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Rob Amaral

AFCI Protection (Refrigerators)

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I realize that AFCI is now 'required' for 'kitchens'....    what kind of reaction do you folks have about this in regards to the fridge being AFCI-protected ? My question is in regards to nuisance-tripping (off) of a device protecting a fridge... are local AHJs chiming-in??? 

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In NY, AHJ's have zero latitude to overlook a requirement. You cannot indemnify negligence.

Anecdotally, I haven't seen any nuisance tripping issues with the most recent wave of AFCI's. 

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I have heard of nuisance tripping with the older GFCIs but not the AFCIs. Does the receptacle for the kitchen refrigerator have to be just an AFCI, or the combo receptacle that is both GFCI and AFCI as that might make some difference. 

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That's interesting.  Refrigerators have thermostats that switch the compressor on and off, and relays at the compressor terminal box that switch the start capacitor in and out of circuit.  Switches generate arcs.  Maybe the AFCI circuitry is designed to ignore these refrigerator arcs but this arcing can change as these parts age.  I can see AFCI's tripping when the appliance becomes older yet still works and ruining a great deal of food.

Edited by Marc

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Post-2008 AFCIs seem to be doing fine. They seem to be able to differentiate between "good" arcs and "bad" arcs. I'll start worrying about fridges on AFCIs when we start seeing problems with fridges on AFCIs. 

 

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I have first hand experience with afcis nuisance tripping. Brand new house, broke ground 5/16. There are 8 duplex in the garage gfci protected at the first receptacle and afci protected at the breaker. The start cap on my table saw would trip the afci about once every 20 starts. My brand new circular saw never tripped it.

Same house the bedrooms are protected with afci receptacles. My circular saw tripped each of them every time.

Different house 1 year older, afci breakers tripped every time halogen lights were turned on, and with high frequency when running a Kirby vacuum.

 

 

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The circular saw and Kirby aren't too surprising. They have messy power. Might be interesting to change the brushes on your saw to see if it makes a difference. The halogen light circuit probably has a shared neutral or a neutral-to-ground connection somewhere. 

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The codes need an adjustment to accommodate high wattage HID lamps and consumer power tools that use  brush/commutator motors like Toms's.

HIDs ( high pressure sodium, mercury vapor, metal halide) and fluorescents all generate sparks.  It's just the big ones that trip AFCI's, as per Jim.

Tom, does that table saw have a capacitor on it?  Mine does, no brushes.  Turning the thing on and off does generate arcs though, big ones, because it's a sizable motor.

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16 hours ago, Tom Raymond said:

Plug in halogen work light. No shared neutrals.

If you have the opportunity and the time, it might be interesting to wire the Kirby and the work light directly to the AFCI breaker to eliminate other variables in the household wiring. 

Also, do you know the brand of AFCIs that were doing this? 

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Remodeled kitchen and electrician had to install new AFCI/GFCI Siemens circuit breakers to comply with code. Now my 8 yr old Samsung 24 cu ft refrigerator trips the c/b every 12 minutes to as long as 4 days. Tried space heater on circuit and no problem. Plugged refrigerator into other AFCI/GFCI and they also trip but not as often. Refrigerator works fine on dining room non-GFCI circuit. Have spoken to appliance repair and Samsung service people and all say waste of time to come out and check refrigerator. They all say refrigerators should not be on GFCI. Spoke to city elect inspector and he said, sorry but code is code. Seems to be a catch-22 here.

Edited by jacbec

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19 hours ago, jacbec said:

Remodeled kitchen and electrician had to install new AFCI/GFCI Siemens circuit breakers to comply with code. Now my 8 yr old Samsung 24 cu ft refrigerator trips the c/b every 12 minutes to as long as 4 days. Tried space heater on circuit and no problem. Plugged refrigerator into other AFCI/GFCI and they also trip but not as often. Refrigerator works fine on dining room non-GFCI circuit. Have spoken to appliance repair and Samsung service people and all say waste of time to come out and check refrigerator. They all say refrigerators should not be on GFCI. Spoke to city elect inspector and he said, sorry but code is code. Seems to be a catch-22 here.

All refrigerators have a start relay that generates sparks but I wold imagine that the AFCI circuitry would have been engineered to disregard such sparks.  There may be something else going on that causing the tripping.

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On 11/22/2018 at 9:33 AM, jacbec said:

Have spoken to appliance repair and Samsung service people and all say waste of time to come out and check refrigerator. They all say refrigerators should not be on GFCI. 

1

*They* are wrong with regard to GFCIs. Plain & simple.

The UL standard for refrigerators requires them to have current leakage at or below .05mA. Modern GFCIs will not trip below 4mA. If a fridge is tripping a GFCI, it’s leaking *at least* 8 times as much current as it should. Your appliance people simply have no room for argument here.

I’m a little less sanguine about AFCIs. They’re often squirrely devices and I don’t have a lot of confidence in their ability to weed out “normal” arcing.

My suggestion is a bit irregular, but might be helpful. Try swapping out the Siemens AFCI/GFCI for a Square D (Homeline) or an Eaton one and see what happens. Each of these three brands is a little bit different from the others and you might find a sweet spot with one of them.  If so, you might have to live with a non-brand-matching breaker in your panel, which is technically incorrect, but probably better than living without the GFCI/AFCI protection, which seems like your only other choice, short of a new fridge.

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On 11/23/2018 at 7:49 AM, Marc said:

All refrigerators have a start relay that generates sparks but I wold imagine that the AFCI circuitry would have been engineered to disregard such sparks.  There may be something else going on that causing the tripping.

 

On 6/22/2017 at 8:56 AM, Marc said:

That's interesting.  Refrigerators have thermostats that switch the compressor on and off, and relays at the compressor terminal box that switch the start capacitor in and out of circuit.  Switches generate arcs.  Maybe the AFCI circuitry is designed to ignore these refrigerator arcs but this arcing can change as these parts age.  I can see AFCI's tripping when the appliance becomes older yet still works and ruining a great deal of food.

Marc, 

I live in Upstate NY where AFCI is required. I have a newer fridge (circa 2014), it's an LG, and trips anywhere from every 12seconds to every 3 days, very similar to the user who had a Samsung above.  I've now had several local electricians tell me to swap out the outlet for a one plug traditional outlet, so as to dedicate this outlet for the fridge safeguarding other appliances from being used here. What are your thoughts on this? I have heard that AFCI's are more sensitive than GFCI's, would a GFCI be a better option than nothing? Would an AFCI or GFCI breaker in the panel be better than having outlet control (my thought here is that the added resistance of the increased wire length may prevent these nuisance trips due to false arc readings from the compressor or LED panel).

Thanks in advance for your opinions!

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16 hours ago, JJduro said:

I have heard that AFCI's are more sensitive than GFCI's, would a GFCI be a better option than nothing? 

They're two different devices that do two different things. One isn't "more sensitive" than the other. That said, AFCIs do contain some GFCI protection, but the threshold is 30mA while the threshold of a GFCI is only 6mA so *with regard to ground faults only* GFCIs are far more sensitive than AFCIs. Otherwise, one detects arcs and the other detects ground faults. (By the way, a 30mA ground fault that goes through you is quite painful, if not lethal.) 

16 hours ago, JJduro said:

would a GFCI be a better option than nothing?

A GFCI would protect you from being shocked by ground faults. An AFCI would protect the circuit from catching the house on fire. Two different things. 

16 hours ago, JJduro said:

Would an AFCI or GFCI breaker in the panel be better than having outlet control (my thought here is that the added resistance of the increased wire length may prevent these nuisance trips due to false arc readings from the compressor or LED panel).

Wire length has nothing to do with the operation of either device. 

If you just want the fridge to work, install a simplex receptacle (only one space for a plug) and get rid of the AFCI. Understand that if this circuit starts a fire, your insurance carrier might decline coverage because it doesn't meet the code. 

If you want to screw around with it, try installing a different brand of AFCI in the panel. This is *technically* not allowed, but it might work. Every manufacturer has a slightly different way of detecting arc faults and you might find that a Siemens AFCI doesn't nuisance trip where an Eaton one might. 

On the other hand, maybe your fridge is actually producing dangerous arc faults and the device is just doing what it's supposed to do. Modern refrigerators pretty much all suck. 

 

 

 

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It's sometimes a defect in the refrigerator but it's sometimes a compatibility issue between the particular refrigerator and the AFCI device.  Refrigerators have compressor-start circuits that need to be considered when an AFCI is engineered, because motor-start circuits normally generate sparks.

Refrigerators are made from parts obtained from the global market.  I doubt LG is alone in sharing this incompatibility with certain AFCI's.

What Jim said.  Provide a circuit for the refrigerator that doesn't have the AFCI protection, just regular breaker and GFCI protection.  Bear in mind, you'll be going rogue code-wise if you do this.  There may be consequences.  On the other hand, I've never had an AFCI protected refrigerator before.

Edited by Marc

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