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Picture of Replacing a GFCI Outlet
GFCI , or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, outlets are required by code on outdoor outlets, or any outlet near a source of water. The one exception is that outlets intended for motor-driven appliances, like washers and driers, don't need a GFCI, as GFCIs don't work with inductive loads.

They work well when new, but eventually fail and need to be replaced. Here's how to replace a GFCI outlet- or any outlet, really- or replace a standard outlet with a GFCI outlet.

Step 1: What you'll need

Picture of What you'll need
It doesn't take many tools to do this job- here's what you'll need:

- New GFCI outlet

- Insulated screwdriver

- Outlet tester

- Non-contact tester

- Electrician's pliers

All are inexpensive. The non-contact tester is used to see if a circuit is "hot"- that is, if there's voltage on it. The Outlet tester is used to make sure you've wired everything properly.
 
AlM65 months ago

Very helpful, learned a couple things from this and the comments. thanks

johng6527 months ago
Good instructable. You might want to start adding Arc Fault Circuit Interruptor ( AFCI ) breakers to your breaker box. That type of wiring has a tendency to crack and cause fires with age. The rubber dries out and is degraded with ozone and other atmospheric conditions. The natural expanding and contracting of a house adds mechanical stresses. After the insulator is gone a fire is almost sure to happen. I have run into this many times doing favors for neighbors and friends. The breakers only protect you if that happens. The ultimate protection is new wiring. But it will help keep you and your family safe until you can do the last step. The 2005 NEC requires them for all bedroom and lighting circuits. As more building codes are updated the cost does go down. But looking at those pictures I would say get them now. Start with the circuits that have the that wiring in place then finish with the newer circuitry. Yes AFCI's and GFCI's coexist nicely as long as the hot and neutral are truly separated.
Perfect!
kodiwolf5 years ago
"The one exception is that outlets intended for motor-driven appliances, like washers and driers, don't need a GFCI, as GFCIs don't work with inductive loads."

But the new washer I just purchased has a three-pronged electrical cord...I am using an adapter right now, and the warnings on the washer say that's wrong.  SO, I'm thinking I *still* need to install a GFCI to plug the washing machine into...but will the machine work with it?  HELP! :^)  And Thank You!!
I think you're talking about different things. I assume you mean you have a 4-prong plug and got an appliance with a 3-prong cord, and you're using using some sort of 3-prong to 4-prong adapter.

You can't change the plug; it's required to be a 4-wire. However, since you say it's a new washer, it's almost certainly possible to change the cord (you should have asked for 4-prong when you ordered it :-). It's pretty simple to do, but not knowing which make/model washer you have, I can't offer details. You'll want to go back to where you bought the washer, or to a well-stocked hardware store, and ask for a 4-wire cord kit for your washer.
Derin7 years ago
here we dont have a gfci but a breaker using the same principle as a gfci but no ground(380V 3P+N)
Derin Derin7 years ago
I found the 220V 1P+N equivalent on our panel
Derin Derin6 years ago
wtf they are like a hundred bucks here
nathanr8 years ago
I am wondering if I can replace an old "razor only" receptacle with a new GFCI?? Or will I have to change the wiring??
mje (author)  nathanr8 years ago
The NEC (National Electircal Code) says you can put a GFCI outlet on any two or three wire circuit, But if you add a GFCI for a two-wire circuit without a ground, you must mark the receptacles with the words “GFCI Protected” and “No Equipment Ground” A groundless GFCI still provides ground fault protection, and is sfaer than a three-wire circuit that's not protected by a GFCI. As MD_WIllington noted, a GFCI works by detecting a differerence between the amount of current being carrried on the black and white wires- the assumption being that if there's a difference, there's current going where it should be going- like through you. You only need two wires to detect that.
nathanr mje8 years ago
Thanks for clearing that up. It is appreciated.
"The one exception is that outlets intended for motor-driven appliances, like washers and driers, don't need a GFCI, as GFCIs don't work with inductive loads." FYI, for those wondering why they will not work properly with inductive loads, inductive loads draw large amounts of current at startup, therefore every time the inductive load starts, the GFCI will interrupt the inrush current and trip off power. It is actually a small differential current device inside the unit that detects the difference between current in and current out. If your house was built before GFCIs were required, your local building codes may not necessarily require them, as this would be an existing non-compliance and they do not work if there is no ground wire present, or if there is a ground wire present due to renovation yet the wire is not attached to anything, i.e. the ground is floating.
theRIAA8 years ago
got some fancy tools, but no auto wire stripper?
I never use those fancy stripper tools either. A regular pair of dikes (Diagonal Cutters) and a skillfully placed finger acting as a gap control makes a most effective stripper. Besides, you can't strip that old cloth-covered wire with strippers. They were insulated with real rubber back then and now it would only break off to expose the wire. This is why, I expect, the electrical tape is being used to cover already exposed wire within the box.
mje (author)  LasVegas8 years ago
THi isn't the old varnished cabric wire, or plain cloth, but cloth over rubber. You can push back the cloth, but you need to strip the rubber coating. I don't use dikes in electrical work- too much chance of nicking the wire, which can lead to a break, and then arcing, and fire. I use cheap electrician's plier that can strip all the standard sized as well as Romex jackets.
mje (author)  theRIAA8 years ago
The point I wanted to make is that you can do it with a very few cheap tools. I've never seen an electrician use auto strippers; they're more of a technician's tool.
LasVegas8 years ago
Great instructable! Wow! That looks like some old house wiring! I haven't seen cloth covering on the insulation since I left Minnisota! How old is this building? In one of my old appartments the GFCI was tied to two bathrooms where the circuit-braker unit (like above) is in only one bath. The other bath's normal outlet was tied to the GFCI in the first bath. While curious about it, I never pulled the outlets to see how they were tied together. It would help to have a photo indicating the contacts on the outlet and how they're identified.
mje (author)  LasVegas8 years ago
Yeah, after I had everything together I thought I should have more on the details of wiring. If I have some more outlets in the basement I'll do that. This instructable was opportunistic- I had to replace the GCFI, so I shot a lot of pics. The house was started in 1936 and finished in 1937. The wiring has been updated a few times, most recently in 1999, when I added a floor and redid the kitchen. The breaker box pictured was added then, as was the tile- my very first tile job.
ongissim8 years ago
Great Instructable! I'm sure this will help many people! :-)