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I am original owner of 1986 house where the refrigerator was put on kitchen GFCI as it is 5' from the sink. I lived there 25 years and never had the GFCI trip for any reason. I had GE fridge, then Whirlpool fridge, then Samsung fridge.

18 months ago I gutted the house to bare studwalls and renovated it for a rental. With the walls open I had an electrician inspect the panel and all wiring, and had him replace all the GFCIs just because of age. I also asked him about a dedicated non-protected circuit for the fridge but he said it wasn't allowed because of being 5' from the sink. So he left it on the GFCI.

The first renters experienced one nuisance trip in over a year of renting, no idea if their fridge or something else caused it. The new renters' fridge, however, is tripping the GFCI several times a day (we have narrowed it down to the fridge). Their fridge is less than 10 years old and works fine on an extension cord to non-protected outlet as a temporary measure to preserve their food.

I'm replacing the GFCI just because it has been tripped so much. I doubt the existing GFCI is faulty but I guess we'll see after I replace it. If the new GFCI continues to trip, is there anything else I can do for them? Thank you for your help.

EDIT to add: The fridge is on the last outlet in the circuit. In other posts I saw mention of a "snubber" - is that something I can add to the fridge's outlet and would it help stop the fridge from tripping the GFCI?

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    Your electrician was too rigid, or you were. The fridge receptacle almost certainly could have easily been made 6 feet 1 inch from the sink if it was 5 feet from the sink and you had the walls open.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 28, 2022 at 22:15
  • The fridge is at the end of the cabinet run on a loadbearing wall that ends at the fridge. The receptacle is 8" away from the edge of the wall. I will go measure, but I believe that is where the 5' measurement comes from. It is a very tiny kitchen.
    – Kat
    Jul 28, 2022 at 22:24
  • You haven’t told us where you live, and the electrical code varies by country, and then within a country it can vary by city. So. But In general your electrician screwed up. The fridge should have been on a dedicated circuit — that is, with one outlet behind the fridge on a wire going back to a circuit breaker where the only thing on the circuit breaker is the wire to the fridge outlet. And most electrical codes in the USA and Canada have an explicit exception carved out for GFCI behind large appliances — they aren’t required. Jul 28, 2022 at 23:37
  • By hiring a licensed electrician, I thought I was getting the right info for my area. But, for the sake of argument, let's say he was not correct and the fridge can be on an unprotected outlet (I don't think it applies in my case but I will surely check into it). If it can be unprotected, does it have to be a dedicated circuit or could it be chained off the GFCI line terminals on the same circuit? Due to the location of the panel and the vaulted ceilings, I don't think we could (very easily) pull a line while the house is occupied.
    – Kat
    Jul 28, 2022 at 23:59
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    Where do you live , what location? In Oregon a dedicated circuit is allowed for equipment like refrigerators, yes within 5’ from a sink or in a garage or out building that if you only read the national code there are no exceptions but the state has a list of changes to the NEC , 26 pages and this is just 1 article, knowing the local jurisdiction may help as I find dozens of electricians that do not know the exceptions
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 29, 2022 at 1:41

1 Answer 1

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  • Replace it:

When you replace it use a different brand. In a quick search at Big Orange, I see mostly Leviton and some Legrand. Big Blue mostly Eaton. Big Green mostly Legrand and Smart Electrician (house brand?). Pick something of a different brand and, preferably, as little "smarts" as possible, though since they all (or nearly all) now have self-test, there are always some smarts in there. And then hope for the best. The big unknown is whether it is a truly faulty refrigerator or an overzealous GFCI.

  • Get rid of it:

This is where you run into a code issue, as you know. But at 5' away, is there any place that would be just over 6' where you could mount a receptacle? That would likely be the easiest fix.

Now one catch is "renter". In most places, a landlord can't do their own electrical work. I can see the argument for extremely simple stuff - e.g., straight receptacle swap. But certainly adding a receptacle at a different location (whether new circuit or chained off an old circuit) is "real work", which means that legally you most likely need to call a licensed electrician to do the work. $$$

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  • Thank you. I have bought a Levitron AFCI/GFCI dual function to replace the existing Legrand one. The side of the fridge is exposed as it is on a loadbearing wall that ends with the fridge, and the sink is the other direction from the fridge.
    – Kat
    Jul 28, 2022 at 22:34
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    I definitely would not use AFCI. While GFCI should be extremely simple, AFCI is inherently complex as it is looking for patterns and not just a simple comparison Jul 28, 2022 at 23:52
  • Thanks, I will exchange it for plain Leviton GFCI. I thought I had to have AFCI as well in this situation.
    – Kat
    Jul 29, 2022 at 0:03
  • Quite the opposite. GFCI has to do with life safety, particularly in wet areas. That's why it has been required for a long time in bathrooms and kitchens and gradually expanded to outdoor receptacles, laundry rooms, etc. AFCI has to do primarily with fire prevention. It started in bedrooms (electric blankets) and gradually expanded to most other rooms (various wiring faults). It is quite possible that current code in your area requires AFCI and GFCI for kitchens/bathrooms/etc. and just AFCI in non-wet finished spaces. But generally speaking retrofit is not required. You can't lower the Jul 29, 2022 at 0:06
  • protection though, which is why you can't simply remove GFCI from here. But you don't have to add AFCI and it would be counter-productive to your current problem. In addition, AFCI is actually far more useful when done at or near the breaker panel, as opposed to GFCI which can be anywhere up to and including point of use (exception: outdoor receptacles around pools, etc. should have GFCI at the panel; but indoors - point of use is fine.) Jul 29, 2022 at 0:07

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