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yahtzee
Premium
join:2000-12-03
Richmond, VA

GFI outlet/refrigerator question

I have a refrigerator in my garage. It's been plugged into a GFI outlet for the past 7 years along side my FIOS central controller. Over the past 2-3 weeks the outlet has been tripping causing the refrigerator to shut off and my FiOS to cease operation. I only have one other outlet in the garage and it's a GFI outlet. I plugged the refrigerator into that and same thing happens. I then took an extension cord and plugged the refrigerator into an outlet in my mud room and it works fine (and the FiOS controller stays operational). What would cause this all of a sudden?
--
If ever offered a breath mint - take it.



alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1

Is the outlet in the mid room GFCI?
Have you tried plugging the FiOS controller without the refrigerator? Maybe the fridge causes a ground fault when the compressor kicks in. Who knows.

Is the trip instantaneous?



yahtzee
Premium
join:2000-12-03
Richmond, VA

Outlet in mud room is NOT GFI. I have the FiOS controller plugged into the same GFI outlet it has been plugged into without any issue now that the refrigerator isnt on that outlet. The trip is instantaneous but that it has only gotten worse (quicker) over the past two weeks. Should a refrigerator even be on a GFI outlet?
--
If ever offered a breath mint - take it.



whizkid3
Premium,MVM
join:2002-02-21
Queens, NY
kudos:9
reply to yahtzee

Your refrigerator is old. The insulation on the motor windings is old. Its leaking current to the grounded refrigerator chassis. The GFCI is properly doing its job, protecting you from shock.

WHile its not ideal to have a refrigerator on a GFCI receptacle; it is a code requirement for garage receptacles to be GFCI. The garage is a damp environment. The GFCI's are their to protect you and your family from shock and electrocution.

The solution is to get the refrigerator fixed; or to chuck it.



yahtzee
Premium
join:2000-12-03
Richmond, VA

The refrigerator is only 6 years old. So you wouldnt be concerned getting a new refrigerator and putting it back on that same receptacle?
--
If ever offered a breath mint - take it.



yahtzee
Premium
join:2000-12-03
Richmond, VA
reply to yahtzee

Also, since the only thing on this outlet is my FiOS controller and my refrigerator can't I just replace that outlet with a regular, non GFI outlet?
--
If ever offered a breath mint - take it.



whizkid3
Premium,MVM
join:2002-02-21
Queens, NY
kudos:9

Ok, the fridge is new. Makes no difference. The insulation on the motor windings is likely failing. The GFCI is properly doing its job, protecting you from shock. The solution is to get the refrigerator fixed; or to chuck it.

WHile its not ideal to have a refrigerator on a GFCI receptacle; it is a code requirement for garage receptacles to be GFCI. The garage is a damp environment. The GFCI's are their to protect you and your family from shock and electrocution.

Its beyond me, why whenever a GFCI receptacle trips; people tend to think there must be something wrong with the receptacle. Try this trick; take an extension cord from your refrigerator in the kitchen and with everything else unplugged; plug it into the GFCI and see what happens. Also GFCI receptacles are a lot less expensive than a refrigerator; or even refrigerator service. Replace the GFCI receptacle if you think that will make things better. If the new one still trips; then its time to follow my original advice.



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
reply to yahtzee

said by yahtzee:

Also, since the only thing on this outlet is my FiOS controller and my refrigerator can't I just replace that outlet with a regular, non GFI outlet?

NEC now requires GFCI’s on refrigerators. Is there really a technical reason to put a GFCI on a refrigerator?

quote:
All commercial buildings/kitchens are required to have GFCI for refrigerators. See NEC 210.8(B)(2).
In a Dwelling Unit (house or apartment) refrigerators located inside the kitchen do NOT have to have a GFCI. See 210.8(A)(6), Exhibit 210.13, 210.52(B)(1), 210.52(B)(2), 210.52(B)(3), and Exhibit 210.28. If the circuit feeding the refrigerator outlet is branched to any other outlet, it must be a 20-A circuit. If the circuit feeding the refrigerator outlet is a dedicated individual circuit, than it can be either 15-A or 20-A.
In a garage or an unfinished basement of a Dwelling unit, the refrigerator must have a GFCI circuit. In fact ALL outlets must be GFCI in garages and unfinished basements. See 210.8(A)(2) and Exhibit 210.10.

Zach1
Premium
join:2006-11-26
NW Minnesota
reply to yahtzee

Several code cycles ago, it was permissible to install a single receptacle (non-duplex type) without GFCI protection for the purpose of refrigeration in a garage. This assumed the receptacle would be inaccessible when the appliance is in place. This exception has been long since removed.

As whizkid has already stated, the GFCI is doing it's job. If this problem is new one, I'd have a look under the appliance for rodent activity. Mice just love to make a home out of the nice, warm garage fridge while they gnaw at the exposed wiring.
--
Zach


walta

join:2001-05-22
Saint Louis, MO
kudos:2
reply to yahtzee

If I was looking for the fault that is tripping the GFI the first place to look would be the defrost heaters.

Try temporally disconnecting all the wires to the heater and see if it trips.

Also make sure this appliance is never operated on an ungrounded circuit and that the third prong of its cord is in good condition.

Walta



djrobx
Premium
join:2000-05-31
Valencia, CA
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·VOIPO
reply to yahtzee

said by yahtzee:

Also, since the only thing on this outlet is my FiOS controller and my refrigerator can't I just replace that outlet with a regular, non GFI outlet?

There used to be exceptions in the code for non-accessible outlets prior to 2008. I suspect this was removed because it's difficult to anticipate how people are going to use their garages. People will still stick an old damaged extension cord into any socket they can find, and drag it across a wet floor.

GFCI nuisance trips on fridges are common. That's why kitchen fridge receptacles usually aren't GFCI protected. Food safety is something worth considering in your situation.
--
AT&T U-Hearse - RIP Unlimited Internet 1995-2011
Rethink Billable.

Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
reply to yahtzee

Get hold of an ohm meter and measure the resistance between the ground prong on the refrigerator plug and the two flat prongs. The resistance should be more than one meg ohm. If it is lower there is leakage between some internal component and the refrigerator cabinet. See if there is any frost or moisture built up between the interior lights and cabinet.

If you have a leakage problem and cannot repair it, consider an isolation transformer. This solution should only be used if the refrigerator has a three prong grounding plug. Purchase a transformer that meets or exceeds the maximum VA requirement of the refrigerator. The transformers shown below extend the ground conductor from the transformer plug to the ground on the transformer outlet.

This company makes isolation transformers:

»www.hammondmfg.com/171.htm

This company sells transformers made by Hammond Manufacturing Company:

»www.digikey.com/scripts/dksearch/dksus.dll


PrntRhd
Premium
join:2004-11-03
Fairfield, CA
Reviews:
·Comcast
reply to yahtzee

In an older house something like an outdoor outlet may be wired to the same GFI and can trip the device due to moisture, etc.
My house is 23 years old and has the kitchen counter outlets, bathroom outlets, and outdoor outlet branched with the garage outlet on one GFI...any fault in any of the outlets will trip the GFI in the garage. Not allowed any more but I had to learn how the wiring was done when the GFI started intermittently tripping.


robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1
reply to yahtzee

said by yahtzee:

I have a refrigerator in my garage. It's been plugged into a GFI outlet for the past 7 years

Just a thought here but that puts your house at least 7 years old. If the house isn't more than about 20 years old and the electrical hasn't been changed in the garage then you may have an outlet somewhere that is not GFCI protected. Electric code on this item changed from the 2005 to 2008 code meaning your house could have been built under a code which allowed a single outlet for a freezer.

severach

join:2002-09-12
Jackson, MI
reply to yahtzee

+1 for food safety. There is no human safety problem because all refrigerators I've ever seen are 3 prong. Let 'em leak! The code made sense when refrigerators were exempted from GFCI so long as the outlets were hidden. Requiring GFCI does not make sense so I'd only have a GFCI in place until the inspector leaves--unless the inspector wants to pay the food bill every time the GFCI switches off.

I vote to remove the GFCI, or at least move the GFCI down the line so most of the garage outlets are protected.

I'm not impressed with GFCI anyways. I tried to trip one by pulling the plug out a bit and short from hot to ground with finger and thumb (with shoes and other body parts for certain not grounded). It didn't trip. Human flesh won't conduct enough current to trip it so a GFCI isn't much use in a damp location. GFCI will trip if the powered device falls in so I put them where there is the potential for standing water: laundry, kitchen, bath, but not garages.



alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1

said by severach:

I tried to trip one by pulling the plug out a bit and short from hot to ground with finger and thumb (with shoes and other body parts for certain not grounded).

Are you insane?!

said by severach:

It didn't trip. Human flesh won't conduct enough current to trip it so a GFCI isn't much use in a damp location

It didn't trip and you lived.
I think there's a correlation:

1 - You didn't get shocked because you never take a bath (Your skin is layered in filth) thus the GFCI saw almost nothing go through, thus not tripping.
2 - You're a lucky bastard you didn't shocked when the GFCI failed.

When I was a kid, I got shocked real bad. It was bad enough for me to have a blank memory between my stupid action (Which was similar to yours) and waking up laying down on the kitchen floor with flakes of whatever-ashes falling down around me. So what you pulled off was pure luck (And I was also lucky to wake up unhurt).


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse
reply to yahtzee

Motors are known culprits for false GFCI triggers. The transient currents combined with a slight imbalance in the GFCI itself or just the noise produced can do it...
Why now and not before? Can be as simple as a capacitor degrading and allowing for higher transient currents or a device added that changes the current balance a bit.
I have a GFCI that I can easily trip by switching a fan on and of few times. There is no load on that GFCI outlet...
IMHO a refrigerator should be placed on a circuit with frequently used lights - so that a circuit failure is easily noticed.



Nick_L
Premium
join:2003-01-22
Pittsburgh, PA
reply to severach

said by severach:

I'm not impressed with GFCI anyways. I tried to trip one by pulling the plug out a bit and short from hot to ground with finger and thumb (with shoes and other body parts for certain not grounded). It didn't trip.

I guess Darwin misses one once in a while.

robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1

1 recommendation

I really doubt that you can keep contact inside the outlet and be able to touch with finger and thumb. I bet a tongue could get in there though!


AVonGauss
Premium
join:2007-11-01
Boynton Beach, FL
reply to Nick_L

said by Nick_L:

]
I guess Darwin misses one once in a while.

He missed this kid too - when I was about 5 I took grandma's tweezers and put them in an outlet. Made quite a spark and ruined the tweezers, still not sure how I got extremely lucky and came out unscathed.

ke4pym
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
·VOIPO
·ooma
·Verizon Broadban..
·Northland Cable ..
·Time Warner Cable
reply to severach

said by severach:

I vote to remove the GFCI, or at least move the GFCI down the line so most of the garage outlets are protected.

I'm not impressed with GFCI anyways. I tried to trip one by pulling the plug out a bit and short from hot to ground with finger and thumb (with shoes and other body parts for certain not grounded). It didn't trip.

I can tell you that GFCI's will trip if flesh comes into contact. Recently, I was putting up waynescoating (sp?) in my kitchen and I pulled the plugs out of the wall to slip them through the wood. While that wasn't a problem, later on I was pushing the sockets back (hot) and my finger slipped, hit the hot, I got a good bite and I heard the GFCI socket trip.

Would I do it again that way? You betchya.

Personally, if the GFCI socket the fridge in the garage is plugged into starts to become a nuisance like that, I'd replace it with a regular socket in a heartbeat and not give it a second thought. But that's just me.


cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7
reply to robbin

said by robbin:

I really doubt that you can keep contact inside the outlet and be able to touch with finger and thumb. I bet a tongue could get in there though!

One of my kids found out that a penny also works. Arc welded the penny across the prongs of a night light.

Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey
Reviews:
·Optimum Online
reply to AVonGauss

When I was a kid, I wanted to learn how toasters worked, so I touched the red wires while the toaster was on. I felt an electrical wave of sorts travel from my hand to my feet. It seemed to take about 2 seconds before I was able to remove my hand.

And then there was the time I wanted to learn how staplers worked...



Annmarie
Lillian
join:2000-11-11
kudos:9

1 recommendation

reply to cdru

A spoonful of apple sauce also works.
Hey! You know that outlet looks like a little face and may need to eat every so often.



mattmag
Premium,ExMod 2000-03
join:2000-04-09
NW Illinois
kudos:3
reply to severach

said by severach:

I tried to trip one by pulling the plug out a bit and short from hot to ground with finger and thumb (with shoes and other body parts for certain not grounded). It didn't trip.

Bet ya' you went Neutral to Ground....


DarkLogix
Texan and Proud
Premium
join:2008-10-23
Baytown, TX
kudos:3
reply to alkizmo

said by alkizmo:

So what you pulled off was pure luck (And I was also lucky to wake up unhurt).

Not really, so long as there isn't a path to ground or a reason for the electricity to cross your heart.

so long as it stays on the one hand and doesn't cross the chest you'll likely be fine.

For a time I did something similar.
(keep in mind I was much younger)
pull the light switch out of the wall then with it off (ie so the full 120v would be at the 2 screws and not with a quick path)

I would put 2 fingers from the same hand on the screws, I found unlike many other people my hand would try to open and not close so it made it quite hard to keep my fingers on the screws, it actually felt pretty good, though enough power to even light the lights didn't pass through. and the moment I let my hand do as it wanted it released the switch.

And once I touched a finger from the other hand and then the shock was far more.


alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1

said by DarkLogix:

it actually felt pretty good, though enough power to even light the lights didn't pass through.

Ah so you completed the path to the lights with your hand. I think since there was a resistive load (lights) on the end of that line, less current was able to go through, hence it didn't hurt your hand, but was more like a massage

It would have been painful if you did a direct hot-neutral bond with your hand :O

I'm not sure if I'm correct with the above assumption.


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse
reply to mattmag

said by mattmag:

said by severach:

I tried to trip one by pulling the plug out a bit and short from hot to ground with finger and thumb (with shoes and other body parts for certain not grounded). It didn't trip.

Bet ya' you went Neutral to Ground....

If the skin is dry then the current is very low. A GFCI trips around 5mA.


AVD
Respice, Adspice, Prospice
Premium
join:2003-02-06
Onion, NJ
kudos:1
reply to robbin

said by robbin:

said by yahtzee:

I have a refrigerator in my garage. It's been plugged into a GFI outlet for the past 7 years

Just a thought here but that puts your house at least 7 years old. If the house isn't more than about 20 years old and the electrical hasn't been changed in the garage then you may have an outlet somewhere that is not GFCI protected. Electric code on this item changed from the 2005 to 2008 code meaning your house could have been built under a code which allowed a single outlet for a freezer.

My c.2005 built townhouse has two outlets in the garage, a GFCI and a single outlet to plug in the water pipe insulating electrical wrapping. The outlet is non GFCi and runs to its own breaker in the box. In the summer the outlet services my electric grill and vacuum cleaner.
--
--Standard disclaimers apply.--


DarkLogix
Texan and Proud
Premium
join:2008-10-23
Baytown, TX
kudos:3
reply to alkizmo

said by alkizmo:

said by DarkLogix:

it actually felt pretty good, though enough power to even light the lights didn't pass through.

Ah so you completed the path to the lights with your hand. I think since there was a resistive load (lights) on the end of that line, less current was able to go through, hence it didn't hurt your hand, but was more like a massage

It would have been painful if you did a direct hot-neutral bond with your hand :O

I'm not sure if I'm correct with the above assumption.

Well at the time the load was 4x 100w incandescent bulbs and a ceiling fan, and the amount that passed wasn't even enough to dimly light the lights.

However upping the resistance by using a finger from the other hand made it much more painful. (though using the other hand like that is a bad idea.