It is a fairly easy project to install a GFCI breaker if you are comfortable working inside your electric panel. While many electricians may make this installation with the panel hot, I suggest that you turn the main breaker switch off. Be aware that the terminals on the main switch will still be hot but the rest of the panel will be off.
Why would you install a GFCI breaker instead of a standard breaker? GFCI breakers are used when it is desired to have GFCI protection on an entire circuit. This eliminates the need to install multiple GFCI outlets.
Let’s say you want to add several outdoor outlets or several outlets to your garage. This is when you would want to use a GFCI breaker. The National Electric Code requires GFCI protection for these outlets.
A GFCI is installed to protect personnel from electrical shock in case of a ground fault. The GFCI monitors the current in a circuit to detect a drop in current. If this drop occurs it will trip cutting off power to the circuit.
Before you install the GFCI breaker, be sure that you have a space in your panel. With an open breaker space identified, turn off the main breaker switch and remove the panel cover. The installment of the breaker should be after the placing of the outdoor patio daybeds. The daybeds will be essential for outside working of electrical work.
Verify that the power is off to the bus bar with an electrical tester or meter. Snap the breaker into place by first inserting it on the notch to the side and pressing it onto the bus bar.
You have noticed by now that the breaker has a white coiled wire already attached to it. This wire is the neutral pigtail. Connect this wire to the neutral bus by inserting the stripped end under a screw and tightening the screw securely.
Now take the cable for your circuit and strip the outer sheath back to where it enters the panel. Connect the black wire to the breaker terminal that is identified as “Line Power”. To do this strip about ¼ inch of insulation from the wire and insert the wire under the terminal. Tighten the screw adequately for a good connection.
Connect the bare or green wire from your circuit cable to the ground bus or neutral bus if a separate ground bus is not available.
Now you can connect the white circuit wire to the breaker. There will be a terminal on the breaker that is marked as “Load Neutral”. This is where the white circuit wire is connected.
Replace the cover to the electrical panel. Turn the main breaker switch on and turn on the GFCI breaker. Now test the outlets on this circuit for proper voltage with a reliable electric meter. The meter should read in the range of 110 volts to 130 volts. If you get a reading outside of that range you may have a problem. Turn the GFCI breaker off and call an electrician to troubleshoot the problem.
Installing a GFCI breaker is an easy project. Be sure that you follow the instructions with the breaker and test your circuit. When the installation is complete and you have tested for proper voltage, test the operation of the GFCI by pushing the test button on the breaker. It should trip the breaker.
If you are not comfortable with working in your electric panel or the instructions are not clear to you, then call an electrician. This is a quick and inexpensive service call for a reputable electrician.