Changing a low voltage razor plug to a GFI

 

If you live in an older home chances are you will have a razor plug in you washroom. I would say about 40 % of the older homes I inspect will have a low voltage razor plug in place. There are several issues with these plugs which I will discuss below.   I always recommend changing the razor plug to a GFI or ground fault interrupter. These devices have been in use for a decade or so and have saved a lot of lives through their built in safety circuitry. Besides the benefit of being much safer, they run on 110 volts like all the rest of your receptacles and as such they will power all the tools mentioned below.  I don’t want to pretend to understand or try to explain all the technology that goes into these older receptacles, I just want to point out a few of the draw backs to the razor plugs so you can see how to upgrade them if you wish.

First of all the razor plugs incorporate circuitry that limits the load capacity of the electricity that is available to be used. From what I understand the razor plug idea was designed as a safety device because it was located near the bathroom sink where shocks are more likely. By producing less amperage of electricity the homeowner is less likely to die if electrocuted. I have read that the razor receptacle has a built in fuse that will burn out if overloaded.  The conversion process in this mall receptacle from regular household power supply to lower amperage uses energy and a lot of heat is given off as a result which I often detect with my thermal camera. Secondly these receptacles only have room for two prongs so any grounded three prong plug will not fit into the receptacle.  A third drawback is that the reduced amerage is not enough to power today’s bathroom tools such as curling irons and hair dryers. In fact you could damage these devices or the receptacle if you use them in a razor only plug receptacle.

The obstacle to changing these old razor plugs is that they were wired inside a double wide electrical box. This means you need to find a double wide GFI receptacle to fill the box. The best solution is to buy a kit designed specifically for the job. Most building supply stores will have these kits and depending upon your expertise and willingness, can be installed by the homeowner. Upon searching the internet I came across a wonderful website with step by step instructions for this exact job. http://www.electrical-online.com/how-to-replace-a-razor-only-receptacle-with-a-gfci/

Hire an electrician if you are uncomfortable in this area.  If you decide to do it yourself,  remember to turn off the power before attempting the changeover and as always be safe.

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