Fridge Tripping GFCI on Generator: Why and How to Fix It

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If you have ever tried to run your fridge on a generator, you may have encountered a problem: the fridge trips the GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet on the generator. This can be frustrating and inconvenient, especially if you need to keep your food cold during a power outage.

But why does this happen, and how can you prevent it? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and provide some tips on how to run your fridge on a generator safely and efficiently.

Why Does Fridge Trip GFCI on Generator?

The main reason why a fridge trips the GFCI on a generator is because of the inrush current. This is the initial surge of current that occurs when the fridge compressor starts up. The inrush current can be up to six times the normal running current of the fridge. This sudden spike of current can cause the GFCI to sense a ground fault and trip the outlet, cutting off the power to the fridge.

Another possible reason why a fridge trips the GFCI on a generator is because of the leakage current. This is the small amount of current that flows through the insulation of the fridge wiring to the ground. The leakage current can be caused by moisture, dirt, corrosion, or damage to the fridge wiring or components. The leakage current can also trigger the GFCI to trip the outlet, even if the inrush current is not too high.

How do I fix fridge-tripping GFCI on the generator?

There are a few ways to fix the problem of the fridge tripping GFCI on the generator. Here are some of them:

1. Use a different outlet on the generator.

Some generators have multiple outlets, some of which are GFCI-protected and some of which are not. If your generator has a non-GFCI outlet, you can try plugging your fridge into that outlet instead. This may prevent the fridge from tripping the GFCI, but it also means that you lose the protection of the GFCI in case of a real ground fault. Therefore, this method is not recommended unless you are sure that your fridge and generator are in good condition and properly grounded.

2. Use a heavy-duty extension cord.

If you are using a long or thin extension cord to connect your fridge to the generator, you may be increasing the resistance and voltage drop in the circuit. This can make the inrush current and leakage current worse and more likely to trip the GFCI. To avoid this, you should use a heavy-duty extension cord that is rated for the maximum current and wattage of your fridge and generator. The extension cord should also be as short as possible and not coiled or tangled.

One possible heavy-duty extension cord we recommend for running a fridge on a generator is the Champion 25-Foot 30-Amp 250-Volt Generator Power Cord. This cord is rated for 125/250 volts, providing up to 30 amps of power. It has a 10-gauge wire that is flexible, abrasion-resistant, and weather-resistant. It can connect your generator to the manual transfer switch on your home or a power inlet box.

3. Use a soft-start device.

A soft start device is a gadget that you can attach to your fridge compressor to reduce the inrush current. It works by gradually increasing the voltage and current to the compressor instead of applying the full power at once. This can lower the inrush current by up to 70% and prevent the fridge from tripping the GFCI on the generator. A soft start device can also extend the life of your fridge compressor and save energy. However, a soft start device can be expensive and difficult to install and may not be compatible with all types of fridges.

4. Use a dedicated inverter generator.

An inverter generator is a type of generator that produces clean and stable power, similar to the power from the grid. An inverter generator can handle the inrush current and leakage current of a fridge better than a conventional generator and reduce the chances of tripping the GFCI. An inverter generator can also run more quietly and efficiently and adjust the output to match the load. However, an inverter generator can be more costly and complex than a conventional generator and may not have enough power to run other appliances besides the fridge.

Can you use a surge protector instead of GFCI on my generator?

No, you cannot use a surge protector instead of GFCI on your generator. A surge protector and a GFCI have different functions and purposes. A surge protector protects your appliances and electronics from voltage spikes that can damage them. A GFCI protects you from electric shocks that can occur when there is a ground fault in the circuit. A ground fault happens when the current flows through an unintended path, such as water or a person, instead of the intended path, such as the wire or the appliance. A GFCI detects this imbalance and shuts off the power to prevent injury or death.

A surge protector does not protect you from electric shocks, and a GFCI does not protect your appliances and electronics from voltage spikes. Therefore, you need both of them to ensure safety and performance. However, you should not plug a surge protector into a GFCI outlet on your generator, as this can cause potential problems. Plugging a surge protector into a GFCI outlet can cause the following issues:

  1. The surge protector can interfere with the GFCI’s ability to sense a ground fault and trip the outlet, making it less effective and reliable.
  2. The surge protector can cause false tripping of the GFCI outlet, cutting off the power to your appliances and electronics unnecessarily.
  3. The surge protector can overload the GFCI outlet, causing it to overheat and melt, creating a fire hazard.

The best way to use a surge protector and a GFCI on your generator is to connect them in parallel, not in series. This means that you should plug your appliances and electronics into separate outlets on your generator, one with a surge protector and one with a GFCI. This way, you can benefit from both types of protection without compromising either of them.

Final Thought 

Running a fridge on a generator can be tricky, especially if the fridge trips the GFCI on the generator. This can be caused by the inrush current or the leakage current of the fridge, which can overload or fool the GFCI. To fix this problem, you can try using a different outlet, a heavy-duty extension cord, a soft start device, or a dedicated inverter generator. However, you should always follow the safety precautions and instructions of your fridge and generator manufacturers and consult a professional electrician if you are not sure how to proceed. Additionally, if you’re trying to use a surge protector instead of GFCI, we suggest you don’t use a surge protector in place of GFCI because they have different functionalities. Instead, you can decide to use both of them at the same time for your fridge and generator.

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