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I have 4 2-prong receptacles in my room and I want to get them converted to 3 prong so that I don't have to use any adaptor for my devices. I opened them and saw that there is no ground wire in these(confirmed with a multimeter as well). I am trying to do this by installing GFCI outlet as I understand from my limited reading that it will provide some level of protection. Now when I went about doing this, I noticed these outlets are chained (not sure the exact kind of chaining but I will try to describe it via below diagram and I have attached the pictues also for each of them).

It would be great if someone can provide some guidance on:

  1. how to go about installing GFCI
  2. Will I be able to install it only in one outlet and it will take care of the rest. If yes, can I just install any non-GFCI for rest of them to get the 3rd pin? Or do all have to be GFCI if I need to use the 3 pin plugs?
  3. Any suggestions on how to do it if I have to install smart switch here? Is it possible?

PS: I only have a multimeter so will be great if you can suggest any checks/measurements using it

diagram showing overview enter image description here

Updated diagram showing opened switch box enter image description here

Image of the opened switch enter image description here

1st receptacle (on/off switch controlled, switch installed on wall) enter image description here

Another image of 1st receptacle showing a green wire which is just left there next to red one (added in case it matters) enter image description here

2nd receptacle enter image description here

3rd receptacle enter image description here

4th and last receptacle having only one line enter image description here

1 Answer 1

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Since the first outlet is switched and the rest are not, you will need to buy two GFCI outlets.

Replace the switched outlet with a GFCI outlet. Put a sticker on it saying "No equipment ground", since the new outlet's ground pin will not be connected to anything. Without that, the GFCI outlet still provides the safety you want but it's important for other reasons to know the ground pin is not connected. Replace all the taped connections with wire nuts or Wagos, whatever you're comfortable with. Just not tape. Make the connections to the outlet's "LIVE" terminals, and do not use the "LOAD" terminals.

Replace the second outlet, the first one in the chain of 3, with a GFCI outlet, with the same sticker. Connect the incoming power wires to the outlet's "LIVE" terminals, and the wires that go to the subsequent outlets to the "LOAD" terminals, then they will be GFCI-protected too.

The other two outlets also need stickers saying "GFCI Protected Outlet". These sticker usually come with the GFCI outlet. You can leave the two-prong outlets and keep using your adapters, now benefiting from the GFCI protection. Or, you can replace them with ordinary 3-prong outlets in which case, put a second sticker on them saying "No equipment ground". Doesn't seem much point if you're already using adapters.

Don't leave any tape connections. New outlets should have provision for two wires per terminal and in some cases that will be all you need, so there will be no tape or wire nuts. Where you do need connectors, leave behind NO tape ones.

Your wall boxes are very small, so a GFCI outlet might not fit. GFCI outlets are not all exactly the same size, look for a smaller ones.

Your other questions make this overall Question too complicated. I have mainly answered question 2. Question 1, look for tutorials on youtube and of course read the instructions. Question 3, I think you should ask a new separate Question with appropriate details once you're comfortable with what we have here so far.

A little background

To understand the answer you need to understand that the ground pin, if it's correctly connected to a ground wire, provides a safety mechanism and a GFCI outlet provides a different safety mechanism that does not require a ground wire. A ground wire does serve both safety and other purposes with a GFCI outlet, but if there is no ground wire the GFCI outlet still provides some safety while the outlet's ground pin does nothing. Some equipment uses ground for purposes other than safety, EG noise reduction in audio equipment, and if you provide three-pin outlets downstream it's important to know that such equipment will not be connected to ground, they will benefit from the GFCI outlet's protection but will not receive the function they need from a real ground connection.

And, for the pedantic ... there is a subtle difference in safety between a GFCI outlet with a ground connection and one without. If equipment with a metal housing develops a live-to-housing fault, with a ground connection the GFCI or the circuit breaker will trip immediately, but without a ground connection the GFCI outlet will wait for a human to be part of the circuit before tripping.

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  • Thank you so much for the detailed reply. Would you have any link which can help me determine line vs load using a multimeter? All suggestions I see requires touching a ground also which believe does not exist in my case. I am slightly confused between these two lines on the safety provided by GFCI "but if there is no ground wire the GFCI outlet still provides some safety" "but without a ground connection the GFCI outlet will wait for a human to be part of the circuit before tripping" Does this mean we can still get a shock before tripping (without ground)? Commented Mar 17 at 23:24
  • would you also be able to help me understand how the setup of 1st receptacle (the one which is on/off controlled) is different? Asking because black wire which I guess is live is taped together and red one is attached to the receptacle Commented Mar 18 at 0:19
  • Wouldn't both the first and second receptacles need to be replaced with GFCI due to the first one being switched? Its load side can't supply downstream receptacles when the switch is off since it has no incoming power at all in that situation. Commented Mar 18 at 3:57
  • @ShashankWankhede "would you also be able to help me understand how the setup of 1st receptacle" It appears to be a switch loop. Power flows from the incoming black hot wire through the switch via the outgoing black hot wire and then doubles back to the receptacle via the red switched-hot wire. The incoming hot also continues on to the other receptacles through the switch box (though not through the switch itself). Commented Mar 18 at 4:20
  • @MilesBudnek oh .... good point. I thought they were all switched. Only two cables in the first box, I guess the other outlets come off the unswitched power from the switch box? Strange arrangement but I think you're right. If the switch box has space you could do this with a GFCI deadfront there, otherwise you need two. Or a GFCI breaker.
    – jay613
    Commented Mar 18 at 11:03

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