Filed under Wiring GFI Outlets
Home » Electrical Wiring Directory » Wiring GFI Outlets » 8 Comments
« Hairdryer Outlet and GFI Safety Requirement Replacing Ungrounded Outlets with a GFI »

Installing a GFCI Outlet Without a Ground Wire


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Install a GFCI Outlet Without a Ground Wire: Installing a GFCI Outlet Where There is No Ground Wire, Can I install a GFCI outlet on a 2wire circuit that does not have a ground wire?


GFCI Protection Without a Ground Wire

Electrical Question: Can I install a GFCI outlet on a 2wire circuit that does not have a ground wire?

I work in a lot of older homes with a 2 wire circuits. Is a GFI outlet able to be legal on a 2 wire system? If not how do I make it work?

Additional Comments: I’m glad I found your site, I’ve learned a few things and refreshed on a few things.
Background: Donald, a Handyman from Lackawanna, New York.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Donald.

How to Install a GFCI Outlet Without a Ground Wire

GFCI Outlet

Application: Wiring a GFCI Outlet.
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate – Best installed by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Tool Pouch and a Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and the number of GFI outlets that will be installed.
Precaution: Identify the outlet circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before wiring the GFI outlet.
Notice: Installing additional outlet circuit wiring should be done according to local and national electrical GFCI Codes with a permit and be inspected.

Installing a GFCI Outlet Where There is No Ground Wire

  • Yes, a GFCI Outlet can be installed even if a ground wire is not available in the existing electrical circuit.
  • The GFCI outlet must be marked with a provided label that the outlet is not grounded.
  • The GFCI will still protect the user against ground fault just the same.
  • This method is legal and compliant with the electrical code.
  • This is ideal for these locations:
    • Kitchen outlets
    • Bathroom outlets
    • Garage Outlets
    • Outdoor outlets
  • PLEASE NOTE: Installing an outlet using this procedure will not create or provide a ground path for three wire grounded devices. This practice only provides GFCI protection against ground fault.

I have provided the following resources that lead to fully detailed information on this website that will assist you with your electrical question:

More about Wiring  GFCI Outlets

GFCI Wiring
GFCI Wiring

GFCI Outlet Wiring

  • This list of articles will help you learn about the features and benefits provided by GFI
  • GFCI Receptacles
  • and how they are wired

Electrical Outlets


« Why Lights Dim When the Central Unit Starts How Do I Connect The Wires For An Oven? »


Learn How to Wire it Right with my
Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring
Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handywomen, and Electricians
Includes:
Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electrical Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
Troubleshooting and Repair Electrical Wiring
Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
Electrical Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
....and much more.

» Click here to learn more about Home Electrical Wiring «
  repair electrical wiring  


Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all projects.

FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

8 Responses to “Installing a GFCI Outlet Without a Ground Wire”
  1. sandi says:

    I had to replace a non functioning GFCI outlet in an old home. The old GFCI which was installed in 1977 had a ground wire attached to the screw that holds the outlet in place. Of course the electric circuit is two wire so I setup the new GFCI the same way. The tester that I am using shows that I’m good to go. But now, the breaker trips when using the GFCI or any outlet that is on the same breaker. I had a electrician come out but he did not have any spare time, however he advised me to have all the wiring in the house brought up to date. There isn’t any money in our budget for that. Any suggestions?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Sandi,
      The tripping circuit breaker of the GFCI outlet and other outlets is most likely due to a problem with the wiring to the outlets or another problem within the circuit wiring. Installing a ground wire from the GFCI outlet ground screw to the mounting screw of the outlet really is not necessary if the circuit does not contain a bonded ground source. Electrical troubleshooting will be required to find the problem so it may be corrected to prevent the tripping circuit breaker. The problem may be where a portion of an uninsulated wire is coming into contact with the another wire of the circuit and causing a direct short, however this type of problem can be corrected by repositioning the wires and gently folding the wires into the back portion of the outlet box before installing the outlet.
      As the electrician has mentioned, it would be good to upgrade the home electrical wiring when possible.
      I hope this helps,
      Dave

  2. George says:

    When a GFI outlet is installed without an equipment ground and properly labeled as such, will one of the inexpensive GFI testers sold at home improvement centers still test and verify proper operation? The problem we are experiencing is that when the tester is initially plugged in, it shows “open ground” which is to be expected; however, when the test button is pressed to test the GFI feature, it does not trip the GFI and gives a partial “hot/neu reverse” indication (One of the illuminated lights is dim.). We replaced the entire outlet (which includes a switch for a vanity light) and the new outlet is giving the exact same indications. If, as I suspect, the tester cannot accurately verify proper operation of the GFI, what is the recommended method for testing it?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi George,
      What you are explaining is accurate and normal for a GFCI outlet that does not have a ground wire. In this situation, one way to test the GFCI is to use an induction type voltage tester. Plug an extension cord into an outlet that does have a ground, bring the end of the extension cord to the GFCI outlet to be tested, and then connect one lead wire of the induction voltage tester into the ground of the extension cord, and the other lead wire of the tester into the small blade power prong of the GFCI outlet and this will trip the GFCI outlet. If the GFCI outlet is located in a bathroom or kitchen and the water facet is nearby, then use the same procedure as explained above, except use any grounded metal part of the facet as the ground source. The same test may be accomplished using a grounded drain pipe. Be aware that testing to a facet or drain pipe will not work if the home plumbing is plastic or a non-metalic material that does not have a connection to earth ground. The key for the normal operation and testing of a GFCI is that a ground source must be present.
      I hope this helps,
      Dave

  3. Sonia says:

    If im installing a GFCI receptacle with no ground wire do i put the black hot brass wire on the green screw where the ground would go if i had one?

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Sonia,
      If there is no ground wire available then nothing connects to the ground terminal on the GFI outlet.
      The Black wire of the 120 volt circuit attaches to the Brass screw terminal, designated LINE.
      The White Neutral wire of the 120 volt circuit attaches to the Silver screw terminal, designated LINE.
      If the GFI outlet will not have a ground wire then the label which states this must be attached.
      Electrical Codes may apply for specific areas.
      Dave

  4. Ray McGee says:

    Can I use a gfci for a 230v 30a A/C ? The house I’m in has an outlet for the AC I had before , but my new unit has a different plug , so I got the correct outlet and I haven’t saw a ground wire ( I just removed the cover I haven’t gone any further yet ) unless the ground is hooked to the metal box I don’t see one. How can I fix this?

    • admin says:

      Hi Ray,
      Using a GFCI will not create a ground, so I would not recommend this. A typical air conditioner unit does not require GFCI protection, however it does require an equipment ground so I would investigate the circuit further to see if a ground wire is available, and if not then one should be added.
      Alternatively, a new circuit may be installed which provides the necessary ground wire.
      Dave


8 Comments

Thanks for your Comments and Quick Questions!

Please make sure your question is about the topic on this page, which is:
Installing a GFCI Outlet Without a Ground Wire


Comments or questions posted here are open for Quality Discussion and Participation - Spam will be deleted.



*