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This is going to sound really weird, but it has been going on for 6 years and the electricians that wired our house spent multiple days trying to figure it out before we found it was definitely the fridge, but no idea what or why.

When we open the door on our fridge (a 6 yr old Whirlpool model #WRF736SDAM11 French Door) it occasionally trips another AFCI circuit in our house. The circuit it trips used to jump all over the place, but is pretty consistent on which breaker it throws these days. The electricians went over all of the lines that were tied to the fridge, and to the other breakers that were tripping, but found no faults. They replaced outlets, breakers, switches, the lot with no result. It only happens when opening the door of the fridge.

I've read that the LED driver in this fridge could cause line noise, but I'm not sure how to verify that, and if so, how to go about resolving it. The fridge itself never trips the GFCI circuit it is on.

  • What is the exact model of the fridge? – Jon Jul 27 at 19:25
  • The model number is WRF736SDAM11 – DrummerGeek Jul 27 at 20:20
  • GFCI and AFCI are completely different faults, so no surprise the fridge isn't tripping the GFCI outlet (breaker?) There was another post here within the last few months that addressed this issue. Maybe they could re-post the answer? – George Anderson Jul 27 at 20:27
  • What does that AFCI circuit feed? What make and model are the panel and breakers in question? – ThreePhaseEel Jul 27 at 23:11
  • Not sure what you're asking about what the circuit feeds, normal outlets and lights throughout the house. The outlets on the breaker that is throwing lately have a computer and TV connected, and a ceiling fan on the light. The panel and breakers are EATON, not sure the models, though, the breakers have a green stripe on the sticker. – DrummerGeek Jul 28 at 14:42
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Because it happens when you open the door, it is more than likely caused by the light.

There seems to be a known issue affecting your Whirlpool WRF736SDAM11 refrigerator.

Under limited, varying circumstances, the LED Driver Board may produce signal noise which can produce a false trip of an AFCI breaker.

Correction: After verifying the refrigerator is supplied by an AFCI breaker, order Service Kit #W10810444 and install in accordance with instructions supplied with kit. Note: AFCI breakers are different than GFCI breakers. GFCI breakers are not affected. AFCI breakers are typically labeled “Arc Fault” (Figure 1) or “AFCI” (Figure 2) on the breaker face and have a test button.

Service Pointer - W10806461 (Tripping of AFCI Breakers) (pdf)

As for the whereabouts of the mentioned Service Kit #W10810444 - I've not been able to find an image for what it actually is. It is described as CORD-POWER but it will need to be something more to actually solve your problem. (some ebay results are just a simple wire cord - don't buy that). here's a link to one for sale and another

Alternatively, you might be able to fix it by unplugging the LED in the fridge. This might not work - especially if the LED driver isn't actually on the same chip - but if it fixes your issue, you can be sure that your issue is related to the LED driver. If you are in a bind, you could just put a battery powered motion sensing light in the fridge to replace the built in one - not elegant but doable.

Noise from electronics tripping AFCI breakers is rather common. I visited the Square D (Schneider) facility ~6 years ago. They had a room full of household electrical loads (ceiling fans, sump pumps, TVs) to test their breakers with. They said they once went to a guy's house and bought the $5,000 TV from him that was tripping his breaker so they could fix the issue and test improvements to the breaker design.

That is to say one option is to replace the AFCI circuit breaker - they likely have a new and improved revision that won't be affected by the LED driver in your fridge. If you want, contact the manufacture of the breaker and inquire whether they can offer you a replacement, discount coupon or other resolution.

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  • Nice sleuthing, and a reminder of why model numbers are so important in the questions! – FreeMan Jul 28 at 15:21
  • It sounds like a power cord kit with an embedded module of some kind... MOV or capacitor or somesuch. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 28 at 19:21
  • Yeah, I suspect it's a power cord with a ferrite lump or such on it – ThreePhaseEel Jul 28 at 23:15
  • And yes, AFCIs are relatively common EMI victims. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of things you can do on your own to get a widget to stop spewing noise onto the powerlines :/ (filtered surge suppressors such as an Isobar might work....but are limited in scope to things you can plug into a standard outlet) – ThreePhaseEel Jul 28 at 23:17
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Use a Different AFCI

You can't use a different AFCI in the breaker panel. But you can use a dead front AFCI instead of the breaker. Get a different brand from the manufacturer of your "problem" breaker.

Deadfront AFCI

Then replace the breaker with an ordinary, not AFCI or GFCI, breaker. Put a simple box right next to the main panel and install the dead front AFCI in that box, with the line connection going to your replacement breaker and the load connection going to the original circuit.

For those wondering "why not simply use an AFCI near the refrigerator or some other convenient place":

  • The AFCI, in this particular case, is not on the refrigerator circuit but on a different circuit. That circuit could go anywhere in the house, not necessarily near the refrigerator.
  • AFCIs, in general, are to protect against wiring problems. That includes faulty backstabs, nails through wires, etc. Because of that, they normally need to be installed either in the breaker panel or very close to it. That is quite different from GFCIs which are about a life-safety issue where any place up to point-of-use will do just fine.

Not a cheap or trivial solution, but it may fix the problem. If your electrician is willing to do so, he could even wire this up as a test before installing the box.

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  • Wouldn't it make more sense to put this in an accessible location near the fridge so if there's ever a fridge issue, it's right there to reset it? Maybe it wouldn't in the modern bury-the-fridge-in-the-middle-of-a-wall-of-cabinets type of kitchen layout, but my stick-the-fridge-whereever-it'll-fit-in-the-room, built in the 1890's house it would... – FreeMan Jul 28 at 16:16
  • @FreeMan That would be the preference if the problem was "GFCI on fridge". But the problem is "AFCI on a different circuit". – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Jul 28 at 16:21
  • Gotcha. I'd read the question, but not right before reading your answer, so I'd forgotten some details. – FreeMan Jul 28 at 16:46

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