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Question DetailsAsked on 2/24/2015

Does a kitchen refrigerator need to be GFCI protected.

Fridge outlet is behind the refrigerator within 3 feet of sink and close enough it could (second plug in) service the counter top. Is it required by current NEC code to be protected? If not required is there much of a reason for not doing anyway?
Its on same circuit as counter outlets, so should i just include one GFCI for the circuit or keep fridge out of the picture. If I keep fridge out could i place a GFCI on each outlet except not do the fridge?


.refeu the and not protected. What are reasons to isOnly reIf not by code what would the advantages of having it protected over the food spoilage if it had a false trip?

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3 Answers


Oh, I just KNEW this would come up someday - and now it is 2015 (the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC) came into effect in many jurisdictions on January 1, 2015 that makes it even worse.

By pre-2011 code (or thereabout), if the outlet is used only for the reefer and is NOT readily accessible (reachable without pulling reefer out) for use for countertop appliances, it does not need to be GFCI covered and almost universally was not (ditto for washers, dryers, dishwashers, freezers, air compressors, large shop power tools, garbage disposals) because the solenoids and motors tend to trip out GFCI's when starting up. The 2011 code, as I recall, added garbage disposals as GFCI required items, for good cause as almost all undersink plumbing is non-conducting now, so the garbage disposal (especially the idiotic two-wired ones) are ungrounded and could energize the sink without tripping the breaker (or possibly even a GFCI if 2-wire).

Now comes the complication, with some conflicts between NEC and International Residential Code (IRC):

The 2014 NEC added dishwashers to that category requiring GFCI/AFCI, and all outlets with 8 feet of sinks or basins or such according to in one place in the codes, ALL outlets in kitchens and baths and unfinished spaces and garages and pool/sauna/hot tub and laundry areas in another place, but in a third place exempts fixed location (non-countertop) kitchen and laundry room appliances that are on a dedicated circuit.

The consensus seems to be building, in the professional builders/trade blogs and state code amendments, that EVERY outlet in a kitchen or bath that COULD be used by a countertop appliance, dishwasher, or garbage disposal must be GFCI (or AFCI) protected, but washing machines, dryers, freezers, reefers, and fans/hoods that have a DEDICATED circuit that cannot be used by a countertop appliance do not need to be, though they do have to be 3-prong plugs with grounded outlets. The way it is phrased it is not clear in all places whether they really mean a dedicated CIRCUIT for that device, or only a dedicated OUTLET - I have seen parts that seem to read each way. For instance, many 80's through 2000's houses have kitchen circuits with ordinary breaker feeding the reefer and countertops, with GFCI outlet protecting the countertop portions but not the reefer. Some also have the vent fan on the same circuit, on the unprotected part of the same circuit.

What that means to a reefer outlet behind the reefer but with two plug sockets (don't know what they are officially called, but I am calling the pair of slots or slot pair plus ground hole where you plug in a cord a "socket) is unclear. I did recently see a Leviton 15A single-socket outlet with single-socket cover plate for a standard narrow box at a building supply store displayed at the counter with a card advertising it as meeting the 2014 code for kitchen appliances, so evidently some people feel a second socket in an outlet behind a reefer can be a problem.

It is pretty clear that an outlet over the counter with the reefer plugged into one of the sockets, leaving the other available and accessible, would mean that outlet needs to be GFCI/AFCI protected. Presumably ditto to a washer outlet that is accessible for plugging in an iron into the other socket.

One other issue hanging out there is microwaves - they are kind of in limbo, because taken literally if sitting on the countertop would be a countertop appliance, if mounted over the stove or cabinet-mounted would not be, even though it might be the exact same appliance. I would treat as countertop appliance regardless.

Bear in mind that for most single family residences, at least owner-occupied ones, you are NOT required to upgrade to current code except for a very few items like smoke/CO alarms, but if you are modifying the system then the parts you change have to meet code to the extent possible given the installation UNLESS replacing more than half the system, in which case in many cases the entirte system then has to be brought up to code. Ditto in general if remodel exceeds half the market value of the house (unclear if that is supposed to include the land value or not in figuring what "half" is).

Advantages of GFCI - very high probability it will trip circuit out in event of a short or ground fault so reduces chance of electrocution far better than a breaker, which requires a substantial short to trip and with 2-wire appliances may not protect at all under some circumstances. Disadvantage like you say - compressors coming on can sometimes trip out a GFCI so defrosted food risk - and many reefers and other large appliances have the neutral and ground interconnected, which would trip out a GFCI immediately upon plugging it in. If you have to put reefer on GFCI/AFCI, you can get plug-in power outage alarms for from $40-100 - good use for that second socket in the outlet, huh ?If reefer is "first" outlet in circuit (closest to breaker on wire) you can then protect the rest of the "downstream" outlets (in most but not all code areas) with an outlet-type GFCI, which when properly installed will then provide GFCI protection to all other "downstream" outlets as well - which should each receive one of the "GFCI outlet protected" stickers that come with the outlet-type GFCI's. For circuits where reefer is further down the line, there are some outlet-type GFCI's out there that you can modify the wiring scheme on to provide only protection to that particular outlet - you are supposed to sticker that GFCI outlet with a sticker that says something like "GFCI Protects This Outlet Only" or something like that (I don't remember phrasing, rarely done) so each outlet until the reefer would need one of those type GFCI outlets at each outlet wired for self-protection only, then any outlets "downstream" of the reefer could be protected by one GFCI outlet wired the normall way. If having to do this I would DEFINITELY have an electrician do it, because screw it up and you either aren't protected right, or you fry a half dozen GFCI outlets.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


The previous answer is somewhat inaccurate. It is clear the author is confused about NEC requirements mixing dwelling units and non dwelling units together among other incorrect statements.

The code is to complex to answer such a question as this in a short essay. But as a general code requirement, if the fridge (the fridge's plug) is within 6 feet of the kitchen sink it must be GFIC protected. The gfic must be accessible, not buried behind the fridge.

Any questions as to kitchen GFIC protection beyond this should be presented to and explained by the local building offical.

Answered 3 years ago by workingman


working first I thought you knew what you were talking about when you "corrected" the essay that another guy posted, however you lost ALL credibility when you could not even refer to the plug outlet by the proper is not GFIC, it is referred to as GFCI...

Answered 2 years ago by Andrewz28

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