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Thread: Nuisance GFCI tripping, need advice on how to fix

  1. #1

    Default Nuisance GFCI tripping, need advice on how to fix

    I recently installed a 15A GFCI in the first outlet from the entrance panel on a basement circuit that powers 5 wall outlets and 3 ceiling light fixtures that use the new CF bulbs. The maximum current on that circuit is never over about 6 or 7 amps according to my calculations. One light fixture is on a 14awg wire running off of another fixture, so even though most of the circuit is 12awg wire I used a 15A GFCI and installed a 15A breaker in the main panel because of that 14awg section of wire which would be very difficult to replace with heavier wire.

    OK, that's the wiring set up, here's my problem. I am getting way too many GFCI nuisance trips, especially during thunder storms, which of course knocks out the entire circuit. That wouldn't be a major problem except that one of the outlets powers a small 7 cubic foot freezer which needs to be kept running. I want to spend some time with my son and his family in another city this summer, but I am afraid to leave home for any long period of time because if the GFCI trips while I'm away for a few days the freezer will be off and a lot of expensive meat will spoil. Would installing a GFCI breaker in the main panel in place of the normal breaker for that circuit help the nuisance tripping situation, or would replacing all of the regular receptacles on the circuit with GFCIs work better? I want to have the basement receptacles GFCI protected according to NEC code, but I also need to have them reliable.

    Another idea had crossed my mind at first, but I don't know if it would work. If I replaced the 14awg section on the circuit with 12 awg wire and then replaced the 15A GFCI with a 20A would that reduce the nuisance tripping? Replacing that section of wire would be difficult but not impossible. If there is no quick and easy fix to the tripping problem, when I leave home I may have to leave the freezer plugged into my heavy duty 50 foot 12awg extension cord that I would plug into a 20A receptacle on the main floor of the house. I know that isn't advisable according to what I read in the Wiring Simplified book, but it may be the best I will be able to do under the circumstances..

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005


    GFCI devices do not trip due to overcurrent, so changing to a 20A device or to a 20A breaker will have no bearing on your problem. The NEC does allow you to have a non GFCI receptacle in a basement if you are connecting a freezer or refrigerator to that outlet. That particular receptacle should be a single or if a duplex should be inaccessible (as in behind the freezer). You could use multiple GFCIs to achieve a non-protected receptacle at the freezer.

  3. #3


    I suspect your refrig to be your problem. A fridge has a compressor. Two problems with compressors cause problems with GFI devices. A refrigerator compressor is a hermatic motor that has a tendency to have minor leakage of current not notice on a normal circuit but will trip a GFI . A hermatic motor also must have time to cycle down after being shut off. When lightening strikes and you lose power for a few seconds the compressor then must trip out due to overload then restart later after it has cycled down. One of the above historic problems with refrig compressor motors is probably your problem. I would do as househelper suggested and run a dedicated 14 or 12 awg branch circuit to a single nonGFI protected circuit behind that frig as allowed per NEC rules in a basement. This should solve your problem.

    Good Luck


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