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Installing GFCI receptacles

A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protects you against the kind of shocks that occur around water. It compares the current coming into a circuit with the current leaving it. If the GFCI detects a difference between the two—as would be the case if power were traveling through your arm into the water in the sink—it immediately cuts off the power. GFCIs are required in bathrooms, along kitchen countertops, and for outdoor outlets. A GFCI outlet can protect up to four receptacles, switches, or lights on the same circuit. A GFCI circuit breaker can protect an entire circuit. If your home has ungrounded receptacles, installing GFCIs will provide protection but won’t ground your circuits.

Check your GFCIs at least once a month by pushing in the test button while the power is on. (The reset button should pop out. Push it back in.) A GFCI may provide power even though it has lost its ability to protect. Don’t use a GFCI as a receptacle for a refrigerator, freezer, or any other appliance that must stay on all the time; the device may trip off without your knowing. Also | do not attempt to control a GFCI with a switch. Code requires that GFCI receptacles be installed in any exterior application, include an in-use cover eo you can plug into the device and still keep the cover down.

TOOLS: Screwdriver, lineman's pliers, side-cutting pliers, combination stripper

EXTEND A GFCI BOX - A bulky GFCI can dangerously crowd a box. Buy a box designed for raceway wiring and two 2-inch-long 6/32 screws. Fasten the screws through the GFCI and raceway box and into the box.

INSTALLING A SINGLE GFCI. Shut off the power. Make connections only to the LINE terminals. For an end-of-the-run box, connect the wires to the terminals. If the box is middle-of-the-run (shown), for each connection, make a pigtail by stripping either end of a 6-inch-long wire. Splice each pigtail to the wire(s) with a wire nut, then connect it to the GFCI terminals. Put the white wire on the silver terminal and the black or colored wire on the brass terminal.

PROTECTING OTHER OUTLETS. Shut off the power. Connect the wires carrying power into the box to the line terminals marked on the outlet. Then connect the wires leading out of the box [to other receptacles or lights) to the load terminals marked on the outlet. If you're unsure which wires come from the service panel, pull the wires out of the box and position them so they will not touch each other, restore power, and use a tester to see which pair of wires is hot; connect these to the line terminals.

Installing an outdoor receptacle

MATERIALS: Rectangular metal watertight box, matching conduit nipple, conduit bushing, cover gasket, cover, GFCI, 12-2 NM cable, cable staples, silicone caulk

TOOLS: Drill, screwdriver, caulking gun, hammer

These days houses are built with at least two outdoor outlets. If your house doesn’t have them, you may want to add some. The sturdiest and simplest way to add an outlet is to screw a box built for outdoor exposure to the side of your house, put a receptacle in it, and put on a waterproof cover built to match the box. You will, of course, need to install an outlet and run cable. To meet code, the outlet must be a GFCI outlet, which will keep any accidental shorts from running through the nearest human and into the ground. The best and easiest way to get cable to the GFCI is to drill through the rim joist, as shown. Power for the cable can either come from an existing circuit, or by adding a new one to the breaker box. To keep things watertight, make sure you caulk thoroughly, as described below, and install a gasket between the lid and the box. You also need to install a conduit bushing wherever cable leaves the conduit to protect the cable from fraying on rough edges.

1 CHOOSE THE SPOT FOR THE OUTLET FROM OUTSIDE THE HOUSE, and measure how far it is from a basement window, exterior cellar entrance, spigot, or other feature visible from inside the basement. Inside the house, measure and mark the spot on the rim joist, moving as necessary to avoid obstructions. Drill a hole slightly larger than the conduit nipple through the rim joist and through the siding. If the exterior of the house is brick, change to a carbide masonry bit once you hit it. If it’s siding, drill through the entire hole with a spade bit. (See Step 2.)

2 BEGIN INSTALLING THE BOX. On wood siding, you'll need to make the surface behind the box flat by building it up. Do this by cutting a short piece of siding and putting it upside down over the existing siding, as shown. Screw the buildup to the siding (see inset). Attach the nipple into the receptacle box and slide it through the hole. Caulk around the nipple just before you push the box all the way in.

3 SCREW THE BOX TO THE WALL. From inside the house, put a conduit bushing on the nipple. Run cable from the fuse or breaker box, or from an existing outlet or junction box. Strip off about a hand's length of the outer jacket, and feed the wires through the nipple. Use cable staples designed for electrical work to secure the cable to the framing every U feet and within 1 foot of the nipple. (These staples are driven with a hammer, not a staple gun.) Install a GFCI following the directions on the box. Put a gasket over the box, and screw the cover in place.

Adding a wall switch to a ceiling fixture

MATERIALS: Cable and clamps, remodeling box, staples, receptacle, wire nuts, nailing plates, electrician’s tape

TOOLS: Drill, drywall saw or saber saw, fish tape, screwdriver, lineman’s pliers, strippers

You can easily add a wall switch to a ceiling fixture currently controlled by a pull chain. The biggest challenge is planning the route and running cable from the fixture to the position for the new switch on the wall. If the wall is heavily insulated, push conduit through the insulation, and then feed wires or cable through the conduit.

1 RUN CABLE. Shut off power to the circuit supplying the fixture. Plan a cable pathway that crosses as few studs or joists as possible. You may have to cut an access hole to run cable through framing.

2 RUN CABLE TO THE SWITCH BOX. Add nailing plates where you bore holes in framing. Cut a hole for a remodel switch box and pull the cable through. Strip the wires.

3 WIRE THE FIXTURE. Connect the ground. Remove the black wire from the fixture lead, splice it to the new white wire to the switch, and mark it black. Splice the new black wire to the fixture's black lead.

4 CONNECT THE GROUND AT THE SWITCH. Attach both wires to the terminals and mark the white wire black. Restore power to the circuit and test. Repair the access hole in the drywall.

Controlling a single outlet with a switch

MATERIALS: Cable and clamps, remodeling box, staples, switch, wire nuts, electrician’s tape

TOOLS: Drill, saw, fish tape, screwdriver, long-nose pliers, combination stripper

When you assign one outlet of a duplex receptacle to a wall switch, you can control a floor or table lamp from a doorway. The second outlet will remain hot at all times and be available for general use.

MAKING OUTLETS OPERATE SEPARATELY. Shut off power. In order to make the two outlets of a receptacle operate separately, grasp the connecting tab between the two brass terminals with a pair of long-nose pliers. Bend the tab back and forth until it breaks off.

WORKING WITH AN END-OF-THE-RUN RECEPTACLE. Shut off power. Run two-wire cable from the switch to the receptacle. Paint both ends of the white wires black. Connect the grounds. At the receptacle, remove the old black wire and splice it to the new white wire (marked black) and a black pigtail. Connect the pigtail to the always-hot terminal and the other black wire to the other terminal. Attach both wires to the switch.

WORKING WITH A RECEPTACLE IN THE MIDDLE OF A RUN. Shut off power This project will be complicated if the receptacle you want to switch has wires attached to all four terminals. At the receptacle to be switched, remove both old black wires. Splice them with the new white wire and a black pigtail. Connect the pigtail to the always-hot outlet and the new black wire to the switched outlet. Wire the switch and connect the grounds.

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