Why do some refrigerators trip GFI outlets?


Quick Answer

As refrigerators age, the electric motor that drives the compressor responsible for cooling the unit can cause slight electrical current fluctuation, which a ground-fault circuit-interrupter outlet is designed to detect. This minute change in amperage can prove dangerous, indicating a refrigerator that trips GFCI outlets regularly should be replaced.

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Full Answer

Refrigerators use a compressor powered by an electric motor to generate the power necessary to emit cold. As motors age, they can develop slight electrical output issues. The GFCI outlet is designed to detect changes in the amount of electricity flowing into a circuit versus flowing out in order to protect users from electrocution. GFCI outlets are sensitive and able to detect differences in current output as small as 4 or 5 milliamps. When change is detected, the outlet reacts quickly, tripping the circuit in under one-tenth of a second.

Refrigerators use a large amount of electricity, generally taking between 900 and 1,500 watts to operate. A GFCI outlet can also trip due to circuit overload. This happens most commonly when a GFCI outlet shares a circuit with other frequently used outlets.

Many aging electric-motor-powered devices can begin to exhibit modest fluctuations in electric output during everyday use. If a refrigerator excessively trips a GFCI outlet, it should be considered for replacement.

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