Why Is Refrigerator Tripping the GFCI Outlet?

July 7, 2021
Refrigerator Repair

If your refrigerator is tripping a GFCI, it can cause lots of problems for you, including running the risk of your refrigerator randomly turning off, which causes your food to spoil.

In this article, we will discuss why the GFCI can trip and what you can do about it.

But first, let’s start by describing what a GFCI is and why they are used.

What Is a GFCI?

GFCI is short for “ground-fault circuit interrupter.” It is used as a safety mechanism to protect you from electrical shock in areas of your home where there is likely to be water, such as your kitchen and bathroom.

Unlike a fuse or circuit breaker, the GFCI is built into the power socket, so when something that is connected to it (such as a fridge) encounters water, the GFCI is there to automatically turn the power off to that appliance.

What to Do When Your Refrigerator GFCI trips

To find out why your refrigerator is tripping the GFCI, please follow these steps.

1. Reset the GFCI Outlet

The first step is to check the GFCI outlet. When your refrigerator turns off and it is plugged into a GFCI outlet, it could have simply been caused by “nuisance tripping.” It’s called that because the GFCI is very sensitive and can randomly trip when it shouldn’t. Fridges in particular do this because when the cooling cycle starts they require lots of power to get going.

All you need to do is reset the GFCI outlet and then monitor your fridge to see if it happens again. If it doesn’t happen again or doesn’t happen very often, you can write it off as “nuisance tripping.” If it keeps on tripping, move on to step two.

2. Check the Power Cord

The next step is to check the power cord. Sometimes the power cord from your fridge can get damaged, and this causes a short circuit to occur. To check the power cord, simply unplug it and inspect it for any signs of damage, such as worn-out insulation, holes, rodent bite marks, etc.

If it is damaged in any way, it will need to be replaced. If it is fine, you can move on to the next step.

3. Check the Power Plug

The next step is to check the prongs on the power plug to see if they are broken, damaged, loose, or rusted. If you find they are damaged, you will need to replace the plug or the whole cord. If it is fine, you can move on to checking the next thing on the list.

4. Check That the Circuit Isn’t Overloaded

Another common cause of GFCI tripping is when the circuit that your fridge is plugged into is overloaded. This is usually caused by multiple appliances being plugged into the same circuit. To avoid this happening, make sure that your refrigerator has a dedicated circuit, which you can do by plugging your refrigerator into an alternative power outlet and seeing if it still trips. If it doesn’t trip in the alternative power outlet, you will need to have the circuit for your fridge reconfigured so that it is the only appliance connected to that circuit.

5. Check the Outlet

You also need to check the power outlet that your refrigerator is plugged into. You can do this by turning the power off at the circuit breaker, removing the cover to the outlet, and then checking for any signs of burned-out wires or loose connections. You can then use a multimeter to test the outlet for continuity. If it doesn’t have continuity or you find damaged wires, it will need to be replaced. Only carry out these repairs if you are qualified to do so. If the outlet is fine, move on to the next step.

6. Check the Circuit Breaker

The next step is to check the circuit breaker and the whole breaker box to see if the circuit breaker is damaged in any way. Sometimes they can become corroded, cracked, or generally worn out and will need to be replaced. You should only carry out this repair if you are qualified to do so, as it can be quite dangerous. If the circuit breaker is fine, move on to the next step on the list.

7. Check the Refrigerator Wiring

The next step is to check the wiring in your refrigerator. To do this, pull the fridge out from the wall, remove the lower back panel, and then inspect all of the wires for signs of damage and loose connections. If you find any damage or loose connections, they will need to be repaired or replaced. You should only carry out this repair if you are qualified to do so. If the wires are fine, move on to checking the next component.

8. Check the Defrost Heater

Sometimes a tripping GFCI can be caused by a faulty defrost heater. You can test the defrost heater in your refrigerator by resetting the timer so that it goes on to a defrost cycle. If the GFCI trips not long after the defrost cycle begins, this is a good sign that there is something wrong with the defrost heater, and it needs to be replaced. You should only carry out this repair if you are experienced and qualified to do so. If the defrost heater doesn’t cause a trip to occur, it is not the cause of the problem, and you can move on to the final step.

9. Check the Compressor

If you have made it this far and still not found the source of the problem, it is likely caused by a defective compressor. Over time the winding on the compressor starts to fail, and this causes your refrigerator to work overtime to provide enough power to the compressor.

Replacing the compressor is expensive and a difficult repair to do. You might be better off purchasing a new refrigerator instead of replacing it. Before making your decision, you could ask a qualified technician to inspect the refrigerator to ensure you haven’t missed any problems that can be fixed.


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