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I just bought a brand new washing machine and its tripping the (15 amp) GFCI circuit breaker. The main breaker in the fuse panel is 20 amps and is not tripping. The GFCI trips every time the washer turns on the water pump to fill the machine with water.

The washer works fine when I plug it into another regular circuit (without GFCI protection).

The delivery guy was adamant that this is due to a defective outlet. I suspect a defective washing machine.

Should I replace the GFCI outlet or the washing machine?

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  • 1
    pumps drain, not fill. you might have a bad solenoid valve.
    – dandavis
    Mar 25 at 23:07
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    Thanks @dandavis, that's a very good point & makes perfect sense.
    – Nick
    Mar 26 at 13:22
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TL;DR Test with an extension cord to another GFCI

It is probably the machine. Unlike the situations with refrigerators, where water is not involved (except the ice maker) and where food spoilage is a big concern, washing machines have no real "excuse" not to be on GFCI. Plus GFCI is mandated for the the laundry room under current code, so the machines really should be designed to work properly on a GFCI.

But it is possible for a GFCI receptacle to go bad. The only practical way to prove it (short of replacing it) is to temporarily connect the washing machine with an extension cord to a bathroom or kitchen GFCI. If that has the same problem (trip every time the water pump turns on) then you have a bad washing machine - despite being brand new. If that works fine (and assuming the standard GFCI test on that receptacle works as expected), then you have a bad GFCI receptacle in the laundry room and replacing it should solve the problem.

How, you may ask, can a brand new machine have a ground fault? Mass produced electronics, appliances, cars and many other things are not 100% tested at the factory. Mistakes can happen - some that can easily cause a problem of this sort include:

  • Loose wire
  • Ground & neutral wires swapped
  • Insulation scraped off a wire during installation
  • Pinched wire
  • Bad connection to the pump, resulting in water leaking onto wires

Even a quick power-on self-test at the factory (which may or may not be routine, depending on the manufacturer) wouldn't reveal this fault because (a) they would not have a need to run the test on a GFCI-protected circuit (the factory floor is not an actual laundry room) and (b) they would not run the machine with water and (c) because they are not running the machine with water, they may not run an actual pump cycle

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GFCI outlets don't provide over-current protection, only ground fault protection. If you were fairly adept, you could make up a short extension cord with the wires separated (or carefully butcher one you have into 3 separate wires. And if you have an multi meter with an "amp clamp" you could put the amp clamp around the ground wire and plug it into a regular outlet. But then, I'm just a curious guy and would want to know the details.

But frankly, a new washing machine shouldn't be tripping a GFCI outlet, esp. if it was working fine before (I presume with the previous washing machine).

There is also the concept of "nuisance trips" where tiny amounts of power leak and are easily carried to ground by the ground connection. On equipment that frequently causes nuisance trips, in many cases it's code legal to replace the GFCI outlet with a regular one (IE: Fridges & Freezers). I'm not sure about a laundry room, hopefully others will chime in with code citations.

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