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Can I Install A GFCI Outlet Without A Ground Wire?

You’ve moved into an older house with 2 wire circuits. Having a GFCI receptacle might be able to help eradicate the limitations. However, you are not sure if it’s possible.

Can I install a GFCI outlet without a ground wire?

“Yes, you can,” is the simple and direct answer. A GFCI receptacle is a better option than using a 2-prong outlet.  GFCI outlets don’t require any ground wires to operate. It can safeguard you against potential short circuits. It’ll not, however, protect your devices from static electricity.

Got your curiosity up? Good! We’re not done yet! This article will walk you through the process of installing GFCI outlets without a ground wire.

Let’s get going then!

Is It Possible To Install GFCI Outlets Without A Ground Wire?

It’s possible to install GFCI outlets without the use of a ground wire. 

Many old houses that predate the implementation of updated NEC laws usually have 2 wire circuits. The NEC requires all outlets in the house that run 15-20amp, 120V to be grounded. However, it has exempted the older houses from fulfilling the requirements.

Having such an outdated setup runs the risk of frequent short circuits and other electrical accidents. That’s where the topic of GFCI outlets pops up. Although not the ideal solution, a GFCI receptacle can be a better alternative.

GFCI outlets can save you from running the risk of potential short circuits and electrical shocks. What it can’t do is provide electrical devices immunity from power surges.

How To Install GFCI Outlets On An Ungrounded Circuit?

The flow of the electrical current is always monitored by the GFCI outlet. If the flow of current exceeds the preset limit of the circuit, the breaker trips. Tripping is a safety mechanism that triggers a failsafe to prevent any kind of electrical accident. 

But due to having no ground wires, the GFCI outlet can’t avoid damage from power surges. The ground wire routes the surplus current to the earth. Without the ground wire, it’s simply not possible to save the electrical appliances from power surges.

Do you want to find the best GFCI outlets on the market? Why not take a look at the products we recommend you-


These GFCI receptacles offer long lifetimes and a real-time indication of the state of the circuit.

We now know that a GFCI outlet can be installed without a ground wire. Let’s now get to the installation process of GFCI outlets without a ground wire-

Turning Off Power

First, we’ll cut off all the power from the receptacle. We can accomplish this by turning off the power at the breaker box. Working on outlets that have the power on is not safe. Use a voltmeter to check the outlet before proceeding further in the operation.

Replacing The Outlets

Once you’ve turned off the power, it’s time to remove the ungrounded electrical outlet. Unscrew the old outlet and detach all the wires in the receptacle. Separate the hot wires, which are black, from the neutral wire(white).

Wiring The Outlet

GFCI outlets come with two sets of terminals- LINE and LOAD terminals.

There’s an easy way to distinguish the two terminals from each other. The terminals are usually labeled on the back of the receptacles. LOAD terminals are typically covered with tape.

Locate the black wire (hot) from the old outlet. Take the black outlet and connect it to the GFCI’s brass terminal.

Similarly, take the white wire (neutral)and connect it to the silver terminal.  

As there is no ground wire available, we’ll leave the ground terminal unattended. 

Labeling The GFCI Outlet

You must label the GFCI outlet as ‘not grounded’ after screwing the outlet in the wall. The manufacturers often provide a label along with the outlet for this specific circumstance.

The label will read “No Equipment Ground”. This will warn people of the unreliability of the outlet from the power surge.

And that’ll do! You now have a GFCI outlet connected with no ground wire. It surely works like an upgraded electrical outlet!

How To Identify The Hot Wires?

It’s easy to wire the outlet if you only have two wires. However, if you end up having four sets of wires, identifying the hot can be tough. 

Disconnect the outlet and separate the wires. After separating the wires, turn the power back on again. Use a multimeter to identify the wires that are hot.

After connecting a black and a white wire, test the multimeter. If the multimeter shows 0 volts, repeat the process with another combination. Keep trying until you hit 115V in the multimeter.

After hitting the 115V, turn the breaker off and mark the wires using tape. Connect the combination to the brass and silver terminals respectively. Likewise, connect the load pair to the load terminal.

After the procedure is finished, turn on the power.

Handling electrical equipment is a very risky task. Unless you’re comfortable with handling electrical wires, don’t try operating by yourself. Use the services of a professional electrician to complete the task.

Make sure to always label an ungrounded outlet. It’ll caution everyone about the outlet not being grounded.


Question: Are ground wires really necessary?

Answer: Although not strictly necessary, ground wires are an important aspect of the wiring of circuits. A ground wire provides a route for electrical current if conventional paths are unavailable. Not having a ground wire adds to the risk of having a power surge.

Question: Why does my GFCI outlet show yellow light?

Answer: It’s because the circuit has possibly tripped due to excess electrical current. The yellow light works as an indication of a tripped circuit. Another reason for glowing yellow lights is if the receptacle nears the end of its lifespan. You’ll have to replace the old receptacle with a new one.

Question: What happens if you run 240v devices on a 120v?

Answer: Running a 240v device on an inferior voltage will result in a subpar electrical supply. In some cases, the devices won’t even start. Providing a device with less electrical current than its recommended demand hampers the performance of the device.


Can I install a GFCI outlet without a ground wire? If you’ve read the complete article from A-Z, you sure can!

That brings us to the end. Hope you found great value from this content. We’re looking forward to your valuable opinion in the comments.

Have a great day!