Suppose you have a refrigerator in a basement. You have two dueling safety systems: The cord-and-plug-connected fridge needs to run to keep food safe, but the GFCI needs to trip to save people from potential shock. (and refrigerators do tend to trip GFCIs incidentally).

So what is the Code impact if we lop the plug off the fridge, bring the cord into a junction box through a strain relief, and hardwire the fridge? Does this wash away the GFCI requirement?

Will it continue to do so after NEC 2020?

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    In Oregon our exemption's allow equipment not easily moved or in a dedicated location GFCI are not required , don’t know about the other 49 states sorry , I think the NEC has gone two far ! No wonder why so many home owners hack there electrical systems. What you ask was allowed for a time on dishwashers hard wired v/s cord & plug.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 25 '20 at 0:13
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    What grinds my gears is that it's like normal equipment grounding doesn't exist anymore. Now I get that in kitchen you plug in a toaster without a grounding plug and the toaster has a fault, you're right next to a sink that's grounded (maybe) and you happen to touch both the sink and the toaster at the same time, that would be very bad. Good use of GFCI. Same for outdoor and bathroom outlets. I have to agree with Ed Beal, the NEC has gone way to far and is going ever further with the 2020 code where virtually EVERYTHING requires GFCI protection. I think it will be a disaster. Feb 25 '20 at 2:15
  • I would assume there are commercial (e.g., restaurant kitchen) refrigerators that are listed to be hardwired. But with a residential refrigerator, wouldn't that go against the UL Listing as certified for the manufacturer of the appliance? (i.e., chopping the cord no different from opening up any other "not user serviceable" components)? Feb 25 '20 at 2:26
  • Though I've been thinking about this in general (i.e., before you posted this question). With today's connected world, why not have a tiny plug-in monitor (actually, could have two parts to it - one for power and one for temperature), web connected. And a web site that watches the data. > 42 degrees for > 30 minutes, alarm to user (text/email/etc.) No "heartbeat" for > 15 minutes, alarm to user (text/email/etc.) - though that one gets a little tricky because it could be (a) refrigerator out (GFCI, etc.), (b) power out to the whole house or (c) internet down (which is "bad" but not... Feb 25 '20 at 2:30
  • in the same league as "$500 of food spoiling". Now the trick is figuring out how to build this cheap and sell gazillions and make my fortune and finally retire. Except that undoubtedly someone already has 23 patents blocking me from doing so. Which happens every time I come up with a great idea :-( Feb 25 '20 at 2:31

You cannot cut the cap off of a cord to make it hard wired; 1) you are modifying the equipment, i.e. not being used in its intended manner, and 2) portable cord is not allowed for permanent connections. And forget the idea that commercial refrigerators and freezers are hard wired to get around the GFCI requirement, they are required by code to have GFCIs regardless of how they are connected, have been since 2008.

Most MODERN refrigerators and freezers have been designed now to NOT trip GFCIs because of the impending requirement changes. So in reality what the main effect of this will be is that you will likely have to get rid of your old ancient garage beer fridge and upgrade to something built in the last 10 years. Just from an energy efficiency standpoint you should probably do that anyway. Around here, my utility will pay you $75 to get rid of your old garage fridge.

There is a Power Failure Alarm unit I found and used on a sump pump once, it would work for a fridge as well. It can be ordered with an alarm contact that can be wired to an auto dialer or security system, but now I think you could also wire it to a sensor for a "smart speaker" system too.

  • Can you provide code cites for the three points in your first paragraph? And the judgment in the second para is misplaced; we have lots of reports here of modern fridges tripping GFCIs. Remember for a manufacturer to make a material product change, they must go through the UL listing process again. Feb 25 '20 at 19:09
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    Point 1; 110.3(B) Point 2: 400.8. Point 3 (non-dwellings requiring GFCI) is 210.8(B)(2) but that says receptacles. The NEC reference for hard wired was added in the 2017 NEC, which we (California) haven't adopted yet, but it is in 210.9(B). Sorry. As to the modern refrigerators being designed to handle being on GFCIs, I read that in an article on using snubbers for GFCI supplied devices, stating that it wasn't necessary for fridges built in the last 10+ years. Can't find it though.
    – JRaef
    Feb 25 '20 at 22:15

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