wiring non-gfci in gfci outlet box (i know, flame suit on!)

adam12hicksJuly 13, 2014

Hi guys, first off - no I would never replace a GFCI outlet with a non-GFCI outlet, but I *think* this should be fine, just need an opinion and a quick how-to.

I have home automation switches which fit in a single gang outlet box, and use only the black and white wires to connect to the home. They do not require a ground, and do not control a load themselves. They have pushbuttons on the front, with illuminated buttons, which send signals through the neutral line to other devices instructing those lights to turn on, off, etc.

SO - I have a need to be able to conveniently control the kitchen lighting (all part of the system via controlled load switches already installed) from the kitchen counter, without needing to walk a good ways around to the light switches. This could be easily performed by installing one of these controllers - so I want to install one in a power outlet, since I have plenty and can sacrifice one easily.

My question is this - since I have 2 hot / 2 neutral / 1 ground, but only need 1 hot / 1 neutral to run this electrical controller, how (or should) I wire it in to keep the rest of the system functional throughout the circuit? If I simply connect 1xwhite and 1xblack (as I would if I were placing this in a non-GFCI outlet without issue) it doesn't work.

I hope this made sense? I appreciate anyone's input that could shed some light so I don't do anything stupid ;-)

A picture of the device is here: http://www.homeauto.com/Products/hlc/HouseControllers.asp - again, note that this will not control any load or be susceptible to a water short / etc.

I appreciate any advice on whether or not this can / should be attempted!

Fort Worth, TX

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Ron Natalie

I'm missing something. There are two issues here:

First, the GFCI may be protecting downstream receptacles on the same circuit. You can't remove this without providing protection elsewhere (like a GFCI breaker).

Second, the receptacle you seek to remove may be required to be there by code. The code abhors extension cords so there are strict requirements for placements (which are even more stringent in the kitchen than other rooms).

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 1:16PM
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I know you might think that it's a simple question, but it's not. And I understand the kind of home automation devices you are referencing, but without detailed knowledge of what you actually already have installed it's very difficult to give you any reliable device. I'm all for DIY, but not when it comes to making changes in your home wiring that may result in an unsafe situation as explained above by ronnatalie. I strongly suggest you at least consult an electrician before doing the kinds of modifications you are describing.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 2:15PM
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Thanks guys. The system consists of autonomous switch replacements throughout the house which 'listen' for pulses sent along the neutral line. Technology is called UPB and is very common in home automation.

Effectively this would be like installing a nightlight replacement in the outlet or something like that. Very low power draw device that does not control any load.

Admitted I don't understand the inner workings of the GFCI system. Home is 3 years old and there are probably 12 GFI outlets throughout the kitchen and island area. I just wanted to pull power from one of them, hoping to simply 'jump' or connect the gfci from this outlet as if it were never there.

I appreciate the advice and warnings though. I certainly have no desire to make the home unsafe.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 2:32PM
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Ok I have it working fine... don't see any risk. There were the 2x white / 2x black + ground, and I had tried to run the device accidentally using a line and neutral from different lines, which obviously doesn't work. Straightened that out, and capped off the other white and black (to me, would be no different than having an outlet without anything plugged in / just a broken/open circuit) and everything works as expected. I tested the other GFI outlets and they all test / reset from the individual switches as expected.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 4:10PM
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Your further description helps. The simplest safe fix I can think of is that you put a new receptacle box in close to one of the existing boxes and run a feed wire to it from one of the GFCI receptacle boxes (if that existing box has enough room to not violate the boxfill requirements by adding another cable). Or you temporarily disconnect one of the GFCI receptacles, pull the box, and replace it with a double box; then you reinstall the GFCI and have a space for your controller. Either way you aren't disconnecting something without knowing the consequences. But I do suggest you get an electrician involved if you haven't done rewiring before and/or installed a new box in existing walls.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 4:16PM
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It seems that if you capped off a white and a black wire in the box you must have disconnected something down-stream.

One suggestion: You could have removed the GFCI and pigtailed off the white and black to power your new switch. You would have lost GFCI protection for outlets downstream (possibly a code violation), but would have kept them operational.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 7:03AM
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capped off the other white and black (to me, would be no different than having an outlet without anything plugged in / just a broken/open circuit)
There is a difference. That white/black was feeding something else. Something in your house no longer has power. How was the GFCI hooked up? Were these 2 wires attached to the 'load' side of the GFCI?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:44AM
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Thanks guys, for the assist. I understand the concern of something being dead downstream and it makes perfect sense.

The power outlet had two whites on top, two blacks on bottom. I assume from that that if these two whites and two blacks were tied together and capped off, it would be as if there was no outlet ever there correct? I could certainly test with a multi-meter as one pair of white/black should be hot and one set dead/cold?

Thanks again guys. This outlet won't have any appliances or anything plugged into it, so think of it as me simply wanting to remove the outlet and tie it off.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:58AM
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I assume from that that if these two whites and two blacks were tied together and capped off, it would be as if there was no outlet ever there correct

That is true. However the way it was set up, this GFCI was protecting the downstream outlets.
If you remove the GFCI and cap the black/white wires that fed the downstream outlets, the outlets will no longer have power.
If you remove the GFCI and tie the blacks together and the whites together, the downstream outlets will still have power but they will no longer be protected by the GFCI.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Thanks again... I should add that every outlet in the kitchen has test / reset buttons on them. So tying these two pairs together should simply bypass the outlet as if nothing had ever been there correct? I think I'm in ok shape from that standpoint. I could have done a simple continuity test on the two neutral or line screws on the switch to confirm that this was a pass-through for the line or neutral. And then test voltage on the lines. This is all making more sense now so I appreciate everyone's advice.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 12:04PM
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If all of your outlets are GFCIs AND they all are set up to protect the downstream devices, then that is a very poor way to have it wired up.
If a ground fault occurs, a random GFCI device in the stream will trip and you'd have to go around to every device and test/reset them until you find the one that tripped.

But that's an aside. If you are POSITIVE that there is nothing downstream of the outlet you removed that should be GFCI protected and now isn't, then the only problem now is that you've probably violated the code that specifies that any spot along a counter top must be less than 2 feet from an outlet (ie 4 feet between outlets).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 1:09PM
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