This article discusses how to add ground-fault (GFCI) protection to a ConnectSense In-Wall Outlet.
Please consult an electrician before proceeding.
Most local building codes require ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection on electrical outlets in areas where a water source is present. GFCI protection can also be required in work areas and outdoors.
The ideal solution would be to use a smart in-wall outlet that has built-in GFCI protection, but due to the size constraints of a duplex outlet it is not currently possible to make such a device. If you are using the ConnectSense In-Wall Outlet and your application or local building code requires GFCI protection, then this article steps you through the process of adding GFCI protection to the In-Wall Outlet.
GFCI is short for ground-fault circuit interrupter. A GFCI device is designed to protect you from electrical shock and fatal electrocution. A GFCI outlet or breaker monitors the flow of current. If it detects a ground fault (an unintentional electrical path to the ground) it will immediately cut the power, to protect the user. Sometimes a GFCI device is also referred to as a GFI (a gound-fault interrupter). There is no difference between a GFI and a GFCI device, although GFCI is the more commonly used term.
There are 3 main types of GFCI devices in use today:
- GFCI outlets (receptacles)
- GFCI breakers, which are installed in the electrical panel
- Portable GFCI outlets (integrated into an extension cord)
A GFCI device detects an unintentional electrical path by comparing the input current on the hot side to the output current on the neutral side. If there’s the slightest difference in current, even a few milliamps, then there is a ground fault. To protect the user in this situation, the GFCI device very quickly cuts the power, within 20-30 milliseconds, greatly reducing the risk of electrical shock and fatal electrocution.
Local building code
Most local building codes follow the National Electrical Code (NEC) but every local code can be different. The local building code always takes precedence over the NEC when there are differences, so be sure to check with your local building department for the specific code requirements when installing GFCI protection.
The National Electrical Code requires GFCI protection for all receptacles (outlets) likely to come in contact with moisture. This includes installation in the following area:
- swimming pool areas
- hot tubs
- outdoor areas
- laundry and utility rooms
- wet bar sink areas
- unfinished basements
This list is not complete and does change. Check the local building code for the exact CFCI outlet installation requirements that apply to your property.
Protecting the ConnectSense In-Wall Outlet
The ConnectSense In-Wall Outlet allows you to control devices with your voice, check if you remembered to turn off the heater, or schedule your lights to come on so you never come home to a dark house. It's also useful for energy monitoring and control. We designed our In-Wall Outlet to replace standard outlets in the home and office.
There are two methods for adding GFCI protection to the ConnectSense In-Wall Outlet:
- Wiring the In-Wall Outlet as a slave to a GFCI outlet
- Installing a GFCI breaker in the electrical panel to protect circuits that use the In-Wall Outlet
Wiring an In-Wall Outlet as a slave to a GFCI outlet
GFCI outlets are wired to the power source using 3 wires. The Hot and Neutral wires are connected to the terminals marked LINE. A ground wire is connected to the green terminal on the outlet. This provides power to the GFCI outlet and therefore powers and protects anything plugged into the GFCI outlet.
The GFCI outlet also allows other standard (non-GFCI) outlets to be connected such that they are protected from ground faults as well. Standard outlets are wired to the LOAD terminals on the GFCI outlet which carry power to and GFCI protect all the outlets wired off of these terminals. To wire an In-Wall Outlet to the Load side of a GFCI outlet simply wire a hot wire (usually Black) off of the load Hot side to one of the Line terminals on the IWO. Also, wire a Neutral wire (usually White) off of the load neutral side to one of the Neutral terminals on the IWO. See figure 1
Many of the building codes require you to add a marking or sticker to the front side (visible to anyone plugging into the outlet) of all standard non-GFCI outlets that are wired and protected off of the load side of a GFCI outlet. The sticker must state GFCI Protected. Check with your local building department for the specific code requirements when installing GFCI-protected standard outlets. GFCI-protected stickers are usually provided with the GFCI device.
Installing a GFCI breaker in the electrical panel
A standard circuit breaker is used in the electrical panel as a safety device to protect against electrical fires. That protection occurs when the circuit wires in your house are overloaded with electrical current that exceed the current rating of the wire. The overcurrent causes the wire to heat up and can start a fire. The circuit breaker protects against this by cutting the power when the actual current exceeds the current rating on the breaker. The standard circuit breaker does not provide any protection against ground faults that can cause shock and electrocution.
To GFCI-protect an entire circuit you can use a GFCI circuit breaker. The GFCI breaker protects against overcurrent as well as ground faults. The GFCI breaker protects the entire circuit, including the wiring and all lights, outlets, and appliances connected to that circuit.
You can easily identify a GFCI breaker in the electrical panel. If the breaker is GFCI protected, there will be a "push here to test" button located on the face of the individual breaker. There is also a curly white wire that comes out of the GFCI breaker that gets wired to the neutral bar.
An important point to mention is that if a circuit is using a GFCI breaker you do not need to use GFCI receptacles on the same circuit. A GFCI circuit breaker protects the entire branch circuit and everything connected to it including any ConnectSense Smart In-Wall Outlets. If you have multiple outlets and IWOs that need GFCI protection then a GFCI breaker is a good option.
For a good reference on the differences between a GFCI outlet and a GFCI breaker, see the Spruce article “GFCI Receptacle vs GFCI Circuit Breaker: What's the Difference?”
To install a GFCI breaker it is recommended that a licensed Electrician be used. For a good article on how to install and wire a GFCI breaker, see the Hunker on “How to Wire a GFCI Circuit Breaker”
For more information on the ConnectSense In-Wall Outlet, see