How To Install A GFCI Outlet For Grow Lights

20 October 2015
 Categories: , Blog

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The chill of autumn brings the threat of the first frost of the season and a sense of urgency to prepare a winter space for your sensitive plants. Although you may have picked an inside spot that is conveniently close to an electrical outlet for your grow lights, the outlet may need to be replaced.

Indoor plants require watering and may require the use of a humidifier, both of which create wet or damp conditions near the electrical outlet. Replacing the outlet with a special GFCI outlet will minimize the possibility of electric shock.

What is a GFCI outlet?

A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet detects subtle variations in the flow of electric current, such as when insufficient grounding is present, and shuts off power to the outlet. These outlets are designed to be used in wet or damp locations, because water is an excellent conductor of electricity, and may circumvent the groundings stability of a regular outlet.

What do you need to install a GFCI outlet?

The outlet 

You can find a GFCI outlet at any home improvement store. They are designed for a universal fit, so you don't need to buy a special brand or model. 

Open cover plate

You will need a new cover plate because the cover plate that fit over your old outlet won't be useable for a GFCI outlet, which has test and reset buttons in the center. You will need to buy an open cover plate, which is essentially an open frame that fits over the outlet. 

Screwdrivers and flashlight 

You'll need both a Philips and flat head screwdriver and possibly a flashlight because you will be turning off power to the outlet.

Removing the existing outlet

You'll need to turn off the breaker that supplies power to the outlet. Plug in a working appliance before turning off the breaker, because you want to be certain that the power is shut off, even if the breaker panel is clearly marked. If the appliance shuts off when the breaker is turned off, you'll have extra assurance that it is safe to proceed.

Remove the center screw in the cover plate with your flat head screwdriver, then the upper and lower Philips head screws that secure the outlet to the outlet box inside the wall.

Pull the outlet until it is outside of the outlet box. You will see either one or two sets of three wires connected to the outlet, depending on its location in the circuit.

Unhook all wires by loosening the terminal screws with your Philips head screwdriver. If two sets of wires are present, keep them separated.

Connecting the GFCI outlet

If one set of three wires is present, you will connect them to the top "load" section of the outlet by looping them under the terminal screws and tightening the screws.

The black wire will be connected to the gold terminal, the white wire will be connected to the silver terminal, and the green or copper wire connected to the green grounding terminal.

If two sets of three wires are present, you will attach them to the bottom "line" section of the outlet. The green or copper wire will be connected to the single green terminal, along with the first green or copper wire. 

Push the new outlet into the outlet box and tighten the upper and lower securing screws. Attach the open face plate with the screws provided. 

Turn on the breaker and check the outlet. You may need to push the center reset switch on first use. 

For more information, contact A-Team Electric or a similar company.