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Old 07-28-2009, 07:38 AM   #1
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


I decided to upgrade a few of my circuits to have GFI protection. I planed originally to change the first outlet on each circuit in question with a GFCI one, or add a GFCI outlet near the beginning of the circuit if that makes more sense.

I know there are GFCI circuit breakers that will protect the circuit, and it seems to make more sense to install those instead of an outlet. I have never done any work inside a breaker box, and I don't know if I should be.

Should this type of thing be done by a licensed electrician, or is it something I can do myself as a homeowner? Or should I stick with my original plan to use outlets?

I have done basic electrical work (changing outlets/fixtures, adding a new branch off a circuit to a switched light).

One more question...why isn't every circuit GFCI protected by default? It seems to make sense. Is it cost?

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Old 07-28-2009, 07:43 AM   #2
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


Some circuits are required to be GFCI portected
Other circuits are now required to be AFCI protected

What circuits are you going to protect w/GFCI?
They may need AFCI instead - bedrooms + others

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Old 07-28-2009, 07:49 AM   #3
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


Hmm - never heard of AFCI - shows what I know

The circuits I want to protect are in the basement, bathrooms and garage. I wouldn't mind having some sort of protection on all outlets, though.
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Old 07-28-2009, 08:01 AM   #4
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


Unfinished basement receptacles, garage receptacles, kitchen receptacles and bathroom receptacles are the only places inside the home that need GFCI protection.

Changing a breaker isn't all that complicated. Assuming your wiring has grounds? Be sure to do one at a time and kill the main breaker so your bussbar is not hot just to be safe. It is possible to roll in new breakers with the bussbar hot but it is not a good idea for DIYers.

If you're working in a subpanel (the main disconnect is elsewhere in/on the house) be sure you know how to handle the neutral and the ground.

Yes this can be done by a DIYer but it is not recommended for anyone but DIYers with an intimate understanding of residential electrical systems.

Replacement of breakers does require an electric permit in most areas per the requirements of the NEC code. Good to have a pro come in and check your work to make sure it is right. Just because the lights come on and the receptacles work doesn't mean it is wired right!
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Old 07-28-2009, 08:05 AM   #5
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


I don't think I have the intimate understanding necessary, now that I think about it. For the GFCI circuits (basement, bathroom, kitchen, garage) I'll just change/add an outlet to each circuit.

As for Arc Fault (I just read about them), do they make AFCI outlets that protect that protect the circuit from that point down? Why do only bedrooms have to be protected?
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Old 07-28-2009, 08:29 AM   #6
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


Bathrooms, Garage, basement, kitchen counter top circuits do need the GFCI. I prefer the outlets as they can be reset at location instead of going back to the breaker panel

At present AFCI is only available in breaker
There are different rules for NEC 2008 on where they are required
Bedrooms are one, there are more - just not 100% sure on which other areas/rooms now require them

My 1st breaker/circuit installation I had someone present who knew what they were doing. It helped a great deal in understanding what to do, what not to do & the dangers present in a breaker panel
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Old 07-28-2009, 08:51 AM   #7
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


Thanks for the responses. Yeah, if I decide to change breakers I'll either get someone who knows, or hire an electrician and watch him. For now, I'll just upgrade circuits with GFCI outlets.

Is there any reason NOT to gfci protect an indoor circuit (other than wasted money)? Can I put an AFCI breaker on a circuit that has a GFCI outlet to get both types of protection on 1 circuit?
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Old 07-28-2009, 09:34 AM   #8
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


GFCI as I understand it is mainly for instances when there is water nearby (or possibility of water) &/Or possibility of a ground fault. IE - on damp cement you could have a problem too (even if cement does not seem damp)

In other cases GFCI's are installed when it is an older circuit & only has a 2 prong outlet & 2 wire feed

I do not know of any added benefit in areas where these instances do not apply

Possibly someone else might have some input?
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Old 07-28-2009, 09:51 AM   #9
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


I thought any time more electricity was coming in via the HOT wire than back out via the Neutral wire (aside from the normal differentia)l it would trip. Doesn't this mean that if I were to accidentally touch a live wire, and some current was being routed to my body instead of back down the neutral line, it would trip. Just because this situation is more likely in areas that are prone to being wet, wouldn't I still gain some theoretical safety by GFCI-protecting even circuits that should always remain dry?
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:05 AM   #10
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


Yes, you can install them where they aren't required. But there are some things you probably shouldn't do:

Don't put all of the lights in a room on a GFCI... if it trips you'll be in the dark, not much safety gained by that!

Don't put a refrigerator or freezer on GFCI if you can help it. The newest code forces you to do this sometimes, but I still think it's a bad idea. If it trips and no one notices, your food will go bad. Food poisioning is probably a bigger risk than a metal-cased, properly grounded, freezer or fridge electrocuting you, IMHO.

Try to avoid putting computers (especially more than one) on a GFCI/AFCI... the switching power supplies leak small amounts current and can cause nuisance tripping.

Smoke detectors... this is a little controversial, but I would rather a smoke detector be on a regular circuit. The new code requires them to be on an AFCI, some areas require you put the lighting on the same circuit so that you know if it trips, others require the smokes on dedicated AFCI... you'll hardly ever realize if it trips, but I guess the idea is that it won't ever trip with no outlets on it.

Also be aware that the 2008 code requires AFCIs on nearly every circuit, and you can get AFCIs that have GFCI functions as well. If you are going to be moving many of your circuits to GFCI, might be best to just go to AFCI instead. Be aware that they are much more likely to falsely trip than a straight GFCI.
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:11 AM   #11
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


Thanks for all that, Gigs. Great points.

What about a dishwasher and electric water heater? I'd think definitely yes for a dishwasher, not sure about the water heater, as an incidental trip would be irritating.

I don't think I'll bother with new breakers just yet. I'll just add GFCI outlets near the beginnings of a few high-risk (wet area) circuits.
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Old 07-28-2009, 11:35 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by secutanudu View Post
Thanks for all that, Gigs. Great points.

What about a dishwasher and electric water heater? I'd think definitely yes for a dishwasher, not sure about the water heater, as an incidental trip would be irritating.

I don't think I'll bother with new breakers just yet. I'll just add GFCI outlets near the beginnings of a few high-risk (wet area) circuits.
Well just remember that you don't really put GFCI on circuits that aren't 15 or 20 amps.

Outlets are probably the main thing to protect, lighting... meh, some poeple GFCI outdoor lighting, but indoor lighting there's really no reason to, unless there's outlets on the same circuit.
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Old 07-28-2009, 11:41 AM   #13
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Can I replace a breaker w/ gfci myself


I already protected half of my basement with a gfci outlet because this will be feeding my outdoor light. The local electrical inspector told me I only need a 12" deep trench if the circuit is GFI protected, 18" if it isn't.

A $15 GFCI outlet is worth not having to dig 6 more inches, not to mention safer. Not to mention this circuit also feeds like 5 outlets in my basement.

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