I'm attempting to replace the outlets above my kitchen counters after doing some remodeling. The old outlets were likely from the 1960's and I'm replacing them with 15 amp GFCI outlets.

We have 3 boxes above the counters plus one for the fridge on the same run:

Box A: 1 outlet

Box B: 1 outlet

Box C: 2 switches (undercab LED's, professionally installed and working before this, old florescent above sink) and one outlet.

Box D: 1 outlet for refrigerator. Appears to be downstream from Box C which has black & white pigtails. I unplugged the fridge before doing any of this.

I started by identifying line and load and working my way around, testing one by one. I wired up Outlet A, tested reset & with a lamp. Wired up Outlet B, tested reset & with a lamp. Wired up first switch in box C (undercab lights) and tested. Wired up second switch (florescent) & tested.

Now I had read old refrigerators and florescents can trip GFCI breakers so I wanted to test that. I knew the florescent worked so I turned it off, plugged in the fridge, and waited for it to kick on. That worked fine. With the fridge on I then attempted to turn on the florescent - it tripped the GFCI outlet in Box A.

I unplugged the fridge and turned off the switches and attempted to reset the GFCI - it wouldn't reset.

I slowly worked my way backwards, unwiring everything I had done in reverse order and attempted to reset the GFCI outlet each step - same thing, a quick flash of the red LED and it won't reset.

I got all the way down to Box A and proceeded to disconnect the the white & black load wires from the outlet - it allowed me to reset and the green LED came on.

I don't understand why having the load wires simply connected to the terminals while nothing is active (or even wired) downstream would trip the GFCI. I even proceeded to completely disconnect the florescent and undercabs despite the switches being removed.

Any tips would be appreciated, thanks.

  • Can you post photos of the wiring? Sep 10, 2017 at 22:36
  • Because the ground fault downstream is in the wires. Anyway why are you using the load terminals at all if you plan to put a GFCI receptacle at each location? Sep 11, 2017 at 0:03
  • @Harper I'm not sure - how else should I go about it? Just pigtail the white and black wires at each location then tap off the pigtails for each outlet? Also if it's in the wires do you know why I got as far as I did?
    – plast1k
    Sep 11, 2017 at 0:07
  • @ThreePhaseEel Can't seem to get a photo that is meaningful. I can try to sketch up a diagram?
    – plast1k
    Sep 11, 2017 at 0:08
  • 2
    @plast1k OK, my test was for whether you understood how load terminals work. You do not. Yes, pigtail and then branch off, using the LINE terminals only. Normally it would be a total waste of GFCI receptacles not to use the LOAD terminals, but in this case it makes sense because a) this will keep the lights off GFCI, and b) this is the only reasonable way to avoid putting a fridge on GFCI given your wiring topology. Sep 11, 2017 at 0:13

1 Answer 1


If I'm understanding, your circuit runs from

Service panel -> receptacle A -> receptacle B -> switches and receptacle C -> fridge D

In a perfect world, we try to use one GFCI device per circuit when it makes sense to protect the whole circuit. In this case, it does not. The farthest thing from the service panel is the fridge, and it's desirable to avoid as long as possible putting GFCI protection on a fridge. (I can't tell you to violate the law, but the requirement for fridge GFCI in new work implies a new fridge which is built expecting to be on GFCI.)**

I understand the lighting at C is also not playing nicely with GFCI.

There is no way, given existing wiring, for a GFCI at A to provision GFCI-protected power to B and the C receptacle, but not the fridge. The wires are not there.

Given these constrictions, the most correct way to install this is with GFCI receptacles at each of A, B and C. On each receptacle, you would pigtail to the LINE terminals only, and cover up the LOAD terminals. The result of this is the lights at C and the refrigerator at D will not be on GFCI.

To assure nobody tries to plug a second thing into the fridge receptacle at D, I would change it to a single outlet (just one socket).

If at some point you want to repair the lights at C and move them to the LOAD terminals of the GFCI device at C, that would be fine. Normally, when you don't have a fridge at the end of a string, you save a lot of money by learning to properly protect downline outlets with the LOAD feature.

There is no reason to tolerate an "old fluorescent" anywhere. First, find a T8 bulb that fits the fixture, then get a modern electronic ballast that is correct for the T8 bulb. Change the ballast and enjoy state of the art, hum-free, flicker-free lighting. Or you can defer it; code doesn't require lighting be GFCI.

** A GFCI trip on a fridge results in spoiled food. Bad, especially if not detected by the food preparer - and before anyone tells me "the chef will detect this", baloney. Try having a senior citizen with homecare aides coming in and out. I assure you, food given to the senior is never tasted or even looked at closely. They will pour a bowl of cereal with sour milk and never know, and then coach the senior to eat it. Seriously.

  • I appreciate the information. I've finally got a chance to get everything wired up and its working great. Thanks.
    – plast1k
    Sep 17, 2017 at 22:37

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