Why Refrigerator Keeps Tripping gFCI Outlet

What to do when your refrigerator keeps tripping GFCI outlet (plug). Unless you catch it right away, the refrigerator tripping a GFCI can cause many problems. Not only will your food spoil if not caught in time, but it will keep happening if you don’t find out why it’s tripping in the first place.

There are different reasons why this may be happening. Today we’ll discuss common reasons and how to solve the issues.

What is a GFCI and Why are they used?

A GFCI, or ground-fault circuit interrupter, outlet is used in areas of the home that are subjected to water. For example, you’ll commonly find them in bathrooms, kitchens, and garages.

This type of outlet exists to protect people from electrical shock, and should not be confused with a house fuse or breaker.

refrigerator keeps tripping gfci

A fuse or breaker is designed to protect your home from an electrical fire. If the hot (electrified) wire accidentally touches a neutral wire there will be an increased amount of current through the circuit and eventually the fuse will blow before a fire starts.

Unlike the fuse, the GFCI is built-in to the outlet itself.

When an appliance is plugged into these outlets, the amount of power going through the device is monitored.

Let’s say a hair dryer is accidentally dropped into a sink of water, the GFCI will detect the interruption in current and cut all power off, possibly saving a life.

Why Refrigerator Keeps Tripping GFCI

When a refrigerator is plugged into a GFCI there are a few reasons it may keep tripping the outlet.

Nuisance Tripping

Most refrigerators with vapor compression have what are called inductive loads.

When an inductive load is switched off, it can produce electromagnetic interference (EMI). The interference can, and often will, trip a GFCI outlet.

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Also, if you’re dealing with a dedicated circuit that just operates the refrigerator in the kitchen, you can simply remove the GFCI outlet and replace with a standard outlet.

Faults Created by Icemaker or Defrost Heater

Some older model refrigerators aren’t equipped with icemakers or self-defrost functions. However, when they are, they commonly trip GFCI outlets.

Most people with these types of fridges suggest using a non-GFCI outlet.

However, if you have no other choice but to keep the GFCI, it’s best to disable these functions within the fridge.

Ground Fault

A ground fault can be caused by damaged wiring or old appliances allowing electricity to take an unplanned path to the ground.

Such shortcuts can move through conductive items such as metal, which can lead to an electrical shock when you touch them.

When a refrigerator plugged into a GFCI detects this issue, it will trip the GFCI to eliminate a potential hazard.

The important thing to keep in mind that removing the GFCI outlet will only hide the problem, not fix it.

When you notice that the outlet trips every several hours, your refrigerator may have a faulty timed defrost circuit in the freezer.

This is common due to melting ice getting into components.

There is no code-compliant way to fix this issue, other than determining what’s wrong with the fridge and fixing the correct part.

Other Items to Keep in Mind

  • First, it’s important to note that refrigerators in general don’t get along with GCFI outlets. In fact, they’re not required to be attached to one if they are on a dedicated circuit that’s not shared with any other outlets.
  • If your fridge has always been connected to a GFCI outlet and worked, you should begin by replacing the GFCI to see if it simply wore out over time.
  • If the fridge in question is in the garage, remember that most garages don’t have dedicated receptacles or circuits for a fridge. If you need to solve this, it will require rewiring and one or more GFCI outlets.

Why Refrigerator Keeps Tripping Breaker

From overloaded circuits to improper grounding, there are several ways a refrigerator can cause breakers to be tripped.

Before running out and buying a new fridge, check these things.


Perhaps the most common reason for a tripped breaker is a circuit overload.

This simply means the circuit is receiving a higher demand for electricity that it can actually deliver.

When this occurs, you should unplug everything else from the circuit except the fridge. This will tell you if the refrigerator is the problem.

If the circuit continues to operate with only the fridge plugged in, keep investigating.

Short Circuit

A short circuit will occur when two wires inside an appliance or outlet touch each other, thus creating a surge of electricity causing the breaker to trip.

If the breaker tripped as soon as the fridge was plugged in, unplug this appliance and try plugging something else in.

If the second appliance you plugged in works, the short circuit is probably inside the fridge.

If nothing works with the outlet, there are most likely wires behind the receptacle cover causing the problem.

Just remember, the issue can also be inside the wall or the breaker box itself.

Why Refrigerator Trips GFCI on Generator

Much the same as a refrigerator can trip a GFCI outlet inside your home, it can do the same when connected to a generator.

Here are the common reasons this happens.

Ground Fault

If your refrigerator has a ground fault, it will trip the GFCI on your generator every time.

To stop this from occurring you will need to locate the faulty part inside the fridge or freezer and replace it.

Faulty Generator

Regardless of how new the generator is, it could be faulty.

If your machine is still under warranty, it’s a great idea to try to exchange the current one for a replacement.

There are many people who have faced this same issue, and at the end of the day, it was the generator itself.

Electrical Leak

When the GFCI outlet senses electrical “leaks”, where the current is escaping the device and taking a different route to the ground, it will trip the outlet.

Leaks are commonly caused by dust, defective electrical appliances, water, or worn insulation.

Bond or Ground Jumper Issue

Most generators are made with a neutral ground jumper wire.

If you’re hooking the generator to your house this ground jumper will need to be removed to prevent nuisance tripping.

Since your house is already neutral bonded to the ground, the wire is unneeded.

However, if you ever disconnect the unit from the house and use for other purposes, you will have to re-connect the ground jumper.

Have you dealt with refrigerators tripping GFCIs or breakers before?

What was the problem, and how did you fix it? We’d love to hear your thoughts, comment now and let us know.

Reader Comments (13)

  1. Hey just bought a fancy new Bosch refrigerator that draws 3.5 amps versus the old Kenmore that Drew 7.9 amps. Never a problem with the Kenmore tripping the adjacent GFCI outlet. Now, the brand new Bosch Tripps the adjacent GFCI every 3 to 4 minutes… I don’t understand why this is happening if the draw is significantly lower, Nay, HALF of what it was before? Any help is appreciated, thank you!

  2. Hey just bought a fancy new Bosch refrigerator that draws 3.5 amps versus the old Kenmore that Drew 7.9 amps. Never a problem with the Kenmore tripping the Jason GFCI outlet. Now, the brand new Bosch Tripps the adjacent GFCI every 3 to 4 minutes… I don’t understand why this is happening if the draw is significantly lower, Nay, HALF of what it was before? Any help is appreciated, thank you!

  3. My first time I thought I should have FGCI protect my fridge ,I replaced one a bout a week later were tripped like 3-4 time a week. After red this articles I removed it installed with a standard outlet one its been two days now without tripped.

  4. I am glad for this article! We knew GFCIs don’t mix with fridges, but forgot what the wiring in our house was. Brand new LG fridge, boom GFCI keeps popping. So. Annoying. (Thank you building code idiots. Now they require GFCI stoves to be on GFCI by removing the cap on how big an outlet Amperage. Can you imagine, the dumb thing trips during a Thanksgiving turkey or a cake? Thank God it’s all pre-existing. And we aren’t moving.)

    If I lived in CA, I would swap out the GFCI yourself. YouTube it for how to. Put it back before you move. Don’t say anything to anyone. You still have circuit breakers in your fuse box, which will trip.

    I am not a lawyer. Not an insurance agent. Not an electrician (husband does it for us). We moved away from a highly regulated area to avoid this crap…oops I mean absolutely critical safety regs from a non-political group so we all are perfectly safe in our daily lives. 😉

  5. I just bought a new Fridge and I have the same problem as the person above this email. Where can I buy or find a snubber to solve the problem? Also, how can I install it?


    • “Thanks Jim”

      Snubbers come in many forms, and are electro-slang for many kinds of filters.. Most would be internal to a device, so I think what they really refer is a low-pass Line Filter.
      That is, a device that filters high frequencies from the power both in/out of a device… ideally letting only 50/60hz AC through the 2 current conductors.
      Most don’t filter the ground (often the metal case) but just the hot & neutral, but a few do.
      Might wanna google Line Filters & Snubbers a bit.
      Most line-filters eliminate high freq noise to meet UL regs so devices don’t contaminate the power and screw up another device (conducted radio interference was the classic example).

      Comment by John Cline might be fun for a DIY’er to give a try, but suspect the line-filter in microwaves are to meet UL regs for “conducted EMI” (block radio frequencies and up), not prevent nuisance tripping.
      IF it filters the ground path it may be a source of cheap parts.
      Would hope someone replies if they try it.

      In the end, I suspect no easy fix like some box you insert between the fridge and outlet.

      Sorry to say… until refrigerator manufacturers step-up and prevent leakage currents to ground (the main culprit) through better insulation and wire routing, it’s best to find a way to power the fridge on a separate branch circuit without the dang GFI.

      Is your fridge outlet GFI the 1st in a string of protected outlets?
      If so lucky, move the GFI to the 2nd outlet.
      If not, where better than a garage to learn/practice wiring & drywall repair?

      I was forced (by 2017 NEC code) to install all AFCI/GFI Dual-Function breakers in a complete rewire of a 120 year old house.
      Much nuisance tripping since.
      Laser printers also trip the new breakers.
      This breaker technology sounds fantastic and ‘maybe’ OK on new construction(?)… but certainly wasn’t ready for prime-time on retrofits.
      Thanks NEC.

  6. my fridge started tripping the adjacent gfci receptacle in the kitchen when the defrost cycle started. I found the new hot water recirculating pump by the hot water heater was also on the same circuit (utility room next to upstairs bath). I unplugged the pump and the gfci stopped tripping.

  7. every microwave has a snubber built in that can handle the load of a refrig . but won’t work if the refrig. motor locks up so it needs fuses or a breaker rated for the normal refrigerator load plus 150% all placed in a box between to refrigerator and the outlet plugged in, the code stops at the outlet.

  8. Great article as always. I have an old fridge. It was in my house for years. Moved to garage and it tripped the GFCI receptacle. Plugged it in to a non-GFCI and it ran for months. Just moved it to my daughter’s rented house where all receptacles in her garage are GFCI and it trips them. I’ve googled “snubber” several ways to no luck. Did find lots of “experts” arguing. 🙂 I would like to buy one, but am not sure where to look or what it will even look like. A link, picture, hint, …..anything would be helpful.

  9. Hello, I have a new construction house here in California. In the garage I have the hot water heater plugged into a 110 outlet and want to plug my 2nd refrigerator into the garage. The garage is GCFI and the it trips every time I plug the refrigerator in. I have an electrician looking into it now but he doesn’t know how to bypass the code for California. Can someone help me with this?

    Thank you

    • What about if I just unground(Disconnect) the ground cable from mi fridge GFIC outlet and keep using it? will it work and stop tripping?

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