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How Do I Ground An Outlet?

Sometimes older homes have two-pronged outlets (standard electrical outlets) that need to be replaced. In order to upgrade to a grounded three-prong outlet, some changes must be made to the wiring. However, you can also update the outlet by installing a GFCI receptacle on the existing two-conductor cable.

What do I need to do before I actually ground the outlet?

If you're adding a GFCI outlet, you won't be able to ground the outlet (since there's no ground conductor in the wiring cable). In turn, a "no ground" label must be placed on the face plate. Remember never to replace an older two-prong outlet with a standard three-prong outlet unless the ground wire has been added.

Before getting started, you should do a few things:

  • Check local electrical codes

  • Purchase a circuit tester to figure out which outlets need to be grounded

  • Go to your circuit panel and turn off the breakers connected to the outlet you're trying to ground

  • Remove the cover plate on the receptacle

Once you’ve done these things, you’re ready for the next step.

What do I need to do to ground the outlet?

After completing the previous steps, you can move to the more challenging part. This begins with examining the receptacle (or outlet) itself:

  • Remove the receptacle by unscrewing the mounting screws and then pull it from the box.

  • Check the wiring: If you have three wires (black, white, and copper), you can simply attach the grounding wire. If there are only two wires, attach the GFCI receptacle. A "no ground" label must be placed on the face of the outlet cover plate to indicate there's no functional ground present.

Now you can move to grounding the outlet:

  • Connect the grounding wire (if present) to the grounding terminal. You can do this by looping the grounding wire over the green terminal screw and tightening it with a screwdriver. Using a pair of pliers, make a loop at the end of the copper wire and place the loop on the terminal screw to secure it.

  • Secure the receptacle by covering the terminals with electrical tape and then push the receptacle back into the box. Ensure the copper wire does not touch a “hot” wire and then screw the receptacle back on.

  • Turn the power back on and then use the circuit tester to make sure you grounded the outlet correctly.

Taking on this task yourself can save a good amount of money, and makes for an interesting little afternoon project.

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