How to Safely Replace a GFCI: The Ultimate Guide

how to replace a gfci

You may have noticed that a few electrical outlets in your home look different than others. These outlets, which usually have test and reset buttons on them, are generally found in bathrooms or kitchens, have an essential function in your home’s electrical system.

If you have a broken or damaged ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet, you may be wondering how to replace it. As with all electrical problems, it is never advisable to tackle GFCI replacements on your own without the relevant expertise, as doing so could expose you and your family to significant risk.

This article discusses everything you need to know about how to replace a GFCI safely. Keep reading!

What Is a GFCI Outlet?

A GFCI, or ground fault circuit interrupter, is an outlet that constantly analyzes the amount of current running through it. If the amount of current leaving the outlet is different from the amount of current entering the out, this device can shut off, essentially breaking the circuit.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that home and building owners install these outlets in damp or wet areas such as the kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom. to protect against shock should an appliance fall into the water. 

Electricity can pass through water, and as soon as you come into contact with the water, you can experience shock, which can sometimes be fatal. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, the GFCI outlet turns off the power when it detects a current change.

Does It Replace a Circuit Breaker?

It is important to note that GFCI outlets are not used to replace a circuit breaker and offers no protection against overloading and short circuits.

How Does a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Work?

The GFCI outlet contains three holes. Two holes are for the hot and neutral wires, and one in the center is for the ground wire. It instantly turns off the flow of power if it senses any change in the current flow in the electrical circuit. 

For instance, if you are using a hair curler and it falls into a sink of water, the GFCI outlet detects an interruption of the current flow and instantly shuts off the power, ensuring that the current flow in the water does not harm you.

How to Tell if You Need to Replace a GFCI

If installed correctly, GFCI outlets can last between 15 and 25 years, depending on how frequently they are used.

Constant Testing and Resetting

Use the GFCI’s test and reset buttons to restore electricity to it if it trips. If you notice that you are repeatedly testing and resetting your GFCI, this is a sign that it isn’t functioning correctly and needs to be replaced.

Visible Damage

The presence of visible damage to the GFCI outlet that exposes bare wire is a sure sign that it needs replacement. 

A circuit breaker on your electrical panel that trips constantly because of a GFI plug could also be a sure indicator that it needs to be replaced.

Other Signs That Your GFCI Outlet Needs Replacing

Another sign that you need to install a new GFCI outlet is if your appliances do not stay plugged into the electrical outlet anymore. If you press the reset button and the power to the circuit is no longer restored, there is no question about it – you should replace it as soon as possible.

[Related: 7 Home Wiring Safety Checks Homeowners Should Do Yearly]

Tips for Replacing Your GFCI Outlets Safely at Home

Installing a new GFCI outlet is not a job to be undertaken by an untrained person. Calling a licensed electrician is highly advisable if you are having trouble with your GFCI outlet. 

Understanding how GFCI replacements work can help homeowners gain insight on what to do to manage this essential safety feature.

Remove the Old Outlet from the Outlet Box

Before you may begin replacing the ground fault interrupter, you must first ensure that the power supply to the existing outlet has been turned off. To do this, plug in an outlet tester and turn off the power supply at the electrical panel. The outlet tester lights up to tell you whether the outlet still has a power supply.

Remove the mounting screws using a screwdriver and gently pull the GFI outlet out to expose the electrical wiring. You should notice a series of terminal screws and line and load terminals and wires. 

If more than three wires are connected to the outlet, including multiple ground wires, or just black and white wires, you must call an experienced, qualified electrician to remove the outlet.

However, if there are just three wires, you can remove them by first removing the black line hot wire that connects to a line brass screw terminal on the side of the outlet.

Next, remove the white line neutral wire connected to a line silver screw terminal before disconnecting the green wire connected to the green ground screw.

Install a GFCI to Replace the Old One

Begin by connecting the black wire to the brass screw-marked line and secure the terminal screw with a screwdriver. Next, connect the white wire to the silver screw marked line and secure the terminal. You can join the green wire to the green screw by inserting the bare copper ground wire into the hole and securing the terminal with a screwdriver.

The next step is to push the wires into the wall and secure the outlet in place with screws. Fit the GFCI into the outlet box and secure it in place.

Important Safety Measures

The National Electrical Code stipulates that no untrained person should attempt to conduct electrical work, as it is easy to become confused by line and load leads. 

Always consult a professional if your GFI outlet needs to be replaced, and always wear rubber-soled shoes when assessing any damaged electrical equipment, especially in damp locations.

[Read: How To Hire The Best Electrical Installation Company]

Need to Have Your GFI Outlets Replaced? Contact Assurance Electrical

Terminology such as “brass terminal marked load,” “silver terminal marked load,” and “line wires” can have you confused and frustrated,  so put away your electrical tape and DIY electrical toolkit and call a qualified electrician instead to deal with your GFCI replacement.

At Assurance Electrical, we pride ourselves on the timeous turnover of work to have your electrical circuitry and appliances up and running as quickly as possible. 

We pride ourselves on working with integrity and accountability, so you can always trust us to take care of your residential electrical needs. Contact us today for fuss-free service!

Do you have any questions about GFCI outlets? Leave us a message in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!

Jeff Brandlin - Assurance Electrical Services Prescott Arizona

Jeff Brandlin is the founder of Assurance Electrical Services, LLC. He started in the electrical industry when he was 21 and had worked in several electrical firms before founding Assurance Electrical. Jeff is dedicated to providing the best quality service to his clients and always puts their needs first. Outside work, Jeff enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

Leave a Reply

$0 Electrical Safety Inspection ($200 Value)