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Old 12-08-2012, 02:00 AM   #1
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


Happened as follows:

Was leaning on stainless steel countertop with one hand, touched the metal door of refrigerator with the other. Shock. Felt like 9v batteries you put on your tongue as a kid, except in both hands. Not quite injurious, but tingly fingers for a minute.

Checked the back of the fridge (fairly new to this home), and see that the fridge's 3 prong plug is plugged into an adapter/cheater and then into an ungrounded (obviously) two prong socket with no cover. Awesome.

Electrician came out and looked, said voltage is leaking, options are:
1. He can ground the outlet.
2. He can put GFCI outlet in.

From my knowledge, GFCI is fine, only drawback are possible "nuisance trips" that can spoil food if they go unnoticed. But many things I've seen say if your GFCI is tripping, it is for a reason, and should be addressed. Those are my thoughts. Safety of family and kids are without cost, so I would take a fridge of spoiled food for safety in return.

Anywho, he puts in GFCI, no voltage leaking anymore, surmises it was the outlet that was the problem. Plugs fridge back in, this time to the new GFCI outlet, it runs fine, and no longer shocks me if I touch it and the grounded countertop. Great!

About 8hrs later, open fridge, light is off. Check plug, and the GFCI has tripped. Reset GFCI, try plugging fridge in again, and GFCI trips immediately, before plug can be inserted all the way. 3 tries, same result. I plug fridge back into cheater and into GFCI. No trip from the GFCI, and fridge is working (apparently I don't realize that GFCI provides no protection to anything without a 3 prong plug?), as I touch countertop and fridge door, and shocked again, just like before.

So now I am back where I started, except with a GFCI outlet. I unplug fridge, and try other things in the new GFCI outlet, namely, two minifridges that I have kept my food in ever since the original fridge shocked me the first time. Both of those are fridges w 3 prong plugs, and neither of them trip the GFCI, and run fine (so far).

So, my amateur summation is that I have a faulty original fridge (must be short circuiting), and I should replace the fridge.

My questions, should anyone have read this far down and care to help me out are:

-If indeed the (original) fridge is the culprit and needs replacing.

-Or if there is a problem with the outlet. Electrician seemed to think the outlet was the problem, as he didn't tell me to replace fridge. Although fridge was working when he left (and for 8 more hrs), on the new GFCI he installed.

-Why it took 8hrs for the original fridge to initially trip the GFCI (but then subsequently trip the GFCI immediately everytime I try to plug it in thereafter).

Thanks to anyone reading this novel!

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Old 12-08-2012, 04:22 AM   #2
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


A GFCI trips if there's a difference in the amount of current in the hot lead vs the neutral lead. If there is a difference, the "missing" current must be flowing through the ground connection. When you use the 2-prong cheater plug, there is no ground connection, which forces the two currents to be equal, and the GFCI doesn't trip.

Using the 3-prong plug (as you should be) provides a ground path. If there's a frayed wire or something similar inside the fridge, some of the current coming in on the hot lead is finding its way to the ground of the refrigerator. And the GFCI trips, as it should.

I'd say odds on the problem is in the fridge wiring. But you may not have to replace it. You or an appliance repairman may be able to repair the wiring and save yourself $1K or so.

Why it took 8 hours to trip the first time I have no idea.

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Old 12-08-2012, 05:24 AM   #3
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


Timer for the defroster?
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Old 12-08-2012, 07:47 AM   #4
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


My guess would be that the fridge finally went into some other mode where the short is occuring. Mike probably hit it. In defrost mode, something in the refrigerator is shorted.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:18 AM   #5
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


My first guess was also defrost cycle.

The best thing to do would be to have your electrician ground that outlet, preferably by running a new wire.

Then I would get an appliance guy to check the fridge. Is it under warranty?

What is the make and model of the fridge?

Where are you located and please put your location in your profile.

Also, replacing an ungrounded plug with a GFCI is the proper fix according to the 2011 National elec code, so your electrician did do the right thing.
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Last edited by TTW; 12-08-2012 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:31 AM   #6
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Could also be the ice maker or mullion strip heaters. Only things I can think of that would cycle on and off.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:38 AM   #7
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Quote:
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Could also be the ice maker or mullion strip heaters. Only things I can think of that would cycle on and off.
Compressor?
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:42 AM   #8
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Compressor?
That was just too darn obvious i guess!
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:52 AM   #9
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That was just too darn obvious i guess!
I would think the compressor would have cycled on before 8 hours had elapsed, but it's possible.
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:58 AM   #10
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


Quote:
About 8hrs later, open fridge, light is off. Check plug, and the GFCI has tripped. Reset GFCI, try plugging fridge in again, and GFCI trips immediately, before plug can be inserted all the way
He noticed it had tripped 8 hours later.
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:16 AM   #11
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


You were not electrocuted. If you were you would not be writing this.

Definition of ELECTROCUTE

1
: to execute (a criminal) by electricity

2
: to kill by electric shock
— elec·tro·cu·tion \-ˌlek-trə-ˈkyü-shən\ noun
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:19 AM   #12
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


Time for a new fridge coupled with a 3 wire receptacle circuit.
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Old 12-08-2012, 10:42 AM   #13
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Port View Post
You were not electrocuted. If you were you would not be writing this.

Definition of ELECTROCUTE

1
: to execute (a criminal) by electricity

2
: to kill by electric shock
— elec·tro·cu·tion \-ˌlek-trə-ˈkyü-shən\ noun

I was waiting for this.
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Old 12-08-2012, 11:55 AM   #14
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


Couldn't you check for continuity between hot neutral and ground on the frig plug I would think there shouldn't be any continuity between them . And get a ground on your reseptical . You better be carful if that shock gets worse somebody could get hurt.
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Old 12-08-2012, 02:30 PM   #15
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Refrigerator Electrocuted Me. Culprit?


I've seen things like defrost and door frame heaters develop a fault that can cause such problems. Or a shorted winding in a compressor can also do this.

When you are getting shocked, the entire outside frame of the fridge is hot, and touching a grounded surface can cause you to feel the voltage.

Bypassing the grounding prong on a cord is not a good thing to do, as you have first-hand knowledge of what can happen.

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