Does Your Chest Freezer Keep Tripping GFCI? (Fix It Now!)
If you’ve ever had a freezer full of spoiled food, you know how frustrating it can be to have a chest freezer that keeps tripping the GFCI outlet. You’re afraid to leave it unsupervised– forget vacations! If left unaddressed, the problem can even lead to fire and electric shock.
So why does the chest freezer keep tripping the GFCI outlet? Well, it helps to understand what a GFCI outlet is and how it works. Since the purpose of a GFCI is to protect people from electric shock, even a slight surge in power can trigger the GFCI to shut off the power. Larger appliances like refrigerators and chest freezers use a lot of electricity, which can cause the sensitive GFCI to trip the circuit breaker– repeatedly.
To keep your chest freezer from tripping the GFCI, you will need to replace the GFCI outlet with a regular outlet. Make sure you are following local laws and regulations. You may also choose to replace your current breaker with a GFCI breaker.
What is GFCI?
GFCI is an abbreviation for ground fault circuit interrupter. Also known as GFI, or ground fault interrupter, GFCI outlets are a specific type of circuit breaker designed to automatically shut off the power when it detects an electrical fault. GFCIs, although they can be frustrating, were created to protect you from electrical shock.
Since GFCIs came on the scene in the 1970s, electrocutions have dwindled to a fraction of what they were. It’s barely a thing people worry about anymore! Now, the law requires GFCI outlets in new homes. The law requires GFCI plugs in all bathrooms, garages, basements, laundry rooms, and other potentially damp areas. In the kitchen, any plug within six feet of the sink needs to have a ground fault circuit interrupter.
Older houses don’t always have the recommended GFCI outlets. If you’re wondering what kind of outlets you have in your home, you can quickly tell the difference with a glance. Standard outlets have two or three-prong slots. GFCI outlets have the same, plus “test” and “reset” buttons.
How to Keep Your Chest Freezer from Tripping GFCI
It makes sense that you would want a GFCI outlet for your chest freezer since a garage can be prone to wet areas and create a shock risk. But a quick Google search will reveal that you’re not the only one: chest freezers and refrigerators connected to GFCI outlets will always trip the breaker without fail. A chest freezer that keeps tripping the GFCI outlet can lead to spoiled food, food poisoning, and lost money.
Replace GFCI with Regular Non-GFCI outlet
Although the internet is divided about whether you can replace a GFCI outlet with a regular outlet, you can! In fact, it’s recommended. Turn to your manufacturer’s requirements and see that many have specific warnings to NOT use a GFCI outlet with a refrigerator or freezer.
Frigidaire, KitchenAid, and Sub-zero all warn against nuisance tripping, almost guaranteed if you connect to a GFCI outlet. GFCI outlets have been designed to shut off the power at the slightest surge of electricity, which is counterproductive to a freezer’s cooling system. It just doesn’t work together.
- Needlenose pliers (optional)
- GFCI tester
Step One: Power Off
First, to replace your GFCI outlet with a standard outlet, make sure that the power is off. Flip the circuit breaker.
Step Two: Unscrew the Wall Plate
Turn your screwdriver counterclockwise to separate the wall plate from the wall. Once the GFCI receptacle is hanging by the wires, use your voltage tester to double-check that the power is off. There could be another breaker for the kitchen, or the circuit breaker could be mislabeled. When it comes to electricity, a good rule of thumb is that if you didn’t wire it yourself, don’t assume it’s off when you turn it off.
Step Three: Pull Out the GFCI Receptacle
When you are sure that the power is off, pull out the GFCI receptacle box from the wall. On the back of your outlet, you will see one side labeled as “Line” and one side labeled as “Load.” The line is coming from your power source, or breaker panel, while the load powers the appliances and outlets connected to it.
Step Four: Test the Voltage!
Use your voltage tester between the bare wire and the black and the white wire to ensure there is no power. Check any wires in the box. Electric shock can result in serious injury.
Step Five: Disconnect Wires and Feed into New Outlet
Take out each wire and feed it into your replacement non-GFCI outlet. Start with the line wires, one by one, before taking out each load wire and feeding it into your replacement outlet’s load. Match up all corresponding wires: white to white, black to black, line to line, and load to load.
The black wire is hot and connects to the gold screw on the side of the receptacle box. The white wire is your neutral wire and connects to the silver screw on the other side. Any green or copper wire is your ground wire and connects to a green screw at the bottom of the outlet.
Step Seven: Reset Replacement Outlet in Wall Plate
Using your screwdriver, secure the replacement outlet in the wall by turning clockwise. Turn your circuit breaker back on and press the “Reset” button. Now you’re ready to plug in your chest freezer! Since you no longer have the security of the GFCI, make sure that the area around your chest freezer is dry and free of moisture. You don’t want to risk electric shock!
GFCI with Alarm
There are Smart GFCI outlets available for purchase that have an audible trip alert built into the device. When there is moisture or too many appliances plugged in, the outlet will emit a sound to indicate that the GFCI is bad.
Using a backup generator for your chest freezer is only a temporary solution, but it can prevent your food from spoiling in a dire situation. Hook the freezer up to a generator until you have come to a better resolution.
The process of replacing an outlet is relatively simple if you follow the manufacturer’s requirements. Still, it’s always a good idea to have a registered electrician verify any wiring to ensure that you and your family stay safe.
Common Causes of Tripping GFCI
When it comes to a GFCI that keeps tripping, there are a few common causes. It’s good to identify the cause so that you can adequately address the problem.
An overloaded circuit will quickly trip the GFCI. If too many appliances are plugged in and draw more power than your circuit can handle, all power will shut off. Usually, to fix an overloaded circuit, simply plug the appliance(s) into another circuit, turn off the overloaded circuit breaker, and turn it back on. Or you can increase your circuit breaker amperage.
But if you have a chest freezer, it should have a dedicated circuit. You should install all refrigerators and chest freezers on a 15 to 20 amp dedicated 120-volt circuit.
A short circuit happens when wires become crossed. There is a hot and a neutral wire on every outlet, but the breaker will short circuit if they cross or come in contact. A short circuit can be dangerous if not addressed immediately– unfortunately, you won’t be able to reset the breaker to fix a short circuit.
Ground Fault Surge
In older homes, ground faults can be caused by the metal screws on your outlet becoming loose and touching another metal piece on your outlet. If you have an energized screw, you won’t be able to reset your GFCI outlet. You could be dealing with a ground fault if the circuit trips immediately every single time.
Always follow the manufacturer’s requirements for your appliance. If you have any doubts, contact a professional electrician to ensure that your breaker panel can support a chest freezer. Together, you can come up with a safe and sustainable electrical solution.
If you suspect your freezer’s power has been off for an extended period, do not consume the contents. Meat and other perishables can collect bacteria in these conditions and cause food poisoning.
Take extra precaution and wear rubber gloves when handling any outlets, even if the power is off. The rubber glove will absorb the shock. You’ll be grateful for that added layer of protection.
Will a surge protector keep the GFCI from tripping?
A surge protector is different from a GFCI outlet. While a GFCI or GFI protects against current leakage, surge protectors guard against voltage surges. If you have a surge protector upstream of your GFCI outlet, you could be causing nuisance tripping. Additionally, GFCIs protect from electric shock in damp or wet environments. Conversely, surge protectors can create a fire hazard when wet.
Can you have two GFCI outlets on the same circuit?
You only need one GFCI per circuit. When you install a GFCI outlet correctly, every outlet downstream is also protected. Two GFCIs on the same circuit would each cause the other to trip, and you would have to reset both.
HK Sloan is a freelance writer currently covering DIY Home Improvement, Health, and Lifestyle. Sloan is passionate about improving situations for less, whether it be working on mind, body, or home.
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