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 and garages.
This type of outlet exists to protect people from electrical shock, and should not be confused with a house fuse or breaker.
A fuse or breaker is to protect your home from an electrical fire.
So, if the hot 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.
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Why Refrigerator Keeps Tripping GFCI
When a refrigerator is plugged into a GFCI there are a few reasons it may keep tripping the outlet.
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.
There are deceives known as snubbers that can be installed to eliminate, or at least reduce the effects of the interference.
If you choose to go this way, the snubber will need to be installed between the GFCI deceive and the refrigerator.
If you want to keep the fridge on a GFCI outlet, you can try replacing the breaker in the box with a GFCI breaker.
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, the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.