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My Kenmore fridge kept tripping the circuit breaker in the GPCI once every 10 hours or so. I have had the fridge for almost 9 years now, and the problem started a month ago. What I tried so far is that I plugged the fridge to another GPCI outlet with nothing else plugged-in and the problem persisted.

The manual says nothing about this problem. Having a Kenmore technician come and try diagnose for the problem costs $129 with no result guaranteed. So I thought I should try doing diagnosis on the fridge myself. But where can I start (e.g., how do I know if it's the compressor drawing too much current or something else that needs replacement)?

Any guidance or reference to tutorial would be helpful. Appreciate it.

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    I don't know a lot about it, but if it happens after a long period like that, it could be the defrost heater or possibly be ice maker related. The compressor would trip it sooner, so focus on things that don't happen immediately.
    – JPhi1618
    Mar 18 '20 at 18:32
  • Also, GFCIs don't last forever. You might try a new one.
    – HoneyDo
    Mar 18 '20 at 18:48
  • The something else that needs replacement is the GFCI receptacle, which when 'dedicated' is permissible to not be one. Not saying that the fridge isn't the problem (and that if everything isn't properly ground that you won't die), but if it doesn't trip a standard CB, then you'd never know and it wouldn't matter. - They don't last forever but it pops others, so there's deff a prob with the fridge. It's up to you to decide if it's simply now incompatible with GFCIs, or that it's not safe to use w/o fixing it. IMO, it never would've been on one so I'd never know.
    – Mazura
    Mar 18 '20 at 18:52
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    Where should I NOT use a GFCI or AFCI? : The fridge. - That all being said, there's nothing I'd fix on a 9yo fridge except maybe the door handle.
    – Mazura
    Mar 18 '20 at 18:53
  • I would look at the defrost heater that Jphi1618 mentions. the ice maker would be on a much shorter cycle. But the defrost cycle could be the issue. Capacitors are a possibility at that age but the long time span would point to the defrost cycle.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 18 '20 at 19:43
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Installing a GFCI on a refrigerator basically disregards the use-case for GFCI. It's a well-grounded, all-metal box, with all the mains electric gear in the very bottom back of the machine, totally inaccessible in the vast majority of people's installations... and you are unlikely to drop it in the sink.

As such, there is no practical safety benefit to putting a fridge on GFCI, unless the branch to the fridge is totally ungrounded.

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What the "Take your shoes off at the airport" gang cannot wrap their minds around, is the concept that dueling safety systems makes safety worse. Consider a remote warehouse with a big Cat diesel fire pump. Some epsilon-minus decides that every diesel on the property needs a low-oil-level shutoff, to keep people from running forklifts etc. a quart low. Well, there's a fire. The fire pump trips out on low oil, and the warehouse burns down. That's dueling safety systems, and you don't want that.

The fridge has One Job: keep food safe. It's not a big shock risk, so GFCI won't save any lives. GFCI gets in the way of its One Job. It's bad enough with a dedicated GFCI, but with a shared GFCI, the GFCI could trip, someone could reset it to get a different appliance back up, the fridge would re-chill after bacteria had its way with the food, and nobody would be the wiser.

The above receptacle is legal in any kitchen. It is also legal in any garage, basement or other place you might put a refrigerator that normally requires GFCI, if you get a waiver from your AHJ: the local inspector. This is a perfectly sensible setup, and there's no good reason not to grant it.

Why is it tripping? Because like lots of fridges, it has some small leakage between hot and earth, perhaps when a compressor cycles off: there's a big inductive spike because inductors are trying to keep current constant, and they spike voltage until insulation breaks down somewhere to sink it. It really is a ground fault, but it's a trivial and unavoidable one. Fridges do this.

In the DC world you'd put a freewheeling diode on that inductor. In AC a VBO (Voltage Breakover) would the job, being "insulation" that breaks down at a specific voltage e.g. 200V before regular insulation fails. MOVs can do that too. That would be placed between hot and neutral, arresting the spike to neutral instead of to safety ground; as a result currents would be equal and the GFCI would ignore it. A capacitor might also help, being able to absorb some current from the inductor.

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  • What happen if I plug my fridge to a non-GFCI outlet and the problem is really with something inside my fridge? Is that going to damage my fridge? Mar 21 '20 at 13:18
  • Most likely the fridge will not be damaged. But a good compromise between the very sensitive GFCI outlet with ca. 5mA threshold and no GFCI at all will be to install a GFCI outlet with e.g. 30mA, which is the standard value in Europe and many other locations. It is 30mA exactly for that problem you are facing.
    – xeeka
    Mar 21 '20 at 13:46
  • @mostvenerablesir it is something inside your fridge. That's not a variable. Brand new fridges also trip GFCIs then go on to work for 20 years. The inherent ground fault is not going to damage your fridge. However it might be an artifact of your fridge normally reaching its midlife; or it might be an artifact of a real problem developing. Hard to say. You could go through it and look for movs, vbos or caps that might be aging. I suppose you could use a GFCI as a canary in a coal mine that way. But only do that once every few months as a diagnostic aid, not daily. Mar 21 '20 at 18:05
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Is it a high current problem or a ground fault? If it is a ground fault, this may help:

Was the fridge cleaned recently? With dish washer detergent or even with a spray?

Those substances can reduce the resistance of surfaces since they have ions and tensides. F.e. the cover of the inner light sometimes has holes where the spray may reach metal parts with main power resulting in a leakage current.

This leakage current does depend on the moisture of the surface, which might be getting higher after opening the door. The warm room air level can enter the fridge and will be cooled down. After some time, the water can not be hold within the air anymore and the water damp will be condensed at the cool surface - just like the drain water of an A/C.

Cleaning with destilled water or isopropanol may help. If the compressor area is accessible, a cleaning of that part may also help.

After cleaning with/spraying isopropanol, the fridge must be kept unplugged after all alcohol is gone and the fridge is ventilated.

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While the other answers are good, usually dust and debris accumulates on the coils at the bottom of your refrigerator over time that causes your compressor to work harder. Try lifting your grill at the bottom and dusting down there. If it's too dirty empty your refrigerator and put it on a dolly and tip it so you can see the bottom and have a second person really clean it with a broom and damp rag. That should get it working efficiently again and probably stop your gfci issue too

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