Introduction: How to Upgrade to a GFCI.

We all have receptacles in our house where we plug in our beloved electronics, but chances are there are old and not ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI.

What are GFCI's? GFCI receptacles have a built-in mechanism to detect the slightest leakage of electrical current. The device constantly checks the amount of electricity that goes in vs the amount of electricity that comes back out to it. If they are not the same, then there is an anomaly present and it will shut off current. GFCI's go back to normal operating conditions after the user fixes the problem and resets the mechanism in the receptacle via a reset button.

National Electrical Code currently requires all electrical outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, crawlspaces and exterior to be GFCI protected.

With simple tools like a screwdriver, voltage tester and a GFCI receptacle you too can upgrade to this safe receptacle in under 10 minutes and enjoy piece of mind!

Step 1: Tools Needed

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Slotted (flat) screwdriver
  • Pliers or wire stripper
  • Voltage tester
  • A GFCI receptacle

Step 2: Safety: Turn Off Power

Locate the breaker panel and then locate your breaker switch within the box.

There is usually a large sticker that labels each breaker switch to what it operates. Find the one responsible for the receptacle box you want to upgrade and switch it off.

Tip (Always turn off power to a circuit before working on it and place a note on the electrical panel to warn others not to turn it on)

Step 3: Test for Current After Breaker Switch Has Been Shut Off

Once the power at the circuit breaker has been switched off, use the tester to verify power is shut off. Bring the tester up close to the receptacle and push and hold the button on the tester. A light should some come on and then immediately shut off. If that is the case, you can proceed.


If the tester continues to illuminate after holding the button, there is still current in that receptacle. The wrong breaker switch has been shut off and you need to go back to the breaker panel and find the correct one to shut off.

If you can not find it, stop immediately and contact an electrician.

Step 4: Remove the Face Plate

Remove the face plate by unscrewing the small flat head screw in the center of the receptacle.

Tip (These are painted from factory to all match, careful and take your time to not chip the paint off the screw)

Step 5: Remove the Old Receptacle

Once the face plate is off, you will have something similar to what is in the picture. The receptacle is in place thanks to 2 screws, one on top and one on the bottom. Remove them and expose the receptacle held by 3 wires. Black(hot wire), White(neutral) and a copper (ground).

Step 6: Unscrew the Wires From the Old Receptacle.

Each wire will be wrapped around a screw that holds them tight against the plastic body of the receptacle.

Undo each screw, releasing each wire free.

You should have 3 wires with some bare copper exposure in each where it wrapped around the screws.

Step 7: Screw Wires Into New GFCI

Now that you have the 3 wires free, each one will go into a screw in the GFCI.

The black wire, also called the "Hot" wire goes in to the yellow brass screw of the GFCI.

The white wire, or "Neutral" wire goes into the silver screw of the GFCI.

Last, the copper wire, or "Ground" goes into the green screw of the GFCI.

Loop the wires into the screws and tighten them snug.

Tip(Place the wire hook so that when you tighten the screw clockwise, the hook will not fight the screw and undo itself)

Step 8: Place the GFCI Into the Wall

Carefully bend the wires inside the receptacle box. Once the wires are in, the screw holes at the top and bottom should line up. Screw them in ,securing the receptacle to the box.

Tip (Do not over tighten the screws securing the GFCI to the box, doing so may strip the screw)

Step 9: Mount the Face Plate

For a finished look, mount the face plate onto the GFCI. These screws are also painted to match the set up, so be careful not to damage them. The screws need to be only snug and not too tight.

Step 10: Finished!

Go back to the breaker panel, switch on the breaker you originally turned off at the start and remove all warnings you put.

Back at the GFCI, test it by pushing the "TEST" button they all come with, it should stay clicked in With this test, you just shorted the path of the current and have condcuted a simple test to see if the GFCI works.

Now push the "RESET" button, this will pop the test button back into place, allowing the receptacle to start working!

Congratulations, you have just installed succesfully a GFCI receptacle!!


If the test button, did nothing, there is a bit of a wiring problem. You should go back to the panel box, switch off the breaker to that receptacle box like at the beginning of the project and call an electrician.