GFCI Troubleshooting

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I've had a GFCI outlet that powers a refrigerator and some kitchen and basement outlets trip twice within the last year. I've reset it after each trip and it seems to go another six months before it trips again.
What's the best way to determine if this is just a random event or whether the GFCI is pointing toward a potential shock hazard?
-- Bobby G.
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Refrigerators require their own dedicated circuit with no GFCI.
Kitchen receptacles require their own dedicated circuit/'s as well, They need to be GFCI protected only if the receptacle is approximately five feet from a water source (sink).
The occasional tripping maybe to due to the fridge motor kicking on while a toaster or some other device is drawing power. Even a plug being pulled quickly from a receptacle can arc and cause a trip of the GFCI. Regardless, your circuit configuration is not acceptable under the current electrical codes.
You can buy inexpensive receptacle testers that will test a GFCI and other receptacles for proper grounding. As long as the receptacle is properly grounded, short circuits will go to ground and shock hazard will be minimal.
Diagnosing electrical problems without looking at them is difficult as one cannot determine the quality of the workmanship that went into the initial wiring of the circuits.
Good Luck
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The Nec doesn't required dedicated circuit for a refrigerator

The Nec requires ALL counter top and island receptacles to be gfci protected

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I'm replying from Canada, our CEC (Canadian Electrical Code) differs in those respects from the NEC I'm Guessing.
The CEC States - "each receptacle installed for a refrigerator shall be supplied by a branch circuit that does not supply any other outlets....."
We only GFCI receptacles 1.5m or 4.921ft in any direction from sinks as of yet.
We also require a deicated circuit for the microwave.
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Don't know where the op is from, or where you're from, so I'm just specifying U.S. code

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US near Washington, DC. The giant hole where all US citizens' tax dollars shoot out of like an Eastern version of the Ol' Faithful geyser. (-:
I will probably end up following the CEC's recommendations, anyway, even though the NEC governs here, simply because the Canadian rules happen to make a lot of sense. I'm guessing that frequency of nuisance trips of a new GFCI gets about as low as possible with only one appliance on that circuit. It also seems that accidental trips for any reason are reduced by dedicating a line to the breaker. My own experience backs that up. Two GFCI trips per year with some other heavy-duty equipment on the same line as the fridge suggests the refrigerator does not trip the GFCI itself.
The GFCI unit that trips about every six months is a Slater, not a Leviton, it turns out. I've had it since GFCI's first arrived in the consumer mainstream. It could easily be close to 25 years old which means a more modern version might not even make those 2 nuisance trips a year even with other gear on the line and the problem's solved!
I am going to swap the old unit out and the new 20A Leviton GFCI in its place after I "dedicate" the line from the breaker to the refrigerator. I just feel more comfortable with shock protection on the refrigerator and accept that replacing a fridge worth of food is a possible consequence. It just seems that possibly replacing frozen food is a better option in the long run than finding yourself planning a funeral from a freak accident with a funky fridge. What's that line from "Casino" - "You can have the money AND the hammer?"
-- Bobby G.
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<stuff snipped>

<stuff snipped>

protected
That's interesting and in line with what I thought to be true about electrical requirements for my particular jurisdiction. Even though a dedicated circuit is not required, I can certainly see the wisdom in putting a "mission critical" device like a refrigerator on its own breaker so that no other errant device can take it down.
Thanks for the input. I'm going to ask the local inspector what the county wants in the way of GFCI's and dedicated circuits. He's the one that matters most. I don't think it could hurt things to dedicate a line, but what I really want to know now is whether there's any advantage to protecting the refrigerator with a GFCI. It's close to the sink and it's made at least partly of steel - it seems to be an "at risk" area. A lot I've read about using GFCI's note that the newer units are far less likely to nuisance trip than older models. Some also say that there are some GFCI's designed to trip at a higher-than-normal current imbalance, but the higher the trip level, the more of a shock gets through to pen closing the circuit,
-- Bobby G.
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wrote in message news:4ad6ffde$0$22526

When I said that the Nec doesn't require a dedicated circuit for a fridge, I didn't mean to imply that a dedicated circuit wasn't a good idea, or even required by the refrigerator manufacturer. Nec is a minimum requirement. If your fridge is in a kitchen, and the outlet is behind the fridge, gfci protection is not required. If the circuit and outlet are properly grounded, it will be perfectly safe, and not vulnerable to ground fault related anomalies

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<stuff snipped>

I
Understood. If the Canadians think a dedicated line is a good idea, I assume they've got reasons based on experience. There are lots of good reasons to dedicate a line, like making it easier to supply just that device with a generator or not having to shut it off to service any other devices on that circuit. It's so cheap and easy that it's almost crazy NOT to do it.

grounded,
Why does having the outlet blocked have anything to do with it? Not sure I follow that reasoning.
Isn't the whole purpose of having something like a GFCI to act as a "last line of defense" in case something very unlikely occurs like a cord getting frayed and passing power to the metal case? Even a little current leakage might be enough to kill someone. From what I recall, it doesn't take much current, if delivered across the heart, to cause death. I would think if there was no real protective value that the NEC would say so, instead of appearing to gradually bring GFCI's into the code in nearly all circumstances.
Now arc-fault interrupters seem to be a more contentious case. The folks I know that have installed them report they are plagued with nuisance tripping. I wonder if it's just another case of it taking time for the manufacturers to fine tune the product?
-- Bobby G.
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Robert Green wrote:

Kitchen countertop receptacles have to be GFCI protected. A receptacle behind a refrigerator is not a countertop receptacle.

The requirement for commercial kitchens to have refrigeration on GFCI receptacles was because people were getting shocks. (Homes probably have greater care taken of equipment.)

Starting 2008 much more sensitive AFCIs were required. The old ones detected a 75A arc (and would only detect an arc from H-N or H-G). Starting 2009 they have to detect a 5A arc (and can detect a loose arcing connection). I would think detecting a 5A arc without tripping on normal arcs (like turning off a switch) would be a real challenge. At the same time (IMHO a dumb idea) they were required for far more areas of a house.
I haven't heard about major nuisance trips. Have other people?
--
bud--

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That's probably the way it will end up as this is more or less a temporary wiring setup. We discovered halfway through a recent rewire other, more pressing problems when the basement plywood walls came down. Not an unusual situation, from what I've read here about remodeling. Several expensive mysteries were revealed that stalled the rewiring initiative. But I digress.

feet
I'm no NECspert but I thought anywhere near water meant GFCIs are preferred and that if you used them in drier locations, it was no harm/no foul. I got my near-death lethal, burning skin, couldn't let go shock in my bedroom with a Dr. Scholl's foot bath and massager. I reached for a swing arm, imitation Luxo lamp and began to fry. A GFCI would have prevented that little mishap. Had gravity not intervened, I would have died that day with a foot-torso-heart-arm pathway for the shock that caused smoke to rise from my burning feet. For some odd reason, even though I was completely paralyzed, I still managed to fall out of the chair I was in and that broke my hand's connection to the metal lamp handle. That's when I went a little GFCI crazy and began installing them in all the household circuits as I upgraded from 2 wire to grounded service.

a
Regardless,
Hmmm. Well, something else was on the same circuit and probably did fire up at the same time as the fridge. We've been having a lot of high winds and "power blinks" and there was a small air compressor plugged into the 2nd outlet of the duplex outlet that serves the fridge that I was using to blow out the coils. The lower half of the refrigerator duplex outlet was the nearest free outlet. They could have easily restarted within seconds of each other.
I can certainly isolate the refrigerator on its own circuit and that seems to be a prudent thing to do. This could have happened when no one was at home.

Got one that had disappeared for nearly a year to reappear at the bottom of the seasonal lights box. Will try that out today. Did that, and it says nothing's wrong.

Well, I can assist you a little by describing materials, equipment and techniques used.
o Metal boxes with screw-down clamps screwed into studs where possible - not squirmy plastic that depend on the constant "springiness" of the plastic material over time to hold cables tight,
o 12/2 Romex (why would you ever use 14/2 when wire is cheap and time is not?),
o screwed, not backstabbed connections,
o outlets wrapped with real 3M electrical tape and not Wal*Mart's 10 rolls for dollar crap,
o Leviton receptacles, breakers and GFCI's,
o "InSure" push-in wire connectors instead of wing nuts (referenced here by M. Dufas in an earlier thread) because they are easy to use and inspect (but not find locally!!):
http://www.idealindustries.com/prodDetail.do?prodId=in-sure&div=0&l1=push-in&l2=in-sure
o Klein made in USA strippers, Triplet tong meter, GFCI tester, the 2008 NEC pocket guide
o Five profusely illustrated home wiring DIY books that have paid for themselves about 10 times over because a picture truly is worth 10,000 words with skills like plumbing and electrical.
o 25 years of watching This Old House. Despite what many people say, there isn't an episode where I haven't learned how to do at least one thing better. Tommy Silva is the one I've learned the most from, and Bob Villa the least. Sometimes it's something as simple as using a new blade every three or four trim cuts on wallpaper or as complicated as chasing down bizarre problems with hot water heating.
I only bring this up because just looking at my work in a photograph would probably tell you about as much as what equipment I use or what questions I ask does: and that's not enough to determine if my work was really any good.
You'd have to pull stuff apart to determine true quality and workmanship. Without close inspection, you couldn't tell whether there were any serious nicks of the cable where it was stripped. You'd have to remove an outlet and pull it apart AND tug on it to make sure a backstabbed outlet's claw hadn't released its grip on the wire or become loose and corroded. Or that I had stripped enough wire to even make a good connection. (Not really a problem with my work because I don't backstab.) You'd at least have to unwrap the electrical tape around the outlet to see if the end bends were made correctly and were set firmly under the screw. You'd at least have to twist the screw with a screwdriver to make sure it was tight. You'd have to tug on all the wires under a wire nut to make sure they weren't making intermittent contact (not a problem with the InSure connectors - they're transparent so you can see if the wire's in right and tight) and so on and so on.
I've been kind of amazed at what I've seen inspectors pass in some of the houses I've lived in because things "looked neat" and wires weren't wrapped in masking tape and hanging from rusty nails.
Any electrical work I do is always reviewed by at least a second pair of eyes before it's ever inspected. That alone caught two or three mistakes that would definitely have caused problems down the line. Around here once an inspector thinks you're sloppy, it takes an awful lot to change his mind. So I do things like making sure the screws on cover plates line up and that the plates are plumb. I am not sure why, but growing up, my best friend's dad was a electrician, and he did it that way, so I do too. Same with wrapping an outlet in electrical tape. Some people say it's old-timer nonsense, but I figure it can't hurt anything and might even help prevent a short.
As far as code interpretation, I'll have to check with my local authority having jurisdiction since his/hers is the only interpretation that matters. (-:>

Thanks. I think the plan is to move the fridge to its own dedicated line that's still on a GFCI, but without any other loads on it. It's near enough to the kitchen sink to be a concern and if it still trips, I will replace it. If it still trips when a new GFCI's in place, I'll have to assume there's an issue in the refrigerator wiring itself and try to determine where the fault is. If that fails, and the refrigerator shows no obvious faults, I'll eliminate the GFCI.
Fifty feet of Romex, another breaker and some fittings will likely be a lot less costly than a freezer full of thawed-out food. I have an alarm on the fridge to tell me when the unit has warmed beyond safe limits, but if no one's in the house, it will just beep patiently while all the food spoils. So far, the GFCI has NEVER tripped when no one was home. That tends to support the "two incompatible devices on the same circuit" theory, I think. The best way to test for that, is as you suggest, isolate the refrigerator from all other appliances and outlets. Easiest, too!
Thanks for your input.
-- Bobby G.
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"This could have happened when no one was at home."
I don't see how.
You said: "there was a small air compressor plugged into the 2nd outlet of the duplex outlet that serves the fridge that I was using to blow out the coils."
I don't see how anyone could have been using an air compressor to blow out the coils if no one was home. <g>
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wrote:
<<"This could have happened when no one was at home."
I don't see how.
You said: "there was a small air compressor plugged into the 2nd outlet of the duplex outlet that serves the fridge that I was using to blow out the coils."
I don't see how anyone could have been using an air compressor to blow out the coils if no one was home. <g>>>
Quite simple, really. The air compressor's got a slow leak in the quick-change hose valve (a cheapy Harbor Freight deal). When the unit loses power for more than a few minutes, it's unable to top itself off and the tank loses pressure.
When electricity is restored, the unit automatically comes on to bring the tank pressure back up. It only takes the power being down long enough for the tank's pressure sensor switch to trigger to cause the fridge and the compressor motor to fire simultaneously. That all occurs without anyone being present. When the tank reaches pressure, the compressor motor shuts off. So it could be the dual starting or it could be the abrupt shutoff and reverse EMF spike of the compressor while the GFCI is also under load from the fridge to trip the GFCI.
-- Bobby G.
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You missed the point of my "joke".
I was pointing out the fact that *no one could be using the compressor to blow out the coils* if no one was home.
Sure, the compressor could have been plugged in to the GFCI when no one was home and sure, both the compressor and the fridge could have turned on at the same time when no one was home, but nobody could have been using the compressor to blow out the coils if no one was home. <g>
<g> = grin
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news:c9cef1c3-4fd4-4e53-
<stuff snipped>

Don't fret. I miss the point of most jokes made in newsgroups. It's not you.

Depends. My little JRT loves the air compressor. Based on how frantic she gets when I am using it, I'd say she likes it even more than chasing squirrels. Since she's figured out how to unlock her crate, how to shoulder a heavy file cabinet so she could get to her lost nylabone and how to open the refrigerator, I wouldn't be surprised to find out she's learned how to operate the compressor nozzle some day. You try telling her she's no one.
-- Bobby G.
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Robert Green wrote:

In the US refrigerators do not require their own circuit and can be placed on a GFCI.

As RBM(?) posted all kitchen counter top receptacles are required to be on GFCIs (US). (Also required in some other locations - generally damp related.) And can be used anywhere.

Scary. I never had that close a call.

The configuration is acceptable in the US except the circuit extends to the basement. (It can extend to dining rooms and some other locations.)

Producing an "overload" might trip a circuit breaker but won't trip a GFCI. They only look for a current imbalance.
Older GFCIs were more prone to nuisance trip. I kinda forget - I think several people suggested trying a new GFCI.

If they indicate a problem there is very likely something wrong. If they indicate OK the wiring is probably OK. But they can miss problems. In particular, they can not check the the ground is good - they will indicate good for a high resistance connection. Actually the same is true for a high resistance hot or neutral connection, but you will see the problem if you plug in a light.

I wish they had an electrician as good as the other regulars.
--
bud--


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<stuff snipped>

Sorry to start a cross-border dispute! (-: I should have mentioned North East US.
<stuff snipped>

That was my understanding. Thank you for confirming it.
<Details of near-death-by-footbath snipped>

It's a motivator. Bought two 250' rolls of 12/2 w/G and have been slowly replacing 2 wire outlets and wires from the 1940's. Most importantly, I've moved all the high current devices off the old wiring and left the old two wire outlets to serve things like 2 wire chargers, floor lamps and items that never had grounds to begin with and that don't draw lots of current.
Turns out in an old Cape Cod that doing a rewire from the basement is a lot easier than working with the old wires that went up to the attic and then down throughout the house. Unfortunately, when we pulled down the poorly refinished basement's ceiling and walls, the re-wiring effort was no longer the top priority. For one thing there was a huge hole in the cinderblock wall - it looked like someone had started tunneling out. Next time we buy a house, we'll ask lots more questions if only 1 wall out of 4 in the basement is panelled.
<yet more stuff snipped>

Yes, I knew when I crossed floors I was probably coloring outside the lines. I did it in haste to at least temporarily protect both those areas with GFCI I also tried to make sure that area was serviced by two different breakers so I could still see if the GFCI tripped and took out the lamps on that circuit. It's easy enough to rewire the correct way. Do you know the basis for the rule? Is it that one breaker should not service two floors or that one GFCI can't span floors or both?
<info about two different compressors starting at the same time snipped>'

What worried me is that there may be an underlying small ground current leak - perhaps some insulation is degrading - and it only shows when the GFCI warms up from carrying a larger than normal current and some capacitor or resistor value shifts enough to make the imbalance detection circuitry react differently. A while back Smarthome released new Insteon-brand switches, and IIRC, they only exhibited flashing problems when the load on the unit was beyond a certain limit. People with chandeliers and 300W torchiers ran into serious problems with unwanted flickering and outright flashing that users with small lamps (and probably most of Smarthome's beta testers did not experience. I note that just to point out that devices can behave quite differently under a heavy load than they do under a light one.

Yes, and that's underway as I noted elsehere. The unit in question is perhaps a 25 year old Slater. I will swap it for a 2008 model Leviton.
<stuff snipped about Triplett "Plug Bug 2" GFCI tester>

No problems with any of the testers so far. Everything checks out. I am pretty sure that this issue was caused by having other devices on the same outlet. I'll be switching the fridge over to its own dedicated line later this week and I'll also be switching out the older model Slater GFCI for a newer Leviton 20A model. I'm hoping those two changes will eliminate the nuisance tripping. If the problem occured more than once or twice a year, I'd remove the GFCI entirely, but I'm reluctant to give up the protection it ostensibly affords until it proves itself to be too troublesome to maintain.

thing
down
I agree. Still, they've taught me a lot. I wonder if they deliberately chose not to focus on electrical work because of all the potential dangers.
Thanks for your input, Bud.
-- Bobby G.
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wrote:

Hey thanks for the reminder. 'A GFCI not crossing floors'. However I prefer the idea of a GFCI being in a weather protected environment!
For example: We have an outlet low down outside front door in a rugged weather resistant box, fed with conduit that runs under the front step. It's been there some 35+ years and is convenient and useful for Christmas lights etc.
But would prefer to have the GFCI on it in the basement from which it is fed! Rather than outside in the weather and beyond that old conduit under the concrete front step. There is occasioanlly snow build up in that area.
Welcome any comments/advice. However if necessary (or safer) the outside outlet might/could be eliminated. TIA
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news:2fc66247-2712-4d44-a429-
<stuff snipped>

While I'm *definitely* no code expert, I'd agree with you, out of common sense, to try to keep the "controlling" GFCI outlet inside and a much simpler standard outlet outside. That's how I wired my outside outlet. The GFCI controlling it also runs the radial arm saw and it's mounted inside. Not sure if that's code, but the likelihood of my operating the saw and anything else outside at the same time is very remote. The power to the outlet is also controlled by X-10, so I can turn it on and off from anywhere in the house.
The GFCI should have a temperature range rating. It could be very possible that operating it when it's too cold could compromise its protection capabilities. I'd be more worried that you've got it in a bad place with regards to potential immersion. When I searched for guidance in the NEC, all I found was a maximum outlet height limit, which I thought peculiar since they didn't give a minimum one, which I thought would be more important.
If I recall my outdoor box, it was set up for a standard duplex outlet and wouldn't even accommodate a GFCI because they are typically in the Decora style because of the need to access the "Test" and "Reset" button. Look outside - the decision to use an indoor GFCI may already have been made for you! (-:
Then there's the issue of resetting. You may not want to trudge inside and out to keep resetting the unit. There's a lot to be said for local control in these cases. Part of the reason I'm rewiring the fridge to its own GFCI is because I want the reset button right near the protected unit as I have a "blown out" knee (I think that's the proper medical term) and going up and down the stairs isn't much fun at the moment.
-- Bobby G.
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Gfci are not for a frige, if they trip the food is ruined, mine tripped I removed it.
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