The GFCI is the first line of defense against electrical problems in your home. It’s designed to trip if it senses an electrical imbalance, delivering an automatic shutdown that protects you against dangerous shock. If your refrigerator keeps tripping GFCI, it can cause lots of problems for you, including running the risk of your refrigerator randomly turning off, which causes your food to spoil.
If you’ve ever had a refrigerator trip its GFCI, you know the frustration it can cause. 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. Today, we’ll discuss common reasons for this and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
Why Refrigerator Keeps Tripping GFCI – Troubleshoot and Diagnosis
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices protect you and your loved ones from potentially electric accidents. A GFCI device works by monitoring the current in a circuit and comparing it to the current that should be present. If there is a difference, then the device knows that something is wrong — like water or an object that’s touching both the hot and neutral wires — and it shuts off power to prevent serious injuries.
If you have an appliance connected to a GFCI outlet, there’s no need to worry about electric shock. A GFCI outlet is more than just a circuit breaker or fuse, it does both of these things! When it detects water in the receptacle, the GFCI automatically cuts off the current to that outlet, preventing shocks. And just like any great machine, if it’s tripped, it’ll reset itself after a few minutes.
Did you know that your fridge probably trips the GFCI device? This is because all devices with motors produce inductive loads. An inductive load is any component of a circuit which has current flowing through it at all times, even when power isn’t being supplied to the circuit.
To fix the problem, unplug your refrigerator. Then, follow these steps:
Reset the GFCI
Checking the outlet is your first step, but often it’s just a false alarm. This device is sensitive to usage and environmental changes which could result in “nuisance trips”, where it disengages despite there being no issue with the appliance or power source itself. Especially common during electric hot-weather months, you can test your fridge by plugging it back into the outlet.
If your fridge is experiencing frequent tripping, you’ll need to locate the issue. Check your appliance’s owner’s manual for instructions on testing the outlet. If you’re unable to test it yourself, call an electrician to do it for you. Once the GFCI has been tested, reset it. If the problem continues, there may be a defect that requires replacing.
Use a Snubber
If you use a refrigerator with vapor compression and have a GFCI outlet installed near it, be careful. If you unplug the refrigerator, it may trip your GFCI outlet.
A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) with a snubber is an option for people who would like to continue using their refrigerator or freezer. A snubber will lessen the effects of the interference with the appliance by creating more resistance on the ground circuit. If you choose to use a snubber, it must be installed between the GFCI deceive and the refrigerator or freezer.
If you’re worried about your refrigerator tripping a GFCI outlet, first try replacing the breaker in the box with one that’s rated for GFCI. If you have a dedicated circuit that operates the refrigerator only, removing the GFCI outlet and replacing it with a standard outlet will solve it.
Inspect Power Cord
One common source of trouble with fridges is the power cord. The problem isn’t usually obvious, so the first thing to do is unplug it and give it a thorough inspection. You can often spot damage to the cord by looking for worn-out insulation, kinks, or bite marks. If you do notice any of these problems, it’s time to replace your current power cord with a brand new one.
Check Power Plug
Next, look at the power prongs. If they are bent or rusted you will need to replace the cord. If they seem fine, plug the appliance into the outlet and turn it on. Plug in another device, like a lamp or clock, to test the outlet.
If your GFCI is tripping often, it’s possible that you’re plugged into an overloaded circuit — which, if it goes unchecked, could lead to a fire. If you’ve got any other major home appliances or electronics plugged into the same circuit as your fridge, move them to a different outlet before calling a professional.
If you discover that your home refrigerator is tripping your circuit breaker, and you want to avoid the hassle of running a new dedicated circuit for it, then what you need to do is move your refrigerator to an alternative power outlet, and make sure that it does not still trip the breaker. If it trips in the alternative power outlet, then you will need to contact your local electrical service provider, and they will help you run a new dedicated circuit for the fridge.
Check Power Outlet
Turn the power off at the circuit breaker Remove the plug from the wall outlet If your refrigerator is plugged into a power strip, unplug it and remove the cover on the power strip. Look for any blackened or burned spots on the wires. If you see any, disconnect them from the outlet and purchase new ones. Plug the wires back in to the outlet and then plug your refrigerator back in.
You can easily check whether or not a power outlet has continuity. Just use a multimeter to check for current flow, and you’re good to go! If the current isn’t flowing through the device, it means that there is a problem with one of the wires. However, before you start working on any electrical system, make sure that you equip yourself with the right tools and equipment — and remember to only carry out repairs if you’re qualified to do so.
Circuit Breaker Issue
If you have tried all the above steps to no avail, then it might be time to take a look at the circuit breaker. The circuit breaker is responsible for regulating electrical current in your home, so if the fault lies with this, it will need to be replaced or fixed. The correct procedure for doing this will depend on which type of breaker panel you have. If you are unsure, please consult a licensed electrician before proceeding.
Faulty Refrigerator Wiring
If your refrigerator is failing to cool the food inside it, check the wiring first. Always unplug the fridge before performing any repairs. The wiring is not difficult to fix—should you decide to do it yourself. It will involve unplugging and removing the lower back panel of your refrigerator and inspecting for damaged wires. If any are found, you will need to replace them with new wires and tape them up securely in place.
Faulty Defrost Heater
The Defrost Heater is a safety device that prevents the formation of ice inside the refrigerator. This part works by removing heat from the air surrounding the refrigerator coils to keep moisture from settling on them and freezing. Over time, this heater can become weak and may not be able to remove enough heat.
Defrost heaters are designed to get hot quick to help melt any frost or ice that has built up inside your refrigerator. A GFCI outlet trip is often the result of a faulty defrost heater. The best way to test it is to replace the timer so that it creates a defrost cycle, then watch for any signs of overheating.
To find out for sure, you’ll have to reset the timer so that the defrost cycle happens. And when it does, you’ll want to stay nearby. Monitor the GFCI outlet closely when the defrost cycle starts. If the GFCI trips in under five minutes, this is a serious warning sign that your refrigerator’s defrost heater has failed.
If you’ve read this far, but still aren’t sure what the problem is, then it’s likely that your refrigerator’s compressor is having issues. Over time, the winding on the compressor starts to fail, and it takes more power to run than the fridge can provide. This causes the fridge to constantly run, which uses extra electricity and wastes food.
A faulty condenser usually requires a new refrigerator, but it doesn’t happen as often as some people think. Before you make a decision on whether to replace the refrigerator or not, bring it to a qualified technician for inspection. The technician will take a look at the fridge to ensure you didn’t forget any problems that can be fixed.
Refrigerator Tripping GFCI On Generator
After the GFCI trips, or any other type of breaker trips, it is always a good idea to check the reason why. If nuisance tripping is the only issue, then adding a snubber will fix this issue. However, there are other potential issues that can cause your breaker to trip, and this includes:
If you have an older refrigerator that doesn’t have an ice maker or a self-defrost function, it could be tripping the GFCI outlet. Or if you do have an icemaker or a self-defrost function, you can turn these off to stop the GFCI outlet from tripping.
If your fridge isn’t new enough to have an ice maker or a self-defrost function, it can cause the GFCI outlet to turn off. In this case, you will want to avoid using a GFCI outlet if possible.
A ground fault occurs when electricity is sent through a different path than intended. For example, instead of going into the outlet to power your appliances, it could go through the pipes that run inside your walls. When electricity passes through metal pipes, it will cause a circuit breaker to trip. Ground faults damage your electrical system and are dangerous for you and your home.
Before electricity moves from a source to a destination, it goes through a series of devices so that if there is a problem, it can be stopped in its tracks. If your GFCI trips, don’t panic — it’s just doing its job.
While you can solve the problem by removing the GCFI outlet, the real issue is your home’s wiring. When it comes to electrical problems in your home, you can’t cut corners. If you don’t address the problem at its source, the fault will come back – and not all at once. That means additional problems to fix, the extra money spent on repairs, and even worse: a fire.