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I have heard conflicting information about the proper receptacle type for clothes washing machines. Appliance repairmen have told me not to plug in to GFCIs, while electric code mandates that receptacles in laundry rooms be GFCI protected. NEC mandate makes sense: there's water, and sometimes it's very close to the receptacle.

But why do appliance people claim the GFCI is a bad idea? I had understood GFCIs to be a non-intrusive measuring tool that makes no difference in the nature of the electricity coming out of the outlet unless there is an imbalance between the current on Hot and Neutral. Is there something the differential current transformer is doing that might harm the circuitry in the laundry machine? (I'm thinking in analogy with the effect of photoelectric sensors on LED light bulbs, where the bulb's electronics get burnt by the constant current that the sensor draws.)

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    It also depends on the age of the machine. Most machines from the last few years should have no problem, but before 2008 machines were not made for GFCIs. Washing machines will not ruin food, so try a GFCI
    – crip659
    Commented May 20 at 12:30
  • How old is your washing machine? My grandmonther's mangle would easily dim the light when it kicked up. A more modern machine would be better.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 20 at 21:22
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    @Criggie Drawing so much current that the light dims is unrelated to a ground fault, isn't it? Commented May 21 at 0:15
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    Observation: In a professionally installed home here in Austria, Europe there is no non-GFCI outlet where you could even plug in a washing machine :-)
    – Martin Ba
    Commented May 21 at 8:12
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    @MartinBa (FWIW, that's standard in the UK, too.  Every circuit in this 50-year-old house is protected by an RCD in the main distribution board.)
    – gidds
    Commented May 21 at 11:46

3 Answers 3

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Some electric motors cause some GFCI circuits to trip. One reason is strong magnetic fields passing a small amount of current by induction into grounded components. For this reason it's best not to plug a refrigerator or freezer into a GFCI outlet. A nuisance trip could cause all the food to spoil.

A consumer laundry machine should certainly be plugged into one. Mine has been for years. What better example of electricity and water mixing? If there is a nuisance trip, which is extremely unlikely, there is no heavy cost. But a GFCI trip should not be regarded as nuisance. It is almost always because a problem has developed, either with the machine or with the outlet. Regard it as a warning, not a nuisance.

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    it's best not to plug a refrigerator or freezer into a GFCI outlet in France (and Europe in general) all your outlets will be GFCI-style (I am not an electrician so maybe there are cases where this does not apply but in the houses and apartments I've been it, it was part of the checking process (to check that the outlets trip the differential circuit)). maybe our refrigerators are designed for this, though.
    – WoJ
    Commented May 21 at 10:37
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    @WoJ American GFCIs are more sensitive and age poorly partly because they are usually installed outdoors or in garages. Old GFCI outlets with old refrigerators are the origin of the concern. Here is a good article with more detail.
    – jay613
    Commented May 21 at 11:15
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    It is also worth noting that, at least in Italy but I believe in Europe in general, there are four different classes of RCD. The oldest class does not behave well with anything that is not purely resistive, but more modern classes are specifically built both to detect faults that would go undetected, and to be more robust against nuisance trips. Commented May 21 at 11:54
  • @jay613 ahhhh, they are part of the outlet in the eUS. Here the circuit is on the switchboard together with the fuses
    – WoJ
    Commented May 21 at 12:37
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    @jay613 Actually, GFCI in the cord/plug on hair dryers (and similar) has been for decades. Because it takes decades to get all bathrooms GFCI protected but people replace hair dryers every few years. Redundant protection for newer houses or renovated bathrooms, but undoubtedly saving lives. Commented May 22 at 1:17
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I'm not sure if the majority of appliance people say it's bad to connect your washer to a GFCI. There are instances where washers will trip a GFCI but that's due to moisture getting into the outlet either from water splashing or even high humidity in the room. Those trips can be prevented by installing a weatherproof outlet box. I've never heard of circuitry problems due to GFCI connections

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    If you have so much water splashing around your laundry room that you need an outdoor cover to prevent the GFCI outlet from tripping, maybe the nuances of electric motors and GFCIs are not what you should be focusing on. :)
    – jay613
    Commented May 20 at 20:40
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    @jay613 It's very common to have a utility tub next to the washer and god only knows what people wash in them. Very easy to have water splashing around. Our outlet was right above the tub and next to the washer. It doesn't take much water to trip a GFCI. Those little plastic outlet covers are an easy fix.. :-)
    – JACK
    Commented May 20 at 20:48
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    Well .. ok ... I guess. Not really ... but ... in the context of this question, if the idea is you do not use a GFCI because of antiquated misconceptions about nuisance trips, and then you spray water all over your not-GFCI outlet all the time ... IDK this is headed in a weird direction. Like, not wearing a seat belt because "falling off a bridge" and then purposely driving into a tree every day? Kidding. A little.
    – jay613
    Commented May 20 at 22:01
  • not wearing a seat belt because "falling off a bridge" could you explain that? You mean that people say that it is safer not to wear belts when falling off a bridge? This si more or less equivalent to hitting a tree (depends on the height of course). Is the idea that it is more difficult to get off the car when the belt is on?
    – WoJ
    Commented May 21 at 10:39
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    @gidds well, when you look at what happens with a car running at 50 km/h that crashes onto a wall and extrapolate this to a river (which can be a wall or a seriously viscous place depending on the speed) I would worry more about being thrown off the seat and hitting the windshield. and then worry whether pushing the button of the seatbelt is a problem. Not even mentioning your point about the positive pressure of the water.
    – WoJ
    Commented May 21 at 12:36
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But why do appliance people claim the GFCI is a bad idea?

Same reason home builders think radon detectors are a bad idea, and RV dealers think dealer warranties are a bad idea.

If you don't have safety warning devices in place, then you won't know about problems. And if you don't know about problems, you don't make warranty claims.

The appliance installer is the guy who gets called out on these, so his perspective is narrow.

And unfortunately, the washing machine industry studiously ignored upcoming changes in the electrical codes, hoping to impede those changes with lawyers rather than updating their products to be more compatible with GFCIs. Motor appliances often have miniature ground faults since stopping the motor is interrupting an inductor. This can be fixed simply enough, but lawyers are cheaper than such fixes. Anyway, this "kick the can down the road using lawyers" trick did not work for as long as they were planning it to, and when the requirements landed, they were not ready. See also the NEMA 10-30 fiasco - decades to fix the problem and yet you can still buy 3-wire dryer cords to for use with 10-30 receptacles and replacement 10-30 receptacles for when the old ones die, when what should happen is replace the receptacle and cord/plug with 14-30.

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    Or rather, spending $100,000 on lawyers and lobbyists seems like a lot of money to normal people but they do the math and say "it will save $10 on 20,000 machines = $200,000, so it is a bargain. Commented May 21 at 21:18

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