Remodeled kitchen and electrician had to install new AFCI/GFCI Seimens circuit breakers to comply with code. Now my 8 yr old Samsung 24 cu ft refrigerator trips the c/b every 12 minutes to as long as 4 days. Tried space heater on circuit and no problem. Plugged refrigerator into other AFCI/GFCI and they also trip but not as often. Refrigerator works fine on dining room non-GFCI circuit. Have spoken to appliance repair and Samsung service people and all say waste of time to come out and check refrigerator. They all say refrigerators should not be on GFCI. Spoke to city elect inspector and he said, sorry but code is code. Seems to be a catch-22 here.
Kitchen counter receptacles need to be GFCI protected. Refrigerators do not, and should not.
A refrigerator is simply not what GFCIs are for, like manassehkatz says. All the electrical bits are in the bottom back, and you're not likely to knock a refrigerator into the sink!
The fridge circuit definitely does not require GFCI, however if the fridge is on a shared circuit with other outlets which need GFCI, then that does not give you a right to remove GFCI from those outlets! Your inspector is teling you the fridge needs GFCI because it's on a shared circuit with countertop receptacles, and those need GFCI. The fridge does not unless there is a local amendment to code, but it would be an awful amendment!
So the fridge should be removed from the GFCI, either by
- running a dedicated circuit with one plug, 15A is allowable; or by
- changing the breaker to non-GFCI and using GFCI deadfronts or receptacles in appropriate place(s) to protect the kitchen countertops, as Code requires.
The inspector has no "right" in the electrical code to compel you to use GFCI breakers particularly, though they do provide better protection.
The fridge circuit may require AFCI, but that's a different thing than GFCI and the refrigerator is less likely to have a problem with it.
The ideal setup
The ideal setup is a dedicated circuit for just the fridge, with a one-eye receptacle (not the usual twin) behind the fridge where nothing else can reach it, a breaker that exactly matches the receptacle amps (a requirement on 1-socket circuits), and a labelmaker sticker on the receptacle saying "Refrigerator only".
Even more ideal, I would also run it in EMT conduit and metal boxes, and make the case to the AHJ that the AFCI protection is not needed due to the EMT.
The nuclear option
If it is infeasible to remove the refrigerator from GFCI protection, you can remove the GFCI protection from the refrigerator! Use a Kill-a-Watt to measure how many VA the fridge uses when running (not starting), double it, and obtain an isolation transformer of that many VA.
All the GFCI will see is the primary winding of the transformer. What happens past the secondary winding, stays in Vegas. Ground is passed straight through the isolation transformer, so the fridge is still safely grounded. If the fridge has a hot-ground fault, that will do nothing at all.
Since the isolation transformer is a plug-in consumer appliance like a power strip, it is out of the inspector's jurisdiction. He can't say a thing about it.
Alternately you could use a component isolation transformer and build it into the refrigerator. Altering an appliance is not an Electrical Code matter, so again, outside his jurisdiction.
Harper or one of the other pros can give more details. But basically there is a conflict between "refrigerators which, depending on design, sometimes trip GFCI or AFCI" and "kitchen small appliance receptacles which for safety reasons must be protected by GFCI".
The solution, as I understand it, is to run a totally separate single-receptacle circuit for the refrigerator. That way nothing else (e.g., kitchen counter receptacles which must be GFCI protected) is sharing the circuit and by using a single receptacle, nobody can sneak behind the refrigerator and plug something else in.
Refrigerators are a different use case from almost everything else in the kitchen:
- Not used with water (like dishwasher, disposal)
- Not frequently plugged/unplugged (like small appliances)
- High risk of significant safety problem due to food spoilage
If the inspector requires GFCI and/or AFCI even for a freshly installed single-receptacle circuit, install an appropriate breaker (you wouldn't use a combination GFCI/receptacle for a receptacle blocked by the refrigerator anyway). Breakers are easy to swap.