By Gene and Katie Hamilton
A ground-fault circuit interrupter, also called a GFCI device, is required in all electrical outlets in the kitchen and bathroom of a house to reduce the danger of a deadly shock from a faulty plug-in cord or appliance. These devices are also required in all the wet areas of a house like an unfinished basement, laundry room or garage, as well as outdoor areas and wherever there's construction activity. The device measures outgoing and returning current and shuts off the power if it detects a possible dangerous current imbalance. It has a test button that switches off the power to the outlet and any receptacles connected to it when it is pushed in.
To replace a standard receptacle and install a GFCI is not difficult and is a good first-time electrical project for a home handyman. The device is inexpensive and the tools are basic ones you'll use time and again. An electrician will charge $197 to install a GFCI, which includes the labor and material; but you can buy the device for $20 and make the swap in less than an hour. You'll save 89 percent, so it's a job worth consideration. Enter your ZIP Code to adjust the cost to where you live. To do it yourself you'll need a screwdriver, wire cutting and stripping tool and an inexpensive voltage tester.
The job involves turning off the power at the main circuit panel, removing the old device by disconnecting and cutting the wires, installing the new GFCI and reattaching the wires to the terminals, testing the device, and finally turning on the power.
Safety tip: Before doing any electrical work, turn off the power at the main panel.
The bottom line: compare the price of a contractor’s bid to install a GFCI with what it costs to do it yourself and make your decision. You adjust the cost to where you live by adding your ZIP Code.
Cost updated 2013