI outlets, the main advantage is that they prevent fatal electrocution in the event of a ground fault. The number of deaths by electrocution at home has decreased by 80% since the National Electrical Code required GFCI outlet installation inside homes!
To get the electrical protection you need and deserve, ensure that these essential devices are working correctly. GFCI outlets last between 5 to 15 years (at most) before they need to be replaced. You can easily test whether a GFCI outlet is working by pressing the “Test” button, plugging in a nightlight, and pressing the “Reset” button. The nightlight should turn on after you press “Reset,” not before. If it turns on when you first plug it in, that means that the circuit wasn’t tripped, and the GFCI outlet needs to be replaced. Similarly, the GFCI outlet needs replacing if the nightlight doesn’t turn off after you press “Reset.”
You can replace GFCI outlets on your own if you have foundational electrical knowledge. If you don’t, or you’re unsure, it’s safer to contact certified electricians to do it for you. Here’s what to expect when replacing a GFCI outlet.
What You Need to Replace a GFCI Outlet
To have a smooth and safe GFCI outlet replacement process, make sure you have the following before you begin:
Basic electrical knowledge
New GFCI outlet (and plate if needed)
Tape and pen for labeling wires (or a camera for photo reference)
Needle nose pliers
Steps to Replace a GFCI Outlet
1. Turn off your power.
Before tinkering with the outlet, turn off your power at your home’s circuit breaker or fuse box. Doing so will protect you against electric shock during work on the outlet. Leave a note, too, so others know not to accidentally turn the power back on while you’re in the middle of your GFCI replacement! Test that the outlet isn’t receiving power by using your voltage tester.
2. Remove the current GFCI outlet.
With your flathead screwdriver, unscrew the outlet plate and set it aside. Then, unscrew the outlet and pull it slightly away from the wall box to see the wiring behind it. If the current outlet is a GFCI outlet, take your tape and pen to label which wire is which and where they connect to on the outlet. Snapping a photo would work as well to remember where to connect the wires on the new GFCI outlet.
Note: if you have anything other than a total of three wires behind the outlet, it’s best to call a qualified electrician to handle the GFCI replacement. Typically, a black “hot” wire is connected on the right side of the outlet that brings in power. On the left, there should be a white “neutral” wire which brings the electricity back to the circuit breaker or fuse. The third wire on the bottom is the grounding wire. If you see more or less than three wires, contact an electrician so they can appropriately manage the GFCI replacement.
3. Disconnect the wires.
Now that you’ve noted which wire is which, unscrew them from the outlet and ensure they don’t touch while hanging free. You can use the tape to keep them separated if needed. Begin with the black “hot” wire for extra precaution, then the white “neutral” wire, and the ground wire last.
4. Connect the wires to the new GFCI outlet.
Take your new GFCI outlet and reconnect the wires in the same place on the outlet as before. Start with the ground wire, the “neutral,” and then the “hot” wire. Use your needle nose pliers to wrap the end of each wire around the corresponding terminal. Once they’re in place, use the screwdriver to tighten the screws.
5. Place the GFCI outlet into the wall box.
Carefully bend the wires back into the wall so you can mount the GFCI outlet into the wall box. When it’s in there comfortably, tighten the mounting screws. Take the outlet plate and put it over the outlet, tightening those screws as well.
6. Turn on your power.
Go to your circuit breaker or fuse box to restore power.
7. Test the GFCI outlet.
Press the “Reset” button on the GFCI outlet and use your voltage tester to see if the electrical current is flowing properly (the light should be on). Next, press the “Test” button, which should immediately turn off the power and shut off the light. If this process goes correctly, you’re done! Press the “Reset” button one more time to restore your GFCI outlet protection.
If any of your home’s GFCI outlets aren’t working, replace them as soon as possible! They are invaluable in keeping people safe while inside your home. Our certified electricians are ready to make placement recommendations, replace GFCI outlets throughout your home, and manage all additional wiring needs. Do not attempt to replace a GFCI outlet if you’re unsure on any of the steps mentioned above. Contact our team today to schedule an appointment!