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I have a house that is just under 2 years old. My 2 year old GE Profile fridge (model PWE23KSKJSS) is hooked up to a dedicated circuit that runs off a 20 AMP Arc Fault breaker. There is nothing else on this breaker, only the one fridge outlet and nothing else.

Everything was fine for 1 year, then my breaker tripped and could not be reset, as if there was a dead short - whether or not the fridge was plugged in. I tested for continuity without the fridge being plugged in and there was none, so it didn't seem like there was any kind of short.

I replaced the breaker with the identical model and it was fine for about 6 months, then the exact same thing happened.

So it really seems as if the fridge itself is responsible - as if the motor is burning out the circuitry in the breaker. Is such a thing possible and has anyone else had a similar experience?

I thought I'd post my question before replacing the breaker for a 3rd time, and I'm thinking just a normal breaker this time.

Eaton panel and Eaton 20 Amp arc fault breaker.

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    Note that these circuit breakers are Eaton's CH line, which is their high-end industrial product, and they come with a lifetime warranty. So you should be able to get a free replacement from Eaton, and they may have some additional ideas what might be going on. See here for warranty info: eaton.com/content/dam/eaton/products/…
    – Nate S.
    Dec 10, 2020 at 20:45
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    @DaveinTampa, this page tells you how to decipher the blinking light into the reason for the breaker trip. Does the light flash when you try to turn on the dead breakers? thegeekpub.com/11511/eaton-breaker-flashing-red
    – Nate S.
    Dec 10, 2020 at 20:51
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    Does the failed breaker work properly if no wires at all are connected to it? (besides its pigtail; it needs the pigtail). Also, contact Eaton - given the warranty coverage they gave me on a simple motion sensor, I am sure that breaker is covered. They will know it's in coverage because of a manufacture date on it. Dec 10, 2020 at 21:00
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    It's certainly weird that your fridge is burning out circuit breakers but maybe that's a hint that your fridge is doing something god-awful to the breaker. In the post I linked one of the answers says "Sometimes, a GFCI trip is exactly what it says on the tin -- "working as intended" genuine trip caused by faulty machinery. Often cleared by a good cleaning, but sometimes, you just need a new fridge. Insulation failure is one way machines fail." so if the fridge has faulty machinery then your breaker could be saving your life.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 10, 2020 at 21:10
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    @DaveinTampa -- yes, what flash code does the breaker display when it's turned back on after being tripped by the fridge? Dec 11, 2020 at 0:43

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I have had trouble with both arc fault and GFCI breakers (and receptacles) with motor loads especially Refrigerators and front load washing machines. The big issue I believe that is causing the failures was high efficiency motors the variable speed controls. arc faults can’t tell the difference between arcs and a short pulse used for speed control. The early arc fault breakers also had trouble with lighting dimmers when the circuit had a fair sized load (10-12 amps).

I would check your state codes and see if the dedicated circuit even requires arc fault protection. In my state devices known to have problems like the above are exempted from gfci or arc fault protection when on a dedicated circuit.

Things that can cause arc faults to trip. Capacitors especially electrolytes as the age. SCR & TRIAC’s these are the solid state switches that control the wave form to the motor or device. Pitted contacts on “start relays” or contactors. Inductive kick back from the motor itself And what they are designed to trip , arcing from damage to insulation by a staple, screw or metal box.

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  • Update: to air on the side of caution I decided to replace the arc fault breaker with another are fault breaker. I'll see how long it lasts this time around. I have an old noise filter plug so I'll try using that too. I don't know if it works in both directions but maybe it will help protect the breaker from whatever the fridge motor may be doing - can't hurt to try. Thanks everyone for your helpfulness. Dec 16, 2020 at 13:32
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Try changing the outlet. A cheap fix if it works. Also try using that AFCI breaker in another similar load circuit and see if it trips as often as when in the refrigerator circuit.

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  • Yes sir, I did both of those things. I tried the "broken" breaker on a different circuit and it trips immediately. The breaker is no longer useable. I also did install a new outlet when this happened the 1st time and it did not make a difference, but kind thanks for your suggestions. Dec 10, 2020 at 20:27
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    I agree, since you're planning to go "plain breaker" anyway, also fit a simplex (1-socket) receptacle, and then label it "Fridge ONLY". That will make the AFCI downgrade seem more legitimate, since it is a waiver often given, but the waiver requires a simplex outlet on a dedicated circuit. That requires the socket to match breaker ampacity, so socket must be 20A (T-shaped neutral). Dec 10, 2020 at 21:03
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    Nate: Thank you for the lnk to GeekPub. Great info to have! The light in the breaker does not come on at all, zero flashes. I can't remember if the original breaker flashed or not, I wish I would have wrote that down. The fridge is a GE Profile, model PWE23KSKJSS (french doors on top, freezer on bottom). I will see what I can do with Eaton. Really great info, thank you. Harper: if I disconnect the outlet the breaker still trips immediately, but I have not tried disconnecting all the wires except the pigtail. I will try this tomorrow and leave a comment here. Dec 10, 2020 at 21:23
  • Thank you all for your help and suggestions. I will consider all of this information before making any more moves on this. I guess it's it's one of two things. The fridge is killing the AFCIs, or there is a arc condition in the line that slowly kills the AFCIs. Thanks again everyone, I do appreciate your time and effort to respond. Dec 10, 2020 at 21:27
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    I just noticed the over current trip comment: if that is the case and for example it is tripping aprox once a week or every 4 days the defrost heater element has probably failed (not common on new systems). These are usually a metal band with a wire coming out at each end around the base of the compressor. With it unplugged disconnect the band and see if it makes it past the normal trip cycle you have been seeing.
    – Ed Beal
    Dec 11, 2020 at 14:12
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The wire connections on the outlet are not properly done. You have insulation under screw for the white wire and the black wire appears to wrap around the screw in the wrong direction. The ground wire could be wrapped a bit nicer as well.

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  • The white wire is properly wrapped , the green is sloppy but the proper direction. I refer apprentices and non electricians to exhibit 110.3 in the code book although this is specifically talking about aluminum wire it provides the wrap direction and a 2/3 -3/4 wrap. Most inspectors that flag improper wrap cite this code reference as it has pictures for the non electricians.
    – Ed Beal
    Dec 16, 2020 at 14:46

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