I am changing out another regular outlet to a GFCI outlet and the existing outlet had the four wire connection using all the terminals. It is an older condo and there are no grounds. So I thought I would wire the four (two white and two black) the exact way on the new GFCI. The green light is on but no power in the new GFCI outlet and I cannot push the "test" button. I have seen mixed responses to similar questions, so I wanted to pose my exact situation. It is a new Leviton 15A GFCI and based on some other responses to other questions it sounds like I should try to switch the connections (reversing them top to bottom), which I will try when I get back down there, but I am not replacing another GFCI outlet and if the regular outlet replaced has the metal connections intact between the side terminals, I would not think that should matter, but perhaps it does. Any thoughts or confirmations would be appreciated, I wanted to ask before I swap the wires around (not hot for neutral, but line for load).

  • 1
    You took the tape off the GFCI's 'Load' terminals and used them didn't you?
    – brhans
    May 15 '19 at 17:33
  • The tabs being broken off absolutely matters. The fact that you check for that is good. May 15 '19 at 22:59
  • Don't forget to add the "no equipment ground" sticker on it once it does work. May 16 '19 at 9:39

Regular receptacles have screws for splits (one switched, one always on or two switched but different circuits or two on separate circuits for higher total power) & for convenience (the way you and most people use them). GFCIs can't do splits and use them for convenience to connect another receptacle only by properly identifying and using LINE vs. LOAD.

Two ways to do this:

Line Only

This is by far the simplest. Pigtail the two blacks together with a short piece of black wire and connect it to the hot screw on the LINE side of the GFCI. Pigtail the two whites together and connect to the neutral screw on the LINE side of the GFCI. Nothing goes on the LOAD side. The new receptacle is protected. No other receptacles on the circuit are protected by this GFCI.

Line and Load

You need to identify which hot & neutral goes back to the panel and which goes on to another receptacle. There are a number of ways to do that - simplest typically is to disconnect all 4 wires, turn the breaker on and see which wires cause a non-contact tester to light up. Connect the "panel" (may be other receptacles in between, and that's OK) wires to the LINE side and the other wires to the LOAD side. Now the new receptacle and everything following it via the LOAD side is protected.

Note that the second method is generally OK and provides additional protection. However, if any of the LOAD side receptacles are things you don't want on a GFCI - e.g., anything like a refrigerator that would have problems if there were a trip of the GFCI and you didn't know about it for a while - then go with the first method.

  • Great, thanks for the info. I think I will reverse the line and load first to see if it powers the outlet and then try to find out what is downstream of the new outlet. If it works and I do not want the downstream protection, I will do the pigtail method you suggest. Thanks much again.
    – Treeraiser
    May 15 '19 at 19:25
  • 1
    Looking up one Leviton 15A GFCI, it should be clearly marked for line (usually top), load (usually bottom), hot (brass or black screws), neutral (silver screws). Make sure whichever wires are on Line (and also for Load) is a matched pair of wires - i.e., black & white from one cable or from the same conduit. Mix & match and it will work on a non-GFCI but won't work here. May 15 '19 at 20:12

Never hook up wires based on wire position. That will especially get you in trouble on a 3-way switch! Screw colors are better, but on a GFCI, fuggedaboutit. GFCIs are complicated, and you should either attach everything to the LINE terminals, or know exactly what you're doing with LOAD. "It feeds the rest of my circuit" is not enough, becuase the "rest of your circuit" can have problems that will trip the GFCI.

The good news is, most GFCIs support 2 wires per screw, using a "screw-to-clamp" method. So you can land 2 wires on LINE if called or.

Hook up LINE first. Then stop and test.

The problem is that you are presuming that all the wires must go somewhere. That will ultimately be true, yes, but you need to only hook up LINE for now.

Once the GFCI is fully operational, powers up, tests, resets etc. with some wires attached to LINE, you can think about hooking up the other wires.

If you hook up any wires to LOAD, and the GFCI trips, which it may well do, then you know that the new wires you added are the problem, and either the wire arrangement is wrong, or there's a wiring defect down the line that the GFCI is detecting.

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