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Old 12-24-2010, 08:24 AM   #1
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


Hello All,

I just put a fridge in my garage. It is plugged into an outlet in the garage that runs back to a 20 amp GFI breaker. It is the only GFI style breaker in the panel and I suppose it is this way because the outlet is next to where a utility sink and/or washer/dryer could be plumbed (but neither are). The only other constant load on the circuit is my sprinkler controller and it has never tripped the breaker in the 9 years I have lived in the home. I have used many power tools on this circuit and never tripped the breaker. The first time I plugged the fridge in, the breaker tripped. I reset it and it ran fine all day, but then tripped that night when it got cold. Same thing happened yesterday. I reset the breaker in the morning, it ran fine all day and then in the middle of the night last night it tripped. The temp got down to about 38F last night and the garage is not well insulated. I used an extension cord to plug the fridge into the other outlets on the circuit and all tripped the breaker immediately. I then ran the extension cord to an outlet just inside the door going from my garage to my home (on another circuit) and it works fine. Is the GFI style just to sensitive? Is the cols weather increasing amp draw? What else do I need to check?

Any and all help greatly appreciated. That orange extension cord looks a bit tacky running under the door to the inside outlet .

--Aaron
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Old 12-24-2010, 09:02 AM   #2
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


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Originally Posted by aaronjwood View Post
The only other constant load on the circuit is my sprinkler controller and it has never tripped the breaker in the 9 years I have lived in the home.
I love it when people tell me this.

All plugs in a garage are required to be GFI.


Sounds like the fridge might be leaking current to ground.
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Old 12-24-2010, 09:09 AM   #3
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


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Originally Posted by Saturday Cowboy View Post
I love it when people tell me this.

All plugs in a garage are required to be GFI.


Sounds like the fridge might be leaking current to ground.
OK, why doesn't it trip the breaker (same 20 amp, just no GFI) when plugged into the inside outlet? Also, why did it work without issue for my next door neighbor for the past 5 years? How would I check for a ground fault in the fridge?

Your reply implies that my statement about the garage circuit not tripping the breaker over the last 9 years is untrue. I am not sure why you think that, but it is the truth. I didn't even know that the garage had the GFI until two days ago because I had never had to reset that breaker before. What would be the point in being untruthful in an initial forum post?

Thanks for the quick reply and Merry Christmas! I hope we can now move forward without questioning honesty. I am as honest as they get.

--Aaron
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Old 12-24-2010, 09:13 AM   #4
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


Most fridges and freezers can freeze up if its too cold. but my guess is your problem has more to do with condensation. could also be how the wires run, one plug gets more voltage than the other, even on the same circuit.
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Old 12-24-2010, 09:24 AM   #5
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


Is the fridge making the breaker trip or is it the ground fault that needs re-setting?
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Old 12-24-2010, 09:34 AM   #6
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


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Is the fridge making the breaker trip or is it the ground fault that needs re-setting?
I am not sure what you mean. I will tell you that the fridge has been plugged in since Wednesday night. The first time it was plugged in it tripped the breaker. I reset the breaker by simply flipping it back to on while the fridge was still plugged in. It ran fine until sometime in the middle of the night and then tripped the breaker. I didn't notice it had tripped until Thursday at about 2pm at which time I flipped the breaker back on and then pushed the GFI reset switch to trip it and then flipped it back on (all with the fridge plugged in). The breaker stayed in the on position and the fridge was running fine. I checked it multiple times last night before going to bed and it was fine. This morning I woke up and checked it at 8am because we now have food in it for our party tonight. The breaker was once again tripped. However, this time each time I tried to reset the breaker it immediately tripped. I unplugged the fridge and once again flipped the breaker and it reset fine. Plugged in the fridge and could hear the breaker trip. I then got the extension cord (low gauge) and proceeded to plug the rridge into the other outlet on the circuit after I reset the breaker. All outlet that I plugged the fridge into tripped the breaker immediately. I then took the extension cord just inside the door from my garage to my home and plugged it in right there (the plug is literally just below my panel on the other side of the wall...my panel is in the garage). No breakers tripped and the fridge is running fine I assume (I am at work right now, but it ran fine for about 1/2 hour before I left).
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Old 12-24-2010, 10:00 AM   #7
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


Here is another discussion about fridges and gfci's.
No conclusion was reached, but the code was stated.
If the fridge tripped when plugged in, then I thinking the fridge has a current leakage problem.
Did the neighbor have it in the kitchen, where gfci is not required for the fridge?

Refrigerator Tripping GFI, is it safe?
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Old 12-24-2010, 10:03 AM   #8
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


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Did the neighbor have it in the kitchen, where gfci is not required for the fridge?
Thank you for the post of the additional thread and yes, the previous owner had it in their kitchen with a non GFI protected outlet or breaker.
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Old 12-24-2010, 12:20 PM   #9
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


There used to be an exception for GFCI protection of outlets located in garages that were used for refrigerators, freezers, door openers, etc.

Such exceptions have been deleted from newer editions of the Code, however.

The fridge is probably an older unit that may be leaking small amounts of current to ground, even if it is by induction.

Since your garage is wired with a GFCI breaker instead of the usual receptacle type, it may be more sensitive to ground-fault leakage. One remedy might be to replace that breaker with a standard type, and then replace all the outlets with stand-alone GFCI type receptacles, thus maintaining GFCI protection as required in your garage. Be sure to check other outlets requiring GFCI protection if you do this, such as outdoor outlets, and bathrooms. Many older houses wired all the GFCI-required outlets off a single breaker to save on installation costs.
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Old 12-24-2010, 12:38 PM   #10
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


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Originally Posted by kbsparky View Post
There used to be an exception for GFCI protection of outlets located in garages that were used for refrigerators, freezers, door openers, etc.

Such exceptions have been deleted from newer editions of the Code, however.

The fridge is probably an older unit that may be leaking small amounts of current to ground, even if it is by induction.

Since your garage is wired with a GFCI breaker instead of the usual receptacle type, it may be more sensitive to ground-fault leakage. One remedy might be to replace that breaker with a standard type, and then replace all the outlets with stand-alone GFCI type receptacles, thus maintaining GFCI protection as required in your garage. Be sure to check other outlets requiring GFCI protection if you do this, such as outdoor outlets, and bathrooms. Many older houses wired all the GFCI-required outlets off a single breaker to save on installation costs.
You may be able to swap the GFCI breaker for a standard breaker and then replace the first receptacle with a GFCI receptacle, and connect the downstream receptacles to the load side of the GFCI, providing GFCI protection to the rest of the circuit (each outlet must be labeled as GFCI-protected). My local code permits this, but some localities require GFCI receptacles at each damp location. If you can do it, it would certainly be less expensive.
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Old 12-24-2010, 06:47 PM   #11
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Garage Fridge Tripping Breaker in Cold Weather


While that option is less expensive, it does little to eliminate nuisance tripping.

There may be leakage elsewhere in the circuit, with the "straw that breaks the camel's back" occurring at the fridge. Stand-alone GFCI units can narrow down the offending outlet(s) to a specific location, without affecting the rest of the circuit.
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