My 1967 Spanish/Ranch house is wonderful. I was studying about renovating the kitchens and bathrooms myself, and came across an interesting piece or two of information. First, local codes required GFCI receptacles or outlets in both the kitchen and bathrooms. Second, of the two bathrooms, only one had a single GFCI outlet. The most used bathroom, the master bath, doesn’t have one.
It will this spring. GFCI outlets cost less than $10 at my local hardware store. And, since my old house has aluminum wiring, I’ll make the electrical connections with special wire nuts specially made for aluminum/copper connections. That will meet the local electrical codes.
GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets detect a difference in the flow of electricity to or from the appliance or circuit, as little as 5 milliamps, it shuts the outlet down- in as little as .025 seconds. That’s less than a quarter of the time it takes electricity to stop your heart.
Most local codes require them in outdoor outlets, attics, basements, kitchens, bathrooms and crawl spaces. I would go further and install them in children’s bedrooms as well. The cost in negligible compared to and accident.
It is estimated that 2/3 of the electrocutions in home accidents could be prevented by GFCI outlets.
Besides, if you are selling a home, you may be required to have these outlets installed so the house meets the safety codes and the sale would be approved. If you are buying the house, ask as a condition of the sale for these to be installed if they’re not already.
To install a GFCI, you will need:
• A GFCI outlet
• Lineman’s or needle nosed pliers
• Combination wire stripper
• Wire cutters
• Wire nuts
• Electrician’s tape
Install the GFCI outlet:
Turn the electricity off before you start to replace any outlet. It doesn’t make any sense to have an accident while you’re trying to do something simple. The current of a house won’t knock you down or curl your toenails, it will kill you.
Using the screwdriver, take off the outlet cover and set aside. Verify that the electricity is off with the voltmeter. Never just trust in flipping a switch.
Pull the outlet out of the box. Remove the wires from the outlet.
Pick up the GFCI outlet and look at the screws. One side is labeled as “load” while the other is labeled “line.” We’ll be working on the “line” side. Connect the ground wire to the ground screw. Use the appropriate wire nuts to make the wire connections secure.
Push everything back inside the box and attach the outlet to the box. Re-attach the cover plate.
Turn the electricity back on and push the test button in. The reset button should pop out. Push it back in and verify electricity is flowing correctly with the voltmeter.
You’re done. Go do the next one with confidence.
• Do not use a GFCI for freezers, refrigerators, or other appliances that has to stay on at all times. The breaker could trip without you knowing it.
• Never try to control a GFCI with a switch. Always manually test or reset it yourself.
• Once a month, test the outlet by pressing the test button while the power is on. The reset button should pop out. If it doesn’t, replace it.
It’s almost too easy to protect yourself and your family with one of these outlets. If you’re unsure of doing electrical work, perhaps a co-worker or church member has the experience to help. Paying them or returning a favor or two wouldn’t hurt.
Of course, you could certainly hire an electrician to do this job as well. It’s well worth the insurance.
Source: Max Alexander, “How GFCI Receptacles Keep You Safe,” This Old House Website, no date given
Source: Joseph Truini, “How to Upgrade Outlets to GFCI,” This Old House Website, no date given
Source: Jeff Day (2003). “Home Improvement 1-2-3,” Des Moines, IA, Meredith Publishing Group