0

Recently I have been upgrading the old 15A outlets in my house to Leviton 20A 125V GFCI outlets (The wire size is 12AWG). It is a much older style home. So, for some strange reason the ground wire is present only in the 220V outlets. So, I had to add some additional ground wires from here to some possible 110V outlets like for my refrigerator outlets etc. There are also some outlets with a blank next to it. I'm adding some Leviton T5832-2BW (w/ USB ports) as load outlets.

I have a few questions:

  1. Are GFCI okay to use with refrigerators? I'm a bit concerned if they tripped/malfunctioned the outlet might shut off since these are electronic based outlets. Is it mandatory as per code?

  2. Do GFCI outlets react same without ground wire? I read that they detect change in current in L & N.

  3. Is the USB output 5V (Type A & Type C) from these outlets safe & reliable like the ones from USB chargers? I know Leviton is a reliable brand but still I've never used one before.

9
  • 1
    GFCI do not require a ground to operate. They operate on the current difference between the two 'mains' wires provided. What happens if the GFCI trips is situation dependant. A freezer-power or freezer-temperature alarm may be in order. Apr 4 at 10:31
  • Tangentially, I suggest buying a freezer alarm. That will protect you from other causes of stuff warming up (like a door not being closed), a mechanical/electrical fault, will check your fridge and freezer for temperature to check it's within food safety guideleines, give you a good idea of the min/max range of your thermostat and the meaning of the mysterious numbers on the temp control, and alarm when the temperature goes out of range. Batteries last forever and they're dirt cheap and reliable compared to "smart" fridges, etc. Apr 4 at 19:47
  • Are the boxes metal? If so, is the house wired in metal conduit (common around Chicagoland and NYC) OR are the cable ground wires tied to the box, as is proper? Apr 5 at 0:00
  • Have read that older fridges(pre 2009) do not get along well with GCFIs, but newer fridges are better. If fridge is on it's own circuit and you do not change that circuit, it will grandfather in with older code and do not need to add GFCI(to be code).
    – crip659
    Apr 5 at 1:22
  • USB outlets are expensive and USB standards and power requirements change fairly regularly. The standard 3-prong US-spec outlet hasn't changed in decades and will provide power to whatever USB wall-wart comes with your latest laptop/tablet/phone which will provide the latest & greatest power supply and connector shape. i.e. don't hard-code yourself into an outlet that won't be helpful in a couple of years. Remember USB 1.0 that provided 500mA of power? Yeah, that won't charge a 10 year old iPhone these days...
    – FreeMan
    Apr 5 at 12:58

3 Answers 3

4

You can put a gfci on the fridge outlet and i think a GFCI is required if your fridge is in the garage. Like you said, it is one more level of risk if the GFCI pops (lightning or other surge on another branch can pop them occasionally). Having your frozen beef warm up is a real pain and expense.

Ideally, your fridge is on a dedicated circuit indoors (in your kitchen) so there is no need for GFCI (in the jurisdictions I have lived in, at least).

gfci are ok without ground connections but THE OUTLETS MUST BE LABELLED THAT THERE IS NO GROUND CONNECTION.

The usb outlets are ok but make sure you don't get the. Off of eBay or Amazon without datasheets. There are a lot of products with CE, UL, TUV labels or other safety organizations' testing labels or logos molded into the part and never been tested by the organization. The foreign manufacturers just think it is a necessary label and some don't even know what it means - or they knowingly add it and just don't think Amazon enforces anything (and they are almost right). Be careful and buy from a retailer that understands the source of the products they sell.

3

It's generally our view here on Home Improvement that GFCIs on refrigerators are bad.

They don't contribute much to safety, because they're simply not the use-case for personnel-protection GFCIs. It's a grounded metal chassis. The electrical gear is in the bottom back, and in a typical kitchen installation with the refrigerator recessed into an alcove, it's physically impossible to get anywhere near it. You're not likely to drop it in the sink.

However, GFCIs spell trouble for food safety. A trip can knock out the fridge. And if someone resets it without realizing it fed the fridge, the fridge might re-cool after the food has spoiled. The chef would have no idea. This is especially a problem where kids, seniors or special-needs people are involved - if they are being served food unique to them, the chef would not taste it first. Aides/caregivers aren't allowed to eat customer food.

To make matters worse, refrigerators are a motor load, which can have ground faults simply due to being a large inductive load that is interrupted. When you interrupt current through an inductor, the inductor will resist the change in current, pushing voltage to infinity until current moves - until the weakest insulation is found.

You can't use a freewheeling diode in AC power; a MOV or other VBO device could suffice, but those wear out.

So we recommend: avoid GFCI or other protective devices on a fridge. Fridge outlets in a kitchen don't require GFCI, and you can ask your permit issuing authority for a variance on a dedicated refrigerator/freezer circuit in a garage or basement.

1

You want to look over at the Home Improvement SE site, or re-post this question there. Go over to that site and click on the tag "GFCI" for Q&A's on that topic.

A GFCI is not needed for a refrigerator in a kitchen so long as that refrigerator is not plugged into one of the general usage wall outlets, like what's above the counter. Some people may feel it's nice to have that protection, but it is not required.

For refrigerators/freezers in garages, I don't think GFCI protection is needed if the outlet is placed such that another device cannot easily be plugged into that outlet. So if the outlet is behind the refrigerator, or high up, then it does not have to be GFCI protected. But I will have to defer to someone more knowledgeable about exceptions to what the code requires.

Finally, what's required for you depends on what version of the NEC your jurisdiction is using. GFCI protection seems to be one area that is constantly evolving and becoming more restrictive.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.