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GFCI Use in garage's and for appliances


Mr. Electric
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I had a home inspector comment recently in a report that the GFCI outlet behind the refrigerator (in the kitchen) could be an issue and that it should not be there.

I want to clear up some misunderstanding here. GFCI outlets will not cause a problem with any appliance, nor will they nuisance trip unless there is a problem. Having a GFCI on a 120v appliance only increases the safety. GFCI outlets are now required at All garage outlets by the 2008 NEC. This includes garage door openers by the way. It also includes any refrigerator or freezer circuits. There are no longer any exceptions for these appliances.

Back to the possible nuisance tripping issue - Yes there used to be a problem with these 20-25 years ago. I have a friend that is a NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) representative. He said that appliances must be manufactured with so little current leakage today (and for the last 10-12 years) that there will not be an issue anymore.

The only issue may be tripping because of power surges. That is why we recommend whole house surge protection. In my opinion whole house surge protection is one of the best investments you can make to extend the life of your electronics (including GFCI outlets).

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If it is an existing installation then the 2008 NEC does not come into play. Older units and there are millions of them out there (fridges, freezers) that are more than 10-12 years old can and have cause trips due to their leakage current. Newer appliances will not cause the nuisance tripping.

I think the HI is correct to warn the buyer about the potential problem, especially not knowing the age of the appliances. There was a reason why prior to 2008 NEC there were exceptions to the GFCI requirement.

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I had a home inspector comment recently in a report that the GFCI outlet behind the refrigerator (in the kitchen) could be an issue and that it should not be there.

I want to clear up some misunderstanding here. GFCI outlets will not cause a problem with any appliance, nor will they nuisance trip unless there is a problem. Having a GFCI on a 120v appliance only increases the safety. GFCI outlets are now required at All garage outlets by the 2008 NEC. This includes garage door openers by the way. It also includes any refrigerator or freezer circuits. There are no longer any exceptions for these appliances.

Back to the possible nuisance tripping issue - Yes there used to be a problem with these 20-25 years ago. I have a friend that is a NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) representative. He said that appliances must be manufactured with so little current leakage today (and for the last 10-12 years) that there will not be an issue anymore.

The only issue may be tripping because of power surges. That is why we recommend whole house surge protection. In my opinion whole house surge protection is one of the best investments you can make to extend the life of your electronics (including GFCI outlets).

I agree with you to a point. Have you ever had to reset a tripped GFCI behind a refrigerator or freezer. It is no fun and my mom could not move a refrigerator if it is on wheels!

I also think if you are going to have a refrigerator or freezer on a GFCI (think garage) it should be on a separate circuit so the Christmas lights don't trip the freezer full of meat.

That is one of the beauties of being a HI, we can apply common sense even if the AHJ or the electricians can't or won't.[;)]

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If an older fridge or freezer is tripping a modern, properly-functioning GFCI, then you really ought to get rid of that fridge or freezer.

I think putting fridges & freezers on their own GFCIs is a great idea.

Oregon adopted the 2008 NEC, but they put back the exceptions for appliances in dedicated spaces. In my own garage, however, I've got my spare fridge & deep freeze plugged into the garage GFCIs. Both appliances are from the mid-80s. No problems.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Honestly, you won't find me suggesting that a GFCI be removed or that it may be a nuisance. I'd way rather have someone call me and tell me they lost a freezer full of food than have their next of kin call me and tell me about my client's wrongful death.

My conscience is busy enough without thinking about a dead five year old whose last thought was a freeze pop.

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Honestly, you won't find me suggesting that a GFCI be removed or that it may be a nuisance. I'd way rather have someone call me and tell me they lost a freezer full of food than have their next of kin call me and tell me about my client's wrongful death.

My conscience is busy enough without thinking about a dead five year old whose last thought was a freeze pop.

Thank you for echoing these thoughts. I realize a lost freezer of food could be an economic hardship. But compared to the possible loss of life it does not even come close.

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I had a home inspector comment recently in a report that the GFCI outlet behind the refrigerator (in the kitchen) could be an issue and that it should not be there.

I want to clear up some misunderstanding here. GFCI outlets will not cause a problem with any appliance, nor will they nuisance trip unless there is a problem. Having a GFCI on a 120v appliance only increases the safety. GFCI outlets are now required at All garage outlets by the 2008 NEC. This includes garage door openers by the way. It also includes any refrigerator or freezer circuits. There are no longer any exceptions for these appliances.

Back to the possible nuisance tripping issue - Yes there used to be a problem with these 20-25 years ago. I have a friend that is a NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) representative. He said that appliances must be manufactured with so little current leakage today (and for the last 10-12 years) that there will not be an issue anymore.

The only issue may be tripping because of power surges. That is why we recommend whole house surge protection. In my opinion whole house surge protection is one of the best investments you can make to extend the life of your electronics (including GFCI outlets).

I agree with you to a point. Have you ever had to reset a tripped GFCI behind a refrigerator or freezer. It is no fun and my mom could not move a refrigerator if it is on wheels!

I also think if you are going to have a refrigerator or freezer on a GFCI (think garage) it should be on a separate circuit so the Christmas lights don't trip the freezer full of meat.

That is one of the beauties of being a HI, we can apply common sense even if the AHJ or the electricians can't or won't.[;)]

Put Mom's fridge on a GFCI breaker and clearly label it. While your at it, put her garage door opener on one too. The code says what locations need GFCI protection, not that the GFCI device needs to be in those locations.

Tom

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Hi all!

As far as dwelling unit garages are concerned all plugs DO need to be GFCI protected, but as far as kitchen fridges and GFCI's:

My copy of the 2008 NEC says:

210.8 GFCI protection for personnel

(A)Dwelling Units

(6) Kitchens-- Where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces

then later it says

210.8 GFIC protection for personnel

(B)Other Than Dwelling Units

(2)Kitchens

My interpretation is that my mother and your mother do not need to have their refrigerators on GFCIs. In my experience lots of appliances--even new ones-- DO cause nuisance tripping, such as certain lighting ballasts and some appliances with motors that draw startup surges.

This could be due to the reduced amps required to trip the GFCI. They used to be set to trip around 10 or 20 mA, but newer GFCIs trip closer to 3mA.

Nuisance tripping IS a problem, even with new appliances on new GFCIs!

If you did happen to want your fridge on a GFCI protected outlet there is no reason the GFCI itself needs to be located behind the fridge. As long as you can find a receptacle "upstream" from it you can add the GFCI there, or even at the breaker.

But really I'd say mainly industrial kitchens fall under the new requirement.

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Hi all!

As far as dwelling unit garages are concerned all plugs DO need to be GFCI protected, but as far as kitchen fridges and GFCI's:

My copy of the 2008 NEC says:

210.8 GFCI protection for personnel

(A)Dwelling Units

(6) Kitchens-- Where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces

then later it says

210.8 GFIC protection for personnel

(B)Other Than Dwelling Units

(2)Kitchens

My interpretation is that my mother and your mother do not need to have their refrigerators on GFCIs.

No one has said that they do.

In my experience lots of appliances--even new ones-- DO cause nuisance tripping, such as certain lighting ballasts and some appliances with motors that draw startup surges.

Show me. Exactly what new appliance does this?

This could be due to the reduced amps required to trip the GFCI. They used to be set to trip around 10 or 20 mA, but newer GFCIs trip closer to 3mA.

Do you have a reference to back that up? I think you're confusing class A & class B GFCIs.

Nuisance tripping IS a problem, even with new appliances on new GFCIs!

Specific examples please.

If you did happen to want your fridge on a GFCI protected outlet there is no reason the GFCI itself needs to be located behind the fridge. As long as you can find a receptacle "upstream" from it you can add the GFCI there, or even at the breaker.

But really I'd say mainly industrial kitchens fall under the new requirement.

Which new requirement?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Dear Jim,

If you disagree with what I've written, then it's on you to show where I'm wrong, not on me to do your research for you.

If you show me where I'm wrong, in other words if YOU "prove it" then I'll happily concede.

I stand by what I wrote which is informed by product literature, code, and experience.

Cheers!

Your logic is fallacious. You began your post with, "In my experience . . . " And that's why Jim asked you for specific references.

In my own experience, the sun rises about two hours after my alarm goes off each morning. Using your specious logic, I could assert that if I woke up two hours later, the sun would rise two hours later in the day, as well.

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Hi again!

Jim has contributed tons of helpful, thoughtful, and accurate posts to threads all over these forums, so he certainly has my respect. If he wants to dispute anything I've written, then he should have no trouble digging up references and citations to show where I'm wrong.

If you read this entire thread you will see that my contribution is apt and relevant, regarding the need for GFCI's specifically for fridges in kitchens and generally in garages.

There is nothing illogical about saying, "if you challenge what I am saying, then support your challenge."

If anyone finds someone else's post to be dubious, then they can take it, leave it, or disprove it.

Cheers!

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Dear Jim,

If you disagree with what I've written, then it's on you to show where I'm wrong, not on me to do your research for you.

That's the silliest thing I've heard in a long time. When you pen a non-fiction book or one that discusses things of a technical nature you always include foot notes that points to a study or documentation that backs up your claims, anything less is hearsay and fodder for Jerry Springer. I have to say though that I did have a good chuckle, thanks.

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Dear Jim,

If you disagree with what I've written, then it's on you to show where I'm wrong, not on me to do your research for you.

If you show me where I'm wrong, in other words if YOU "prove it" then I'll happily concede.

I stand by what I wrote which is informed by product literature, code, and experience.

Cheers!

I never said you were wrong.

I just asked for more information so that I could learn from your experience.

If you're unwilling to contribute to my education, that's fine.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hi again, Jim!

Sorry if my reply to your reply to my post seemed snarky. It was snarky.

Mostly because your requests for citations for every sentence I wrote imparted a confrontational edge.

This thread is full of unsupported assertions, and I sure don't see how my contribution needed defending above and beyond others' posts. I cited the NEC where it seemed to be germane to the discussion and added some of what I've learned through years of OTJ exposure, cut sheets, trouble shooting, and study of the IBC and NEC, aka "my experience."

The original question contained this:

I have a friend that is a NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) representative. He said that appliances must be manufactured with so little current leakage today (and for the last 10-12 years) that there will not be an issue anymore.

How is "my friend told me" a fair citation when, "in my experience" isn't? Especially when the "friend" has a dog in the fight i.e. a vested interest in representing manufactured devices as wonderful and infallible?

I never claimed to be perfect, and I invite corrections where I am astray. We learn more from our mistakes than from when we are haplessly right.

As I said, I am here to share and to learn. I won't lose any sleep over anyone disregarding anything I say. This IS the internet, after all.

Whether I can help educate you is a question that is still in the air, but you have certainly helped educate me in various threads.

BTW I stand by my comment that newer GFCIs trip at 3mA, but I must have been on crack when I said the old ones tripped at 20-30mA.

Cheers!

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Hi again, Jim!

Sorry if my reply to your reply to my post seemed snarky. It was snarky.

Mostly because your requests for citations for every sentence I wrote imparted a confrontational edge.

This thread is full of unsupported assertions, and I sure don't see how my contribution needed defending above and beyond others' posts.

It might be because the other posters didn't present information that was inconsistent with reality.

I cited the NEC where it seemed to be germane to the discussion and added some of what I've learned through years of OTJ exposure, cut sheets, trouble shooting, and study of the IBC and NEC, aka "my experience."

The original question contained this:

I have a friend that is a NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) representative. He said that appliances must be manufactured with so little current leakage today (and for the last 10-12 years) that there will not be an issue anymore.

How is "my friend told me" a fair citation when, "in my experience" isn't?

Well, it isn't, except that I happen to know that his friend is absolutely correct. The UL listing requirements for fridges & freezers ( I believe it's UL 250) limit the amp leakage to a very small amount, something like .5mA. These requirements kicked in around 1995, so it was actually more like 14 years ago. I didn't ask for citations from him because we've discussed this many times in the past and I view it as accepted knowledge.

Especially when the "friend" has a dog in the fight i.e. a vested interest in representing manufactured devices as wonderful and infallible?

I never claimed to be perfect, and I invite corrections where I am astray. We learn more from our mistakes than from when we are haplessly right.

As I said, I am here to share and to learn. I won't lose any sleep over anyone disregarding anything I say. This IS the internet, after all.

Whether I can help educate you is a question that is still in the air, but you have certainly helped educate me in various threads.

BTW I stand by my comment that newer GFCIs trip at 3mA, but I must have been on crack when I said the old ones tripped at 20-30mA.

Cheers!

You're still off by a bit. The UL standard is that they trip between 4mA and 6mA. (About 10 times the allowable leakage level of a fridge or freezer.)

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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jimmy jimmy jimmy

NEC limits it to 4, actual gfci devices trip at 3, and (regardless of any NEMA standard any manufacturer claims to adhere to) several brand new appliances and fixtures DO -in fact- cause nuisance tripping.

Close minded, much?

Okay. If you don't want to believe anything I contributed, that's fine.

Please feel free to disregard everything I've said.

If you need to see the type of nuisance tripping I've described in order to believe it exists, then only time will tell.

Good night, lads!

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jimmy jimmy jimmy

NEC limits it to 4, actual gfci devices trip at 3,

No. That's not correct. See the attached spec sheets from Pass & Seymour and from Leviton. As for the NEC, in 2005 it said, in Article 100: . . . Class A ground-fault circuit interrupters trip when the current to ground has a value in the range of 4 mA to 6 mA . . .

In the 2008 edition, there was a minor change: Class A ground-fault circuit interrupters trip when the current to ground is 6 mA or higher and do not trip when the current to ground is less than 4 mA . . .

and (regardless of any NEMA standard any manufacturer claims to adhere to) several brand new appliances and fixtures DO -in fact- cause nuisance tripping.

Where? Which ones? Show them to me.

Let's see, I've got UL on my side and you've got . . .??? What? Internet stories? If there are appliances out there that don't meet the UL standard, that's a problem with the appliance, not with the GFCI.

Close minded, much?

Not at all. I'm open to any actual evidence that you want to present. So far, you've only presented incorrect facts and unsubstantiated rumors. Bring me useful information and I'll consider it.

Okay. If you don't want to believe anything I contributed, that's fine.

Please feel free to disregard everything I've said.

You haven't said anything yet.

If you need to see the type of nuisance tripping I've described in order to believe it exists, then only time will tell.

Okaaay. I'm waiting.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif Leviton GFCI.pdf

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Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif P&S GFCI.pdf

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