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Thread: GFCI Problem

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
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    Fairbanks, Alaska
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    Default GFCI Problem

    Hello from an electrically-challenged senior, who should know a lot more than she does after all these years:

    After 2 years of use, my basement freezer has started to trip it's circuit breaker. A day late, and a dollar short, I read my freezer tech info, and find out that it should not be plugged into a GFCI protected circuit breaker, which it has been for two years.

    I wonder if I could replace this circuit breaker with one minus the GFCI protection..... the GFCI breakers have a 3-wire set-up, or on the other hand, if I could adapt the freezer to work with GFCI protected breaker.

    I do have an unprotected circuit not too far away, so I wonder if some special extension cord might work.

    I also have a dedicated circuit for the all-important furnace.... 40 below is common here. Is there a good reason not to use this furnace circuit for the freezer also.

    I am most grateful for any advice or experience you could impart to me!

    blacklab

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Fayette County, Ohio
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    Default Re: GFCI Problem

    To answer your question, yes you can replace the GFCI breaker with a regular breaker although it may be a code violation. From the GFCI the black wire will go to the new breaker, the whit wire from the circuit will be moved to the ground neutral buss, the white wire from the GFCI to the buss will be removed.

    You can use an extension cord to an unprotected circuit provided you get one that will handle the current.

    You should not connect to your furnace circuit.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
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    Default Re: GFCI Problem

    As Jack stated, you should not use the furnace circuit, and changing the breaker to a nonGFI is a most likely a code violation and therefore unsafe. The only exception is 1. If your GFI protected circuit only feeds that one receptacle,
    or 2. The GFI circuit is only in a finished basement and doesn't have receptacles within 6' of a sink,in a bathroom, or feed an outdoor or garage receptacle. If you can't have an electrician extend the non GfI circuit to the freezer at this time, get a grounded extension cord that is at least 14 gauge, and no more than 5 feet longer than needed. Extension cords are not legal or safe for permanent wiring anywhere.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: GFCI Problem

    Quote Originally Posted by ZZZ View Post
    As Jack stated, you should not use the furnace circuit, and changing the breaker to a nonGFI is a most likely a code violation and therefore unsafe. The only exception is 1. If your GFI protected circuit only feeds that one receptacle,
    or 2. The GFI circuit is only in a finished basement and doesn't have receptacles within 6' of a sink,in a bathroom, or feed an outdoor or garage receptacle. If you can't have an electrician extend the non GfI circuit to the freezer at this time, get a grounded extension cord that is at least 14 gauge, and no more than 5 feet longer than needed. Extension cords are not legal or safe for permanent wiring anywhere.
    Can you change back to a standard breaker, change the outlet to a single outlet, then GFCI the outlets that follow be on the circuit? In central Penna single outlets instead of a GFCI are a allowable practice.
    Methinks the freezer should be on a dedicated circuit as well.
    Hope I am not overloading you with ideas....
    Last edited by Ernie_Fergler; 09-14-2009 at 08:38 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: GFCI Problem

    Ernie, that is a good idea I hadn't thought of. You would need a seperate GFI for every recpt. upstream, but it would only take one to cover any downstream ones. I have probably really confused the OP by now.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: GFCI Problem

    A few facts:

    Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are listed under the Product Category KCXS are covered by Standard for Safety UL 943. Those GFCIs manufacturered on or after January 1, 2003 meet (although there were some recalls announced on/about August 2003 - December 2003) the newer revisions to the certification requirements added to that Standard which include: a more stringent voltage surge immunity test, newer corrosion tests to demonstrate greater immunity to moist conditions, an operating test to verify that proper operation of the GFCI cannot be prevented by manipulation of the GFCI conditions, a reverse line-load miswire test that requies the GFCI to deny power to feed-through when reverse wired (it may still power the face), an abnormal overvoltage test that requires the GFCI not become a fire or shock hazard in extreme overvoltage conditions, demonstrated immunity to conducted disturbances induced by radio-frequency (RF) fields, and supplemental voltage surge tests to assure GFCIs provide maximum protection against unwanted consequences of transient voltage surges. GFCIs manufactured on or after July 28, 2006 meet the newest revisions to the Standard for Safety certification requirements regarding end of life tests and revised miswiring tests (including denying power to the face as well as feed-through power).

    Products manufactured prior to those dates were and are allowed to remain in the marketplace/stock and be sold even though they do not meet the newer and newest standards. Manufacturer's production date codes located on the device itself or its packaging can be verified with the manufacturer to determine the date of manufacture. Although coming across older stock inventory is not uncommon anywhere in the supply chain in the lower 48, I recall seeing some very old items still offered for sale during a trip to Alaska when I visited a few years ago, and suspect it might be your experience as well.

    GFCIs activate when leakage current reaches 4.0 - 6.0 mA.

    UL 250, the Stanard for Safety for Household Refrigerators and Freezers, specifically limits the maximum permitted leakage current to 0.75 mA during the defrost cycle, which is well below the trip point for a functioning and installed GFCI. A properly working refrigerator or freezer will NOT be responsible for tripping a modern functioning and properly installed GFCI.

    On a side note, UL categorizes sump pumps under the product category "Pumps, Electrically Operated, Liquid (REUZ)" and are certified under the Standard for Safety for Motor Operated Water Pumps, UL 778, which likewise permits a MAXIMUM leakage current of 0.75 mA, and therefore if operating properly, will not be responsible for tripping a modern functioning and properly installed GFCI.

    If you have a newer or newest GFCI (breaker or receptacle), I would first suspect a fault condition (damage or corrosion to wiring, inproper installation, etc., a failed or damaged component of the appliance; or operation of the appliance in conditions (past or present) other than those recommended by the manufacturer and contrary to its listing. This could include moisture, ambient temperatures which drop below 40 degrees F, losening of a case ground, damage to the power cord or plug, and a host of others. If your GFCI is older or its age of manufacture cannot be verified, I would first swap it out with one that was manufactured on/after August 2006.

    Something as simple as a damp area, subject to condensation or higher (especially as temps cool in the evening) humidity and the lack of a weather resistant receptacle (noted by a "WR" on the face) on a GFCI protected circuit can collect enough moisture on the faceplate of the receptacle to cause a trip.

    Following a cycle (blower directing warm moist air at the receptacle location then cooling significantly and condensation when the blower stops) in cooler temps can collect enough liquid water to cause a trip due to an actual fault condition.

    If the GFCI protection is from a breaker - you also need to consider that the reason for the trip may be other than ground fault.

    I noticed in your other post string the mention of some wiring circa 1975, and recall the supply chain to most of Alaska was in the order of 6-12 months or more in the early and mid-70s. Therefore wonder if you may have aluminum wiring in your circuits, especially of a pre-72 or so, even less safe than a later produced aluminum alloy. I also note there has been other recent electrical work described on your earlier post (which was slightly unclear in your discussion of two circuits) consider the possibility of multi-wire branch circuits or a wiring error in your previous efforts possibly including an equipment ground or incomplete or incorrect bond.
    Last edited by Gray Watson; 09-15-2009 at 09:44 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Thumbs up Re: GFCI Problem

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Watson View Post
    A few facts:

    Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are listed under the Product Category KCXS are covered by Standard for Safety UL 943.....If the GFCI protection is from a breaker - you also need to consider that the reason for the trip may be other than ground fault.
    Although GFI's will trip from leakage current, as they should, the problem with their use on freezers, and other motorized appliances is that their sensitive electronic circuits will often trip because of the phase shift caused by large inductive loads. This is why the N.E.C. allows freezers, refrigerators, dishwashers, trash compactors,and garbage disposals an exemption to the GFI rules even though they are installed in GFI mandated locations.NEC 210.8(A)(6).
    I have used a 900 MHZ walkie talkie around some old panelboards that were 100% GFI and it would trip a half dozen breakers every time you key up.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: GFCI Problem

    Quote Originally Posted by ZZZ View Post
    Ernie, that is a good idea I hadn't thought of. You would need a seperate GFI for every recpt. upstream, but it would only take one to cover any downstream ones. I have probably really confused the OP by now.
    That is not correct.
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: GFCI Problem

    Gary, I can't argue with you on the 2008 code as it has not been adopted here yet, but the house was built before 2008 and therefore it was not required to meet the new changes you speak of. You will have to explain why you don't have to have separate GFI'S for upstream receptacles from the one you are converting to non GFI, as you cannot feed them off the load side of the first one without having all of them on the circuit protected. You seem to think this forum is a place to debate complex and subtle passages of the code, when it is simply a place that homeowners can get general info. My answer was to use an extension cord temporarily until they could hire an electrician. If you want to get into some real arguments I would suggest you try Mike Holts's Electrical Forums.
    Last edited by ZZZ; 09-15-2009 at 10:36 AM. Reason: spelling

  10. #10
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    Default Re: GFCI Problem

    One GFCI device 'upstream' can protect all 'downstream'.

    The best advice is to determine the cause of the tripping. The original poster's conclusion that a residential freezer cannot or should not be supplied via GFCI protection, and your further assertion that it cannot be, and your examples supporting that 'claim' are flat out wrong. I explained why.

    A temporary GFCI cordset would be a better 'temporary' advice from the nearby described receptacle served by another circuit (not GFIC breaker) since it would likewise protect against a fault on the 'neutral' side. If that device should trip it is an indication of an unsafe condition.
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