GFCI and Refrigerator

I have heard conflicting info on having a refrigerator plugged into a GFCI. Some say they trip easy and can cause problems. I’ve seen code inspectors tell people to install one.

If I find a 3 prong that shows open ground, that the refigerator is using, would I be correct in recommending installing a GFCI?

My 2005 guide to the NEC addresses that concern on page 172 stating;

"WARNING: Never plug a sump pump into a GFCI protected receptacle! The possibility of the GFCI nuisance tripping “OFF”-unknown to the homeowner-could result in a flooded basement. Since a single receptacle is exempt from the GFCI requirement, it is better to install a single receptacle for a sump pump. The same logic applices to plugging a refrigerator or freezer into a GFCI protected receptacle."

I inform clients when I see a refirgerator receptacle is GFCI protected, and let them know about the potential for nuisance tripping. I have heard many stories from people who have also had the problem with freezers in garages on GFCI receptacles.

I am not certain I agree with the GFCI statement about sump pumps stated in the NEC guide. Water and a crawl space with electricity. I think the safety against a shock hazard over rides the nuisance tripping concern of a sump pump. I know that is getting off topic a little.

If a GFCI trips its not the device that is faulty, its the appliance or whatever is plugged into the circuit,if it was a commercial kitchen all 120 volt 15 & 20 amp receptacles have to have GFCI protection and there is NO exceptions see 210.8(B) 2002 NEC,my point is that the exceptions that are there now will be going away as codes are revised.

Please note the NEC handbook or anything similar is advisory not a legal interpretation.

Plugging a food storage appliance into a GFCI is just plain stupid.

When I find an ungrounded receptacle at a refrigerator, I always recommend an Electrician to install grounded wiring.

Refrigerators and freezers should not depend on gfci’s.

I agree, no GFCI’s on Food storage. The first time they lose a bunch of food, guess who they are going to call, the inspector who recommended installing one. Recommend repair or upgrades by a qualified electrician only.

You “no fridge/sump pump” on the GFCI folks will have to turn your hat around in 2008. It will be code that ALL 15/20a 120v circuits are AFCI which incorporates GFCI.


Most, not all, receptacles I find that are dedicated for the reefer is “upstream” of any installed GFCIs, therefore not affected by nuisance tripping. We had a gas range that would cause a GFCI to trip off line occasionally, the exact reason was unclear, but I replaced the GFCI and the problem went away. The refrig was on the same branch but like I said upstream and when power was off the frig still received power. When advising someone to add GFCI protection this point or explanation should be explained. Unfortunately, not everyone hires an electrician and attempts to install the GFCIs themselves and usually incorrectly. Many can not even follow the simple instructions that are included with the GFCIs. On occasion they even manage get their yo-yo knocked into their watch pocket by not observing basic safety rules. Had one lady ask me once if “her husband could do the work?” I told her I had no idea what her husband was capable of doing and recommended they hire an electrician. He whispered to me later…“Thank you!”

:smiley: :smiley: :smiley: That’s perfect…:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Commercial kitchens are now required to have all 120v receptacles GFI protected. There is no exception for single receptacles in a dedicated space.

The Code is not worried about protecting the food from spoiling, it is about life safety and protecting people.

As a side note the GFI protection provided by AFCI’s is at a much higher level, 30ma, compared to 4-6ma that a standard GFI provides.


They do make GFCI/AFCI breakers ( Eaton® ) that do offer the 4-6 Ma protection and is a combined unit. Remember GFI is 20-30Ma and not a GFCI in nature…

The GFCI is a Class A device…and the GFI is a Class B device…for example a ice melting strip with a receptacle under the eves has to be GFI but not GFCI…so a class B can be used in that location but you can’t use a Class B in a GFCI situation where a Class A Device is needed.

Also in 2002 NEC® they lacked the definition of a Kitchen but was cleared up in the 2005 NEC® so it made it a bit more clear on what was truly a “Kitchen” in regards to that GFCI Requirement, Just figured I would give ya that in case anyone wanted to know.

I don’t like “Guides to Guides” books. Situation, Sump pump and crawlspace. See?

I have my chest freezer (in unfinished, pour concrete floor basement) plugged into a GFCI protected circuit. As someone commented, is this stupid?

As for the three prong with an open ground, I would suggest you just identify it, and recommend a qualified electrician corret the situation. Stuff not visible(inside box/panel) could effect the direction the correction would head.



Simple solution…make sure they are new GFCIs. They do not trip by nuisance. My sump pump is connected to one and I would plug my fridge into one were the receptacle under 6 feet from the sink, or if I had an open ground. I fitted the GFCIs myself. Simple if you read the instructions and have basic electrical knowledge i.e. turn the power off before replacing the receptacle.

And new GFCIs are becoming ever more idiot proof with installation. They will not reset unless wired correctly.

You guys worry too much, and evidently over the (extremely remote) risk of a fridge full of warm food or a flooded basement more than the safety of the household (an ungrounded GFCI provides more protection than an ordinary grounded receptacle).

And on sump pumps if you are that at risk from a flooded basement, install a battery backup sump pump. I did, and it was very easy.

Of course as HIs you should recommend professional electricians do this, but I cannot believe that so many of you are opposed to the use of GFCIs in the situation posed above. And reporting on the use of a GFCI that is feeding a refrigerator. Madness!

I’m tempted to move my fridge to the bathroom. That way I won’t have to change the receptacle in there before I call you guys out.

Come on Paul. Make the call. Would you whack me for using a GFCI on a refigerator?

No need for a GFCI, the beer might warm up…


lol…been making the CALL for YEARS now Ian…I have no problem at all with a GFCI on a fridge…does not worry me one bit.

So Paul, if you inspected a house with a 2 wire system with 3 prong plugs, open ground, you would be comfortable recommending a GFCI in place of running new 3 wire? If everything else was correct in the service panel.     Thanks to everyone with their opinions.  :)

Yes, as long as the 3-prong receptacles are labeled properly :wink: , the CODE says it’s fine and I have no problem with it.

No need to label as open ground even if there is a 2 wire system as long as there is a proper ground that has been tested. A self-grounding receptacle, with metal wall boxes, and properly connected 2-wire armored cable with a bonding strip will do the job just fine.

Heck you can even use ordinary (non-GFCI) three-prong receptacles on a 2 wire system, as long as the above condition is met. I do except in wet areas where GFCIs are required. Come round and test. There is a good ground and therefore no labels, execpt on the circuits where a GFCI is protecting another receptacle on the same circuit, but that is a different label.

But do not do this with BX or Paul will give you his glowing story.

Absolutely, but the key here is open ground. Not all 2 wire systems will have an open ground. My 2-wire armored cable with a bonding strip, through metal wall boxes and self-grounding receptacles works just fine. No need for GFCIs here, and no need to label the GFCIs as open ground where I have them.

2-wire can be good wire!

Now Paul will write a page about old BX not having a bonding strip and glowing. But this is not to be confused.