how to replace a gfci circuit breaker



Replacing a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) circuit breaker is a task that may seem daunting to some, but with the right guidance, it can be easily accomplished. The GFCI circuit breaker is an essential safety device designed to protect you from electrical shocks and minimize the risk of electrical fires. Over time, circuit breakers can become faulty or outdated, requiring replacement to ensure optimal safety. In this article, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to replace a GFCI circuit breaker, enabling you to maintain a safe and efficient electrical system in your home or workplace.

Symptoms of a Faulty GFCI Circuit Breaker:

Identifying a faulty GFCI circuit breaker is the first step towards rectifying the issue. Before we dive into the replacement process, it is crucial to understand the signs that may indicate a malfunctioning circuit breaker. Here are some symptoms to look out for:

1. Frequent Tripping:

If your GFCI circuit breaker trips frequently, it could be an indication of a fault in the system. A properly functioning GFCI should trip when it detects a ground fault, protecting you from potential electrical hazards. However, if it trips even without any apparent ground fault, it is likely time to replace the circuit breaker.

2. Lack of Power:

If you experience a complete loss of power in certain areas of your home or workplace, it could be attributed to a faulty GFCI circuit breaker. In such cases, the breaker may not be able to reset or restore power, indicating a need for replacement.

3. Physical Damage or Burn Marks:

Inspect the circuit breaker for any visible signs of physical damage or burn marks. Excessive heat or scorching can indicate a fault within the breaker that requires immediate attention. It is crucial never to ignore these signs, as they can lead to dangerous situations if left unattended.

4. Age and Outdated Models:

Consider the age of your GFCI circuit breaker. Older models may lack the advanced features and technology found in newer iterations, making them more susceptible to faults and failures. It is generally recommended to replace a circuit breaker that is more than 10-15 years old.

5. Faulty Testing Results:

If you have conducted tests on your GFCI circuit breaker using a multimeter or a GFCI tester and the results are not satisfactory, it may be necessary to replace the circuit breaker. Faulty testing results often indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed promptly.

Step-by-Step Guide to Replacing a GFCI Circuit Breaker:

Now that we have discussed the symptoms of a faulty GFCI circuit breaker, let's delve into the step-by-step process of replacing it. It is essential to exercise caution and follow these instructions diligently to ensure your safety throughout the replacement procedure.

Gather the Necessary Tools and Equipment:

Before beginning the replacement process, gather the following tools and equipment:

1. Flathead screwdriver

2. Phillips screwdriver

3. Needle-nose pliers

4. Wire strippers

5. Voltage tester

6. New GFCI circuit breaker that matches the amperage rating and brand of your existing breaker

7. Personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety glasses and insulated gloves

Ensure that you have the appropriate tools and equipment readily available before proceeding to the next step. It is crucial to wear the necessary PPE to protect yourself from electrical hazards.

Shutdown Power to the Circuit:

Before working on the circuit breaker, it is vital to shut off the power to the respective circuit. Follow these steps to ensure your safety:

1. Locate your main circuit breaker panel. This is typically found in the basement, garage, or utility room of your home.

2. Open the panel door using a screwdriver or any appropriate tool.

3. Locate the circuit breaker that supplies power to the circuit you are working on. It is always better to double-check using a voltage tester.

4. Flip the switch for the respective circuit to the "Off" position. Ensure that the switch is securely in the "Off" position by gently trying to move it back to the "On" position.

5. For added safety, put a piece of electrical tape over the switch to prevent accidental power restoration.

Remove the Old GFCI Circuit Breaker:

Once you have shut off power to the circuit, it is time to remove the old GFCI circuit breaker. Follow these steps carefully:

1. Identify the faulty circuit breaker that needs replacement. In most panels, the circuit breakers are labeled for easier identification.

2. Using a flathead screwdriver, unscrew and remove the panel cover, exposing the interior of the breaker panel.

3. Inspect the wires connected to the circuit breaker you intend to replace. Make a note of the wire connections to ensure accurate reinstallation later.

4. Using the appropriate screwdriver (flathead or Phillips), carefully unscrew the terminal screws holding the wires in place. Take caution not to damage the wires or the terminal screws.

5. Once the wires are disconnected, gently pull the old circuit breaker out of its slot within the breaker panel.

Install the New GFCI Circuit Breaker:

With the old circuit breaker removed, it is time to install the new GFCI circuit breaker. Follow these steps to ensure proper installation:

1. Begin by positioning the new GFCI circuit breaker at a slight angle to align it with the rail or clip within the panel.

2. Carefully slide the circuit breaker into its designated slot until it sits flush with the other breakers.

3. Ensure that the circuit breaker's connection points align with the slots in the panel.

4. Push the circuit breaker firmly into its slot until you hear or feel a clicking sound, indicating that it is securely installed.

Reconnect the Wires:

Once the new GFCI circuit breaker is securely in place, it is time to reconnect the wires. Follow these steps to ensure proper reconnection:

1. Refer to the notes you made earlier to identify the correct wire connections for the new circuit breaker.

2. Carefully strip off approximately 1/2 inch of insulation from the ends of the wires using wire strippers. Take caution not to nick or damage the copper strands.

3. Insert the stripped ends of the wires into the corresponding terminal slots on the new circuit breaker.

4. Tighten the terminal screws securely using the appropriate screwdriver (flathead or Phillips).

5. Give each wire a gentle tug to ensure they are firmly connected to the circuit breaker without any loose connections.

Test the New GFCI Circuit Breaker:

With the new GFCI circuit breaker installed and the wires reconnected, it is crucial to test its functionality. Follow these steps to ensure proper functioning:

1. Put on your personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety glasses and insulated gloves.

2. Restore the power to the circuit by flipping the switch of the respective circuit breaker from the "Off" position to the "On" position.

3. Carefully observe the new circuit breaker for any signs of abnormalities, such as burning smells, sparks, or tripping.

4. If the circuit breaker operates correctly without immediately tripping and restores power to the circuit, it indicates successful installation.

Congratulations! You have successfully replaced a GFCI circuit breaker. Your electrical system can now function safely and efficiently.


In this article, we delved into the step-by-step process of replacing a GFCI circuit breaker. By recognizing the symptoms of a faulty circuit breaker, gathering the necessary tools, and following a systematic approach, you can ensure your safety and maintain a robust electrical system. Remember always to exercise caution, wear personal protective equipment, and shut off power to the circuit before commencing any electrical work. By taking these precautions and following the instructions provided, you can confidently replace a GFCI circuit breaker and contribute to a safer electrical environment in your home or workplace.


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