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I’m installing a stand up fridge and stand up freezer, side by side (ie, there are two separate units). These will be in a new location so I’m adding the electrical wiring. I was going to use a 12/3 wire with a split receptacle and 20 amp breaker. Both units would be plugged into the same receptacle. Alternatively I could run two 12/2 wires and have two outlets.

I see the code in my area (Ontario, Canada) is that I can use a 14/2, 15 amp dedicated circuit (with the option of using 12/2, 20 amp). But I’m not able to find a situation where you have a Fridge and Freezer.

Specific question: is 12/3 20 amp split receptacle to plug in a freezer and fridge (side by side) meeting code?

Any input would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    Running a 12/3 means that you've got a Multi-Wire Branch Circuit (MWBC). It will require a pair of breakers with a handle tie to ensure that they both get turned off at the same time for safety when working on the receptical in the future. Look at what your code says about MWBCs in general and for refrigeration in particular. – FreeMan Dec 1 '20 at 16:54
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    Also, if you're running conduit you won't run cable, right? 12/3 and 12/2 are cables. You'd run THHN wires, no? – isherwood Dec 1 '20 at 17:03
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    I think you are probably (vastly) overestimating the required amperage. If you are providing dedicated circuit/outlets (which I consider a good thing) for refrigerator/freezer, unless they are abnormally large commercial units they are likely well-served by a 15A circuit. Odds are great that they'd be well served by one 15A circuit. My 2020 fridge draws 200W at most (when defrosting) and more usually 50-80W. You might have a less efficent model, but they just are not power-hogs in the current era. – Ecnerwal Dec 1 '20 at 17:12
  • Thanks @FreeMan. I’ll check that out. – Oldoldhouseguy Dec 1 '20 at 17:16
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    The first thing to do is read the nameplate for the current draw. My 10 yr old Samsung side by side plus drawer says 5.3 amp , so it does not need much wire. – blacksmith37 Dec 1 '20 at 21:43
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Ever seen a refrigerator plug?

They have a 90 degree molding on them so they are flush with the wall. The bend is generally downward (not sideways) to the plug pins. Plugged into the upper socket, they will block the lower socket.

So 2 fridges on 1 recep is Right Out. You'll need two receptacles.

We had a question a couple months ago from someone who did not realize this until the refrigerators arrived, drywall/paint was done. They had the good sense not to use extension cords, but it was a serious vexation... "extend with Wiremold surface conduit" was our best answer.

Separate circuits if possible

You are contemplating a Multi-Wire Branch Circuit or MWBC. That requires a 2-pole breaker, or two 1-pole breakers with a handle-tie (which are hard to find, easier and cheaper to use a 2-pole breaker). So clearly, you have 2 breaker spaces available for this.

The problem is, this creates a situation where one fridge's problem can take out the other fully functioning fridge. Ask your partner how much food spoilage that would be. A lot.

We don't like AFCI or GFCI on refrigerators because of the chance of a nuisance trip causing food spoilage. The problem with MWBC is if one leg trips, most likely, so will the other leg due to the handle-tie. (2-pole breakers have a feature called "common trip" which guarantees this). And if you put both fridges on the same simple circuit, same problem again.

So my advice is 2 dedicated circuits, 1 per fridge. The most costly thing is establishing a wire-able route between panel and outlet... once you've done that, 2 cables vs 1 is no trouble at all. Throw two 12/2's in there, done. The second most costly thing is spaces in the panel, but you have those. Throw the two 12/2's on separate breakers, and you're all set.

"Oh I know! I just won't handle-tie a MWBC going into a single junction box. What could possibly go wrong???" The answer is a maintainer getting nailed because they did not realize the neutral was a live wire. Happens all the time.

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  • Thanks! Funny, the plug angle had gone through my mind a few months back when I was contemplating all this.....and then quickly faded. I’m going to follow your advice. Thanks for the detailed input. – Oldoldhouseguy Dec 1 '20 at 21:44
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Avoid MWBC if possible. They introduce too many issues later on just to save a bi. Particularly for GCFI/ACFI breakers in the panel.

American code usually requires dedicated circuits for each non-portable appliances such as refrigerators, built-in microwaves, washers and dryers.

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  • The NEC does not require a dedicated circuit for any of those appliances – ThreePhaseEel Dec 3 '20 at 0:14
  • NEC does allow a kitchen refrigerator to be on one of the two required 20amp counter top circuits. Some local codes are stricter and require dedicated circuits. Best practice is still to provide dedicated circuits. – JackHandy42 Dec 4 '20 at 1:29

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