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Our fridge showed symptoms of evaporator fan motor dying. The bottom of the fridge was cold but the air was not circulating in the freezer and fridge. Then the water dispenser stopped working. I was about to give up but after an overnight shutdown, the water dispenser started working. I realized that the cold bottom of the freezer must have frozen the water lines. I had more confidence that the evaporator fan motor is faulty.

The fridge is side-by-side Fisher & Paykel that came with the house, never again! When I opened inside of the freezer, I realized that there has been a previous repair of the evaporator fan motor. It was one of those hermetically sealed ones with no ground connection. When I opened sealed plastic casing, the circuitry inside was burned with a terrible smell!

The replacement fan motor has three connections including a ground connection tab. Before putting in the new motor, I measured the resistance between the two terminals and then the ground vs two terminals. The ground connection was open as expected. Since the previous motor had no ground connection, I split the green ground wire going to the chassis of the freezer and connected that to the ground of the motor. The fridge is working now in terms of cooling but it has tripped the GFCI twice within the last 16 hours. We had no GFCI issues before. Some current must be leaking to the ground possibly from inductive loading from the fan. Any suggestions? How critical is to ground the fan motor? The fan motor chassis is practically isolated, it's not touching any metal parts. Thanks.

Update: It's been ~30 hours since the fridge last tripped the GFCI! It tripped the GFCI twice before after five and twelve hours after the fix. The fridge was at room temperature after the fix. So maybe there was something related to the fan motor while the fridge was working continually to get to the target temperature. Maybe condensation build up created a path for some charges find their way to the ground connection.

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Most of the refer fan motors I have replaced have been shaded pole, the coil on 1 side, these are fairly safe because if the motor freezes up (pun intended) they do not overheat like some motors do. Without a ground if there is a problem the fan may have 120v on its metal parts but if it is isolated I don't see a problem, I have seen shaded pole motors produce enough EMF or kickback that would trip a GFCI in some cases changing brands solved the problem, I am lucky my state allows for fridges to Not have GFCI , so if changing brands did not work I put in a non GFCI outlet.

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    Thanks Ed. What happens if I disconnect the ground and then if the motor shorts and the metal casing gets energized? Since there won't be GFI protection, then circuit breaker would kick in right? – Chinook May 2 at 20:13
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    It should but if the case is connected to ground it will probably still trip the GFCI, the ground wire is usually wired to the frame of the motor so if the frame of the motor is in contact with the fridge chassy the noise will still be on the frame, I would check to see if your state has an exemption like Oregon has, large equipment in a dedicated space that is not easily moved can be connected without GFCI, I just double checked the 2017 NEC and if your refrigerator is more than 6' away from the sink are not required to have one on the fridge. – Ed Beal May 2 at 21:10
  • Thank you for looking into this. I meant disconnecting the ground/chassis connection from the motor itself. If that motor fails and creates a short, then it should trigger the circuit breaker. It's been now 24 hours since it last tripped the GFCI. I'm crossing my finger here :) – Chinook May 2 at 23:15
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Remove Fridge From GFCI

Tell you the fire pump story. Doofus maintained a fire pump, and said "Wow, this $100,000 Cat engine doesn't have any protection against low coolant, low oil, etc.!" So Doofus added that A fire started, and $200 million in inventory went up in smoke. "What happened, Doofus!" He proudly declared that he saved the company $100,000, because the engine didn't destroy itself putting out the fire.

GFCIs on refrigerators are exactly like that. A GFCI trip on a fridge can spoil food and make people sick. Some say the chef should notice, hired hired $12/hour "care"givers feed children and elderly people whatever food they find in the fridge without ever tasting it. Or the fridge is on a shared circuit where someone may have reset it because something else also tripped, and never noticed the fridge is on there too. The food rechills, and nobody's the wiser that bacteria has run rampant.

GFCI on a fridge is useless. You're not going to knock a refrigerator in the sink. You're not going to get zapped by touching its chassis (it's grounded). It'd be nigh impossible for curious fingers to get anywhere near the electrical apparatus in the bottom back. There is nothing electrically exposed. There is no earthly reason for GFCI on a fridge, and in fact, Code exempts refrigerators even in places everything else needs GFCI, like basements and garages.

So get that fridge off GFCI right now.

If your circuit is wired with one GFCI device protecting a whole string of outlets, and the fridge is at the end of the string, it may be necessary to fit independent GFCI receptacles at each location (except the fridge), using LINE terminals only and leaving the warning tape on the LOAD terminals.

  • Doofus is a kinder word. for him. Why would you want that on gfci ? – Robert Moody Jun 3 at 1:09
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This is a common problem with fridges. Condensation forms on surfaces that allows for leakage current sufficient to trip a GFCI. that's probably why your old one didn't have a ground connection, it was probably "double insulated" so it was not required. Are you in the US? (use of the term "GFCI" usually means US or Canada). In the US, if you have an outlet behind the fridge dedicated to only the fridge and is not accessible to countertops etc., you are not required to have a GFCI on it. I don't know if it's the same in Canada.

  • Thanks. I am in US, in Oregon. The outlet behind the fridge is dedicated to the fridge only but it's along the same GFCI protected line as with some of the kitchen wall outlets. – Chinook May 2 at 19:56
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    Oh, too bad. So is it a GFCI circuit breaker feeding that entire run then? If so, what you MIGHT look into is seeing if the fridge outlet wires are run separately back into the load center and if they are, put them on a separate breaker without a GFCI. But if that circuit just has one home run back to the panel, you would have to pull new wires to the fridge outlet. If on the other hand this is a standard breaker and the first outlet has a GFCI that is protecting the rest of them down stream, you could also consider changing out the outlets to all being GFCI except that one. – J. Raefield May 2 at 22:03
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    Yes, that GFCI circuit breaker is feeding the entire run for some of the outlets and the fridge. There another GFCI breaker in the kitchen. I'm hesitant to work on the house wiring though. We'll need an electrician for that. Thank you again. – Chinook May 2 at 23:09

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