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Old 02-21-2012, 10:49 PM   #1
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GFCI breaker

Here's something I'm trying to understand. Why did Airstream connect six outlets to a 20 amp GFCI breaker? I have a 2009 27FB Flying Cloud. Four outlets are subject to water. (I understand these four should be for safety reasons) One connects to the refrigerator. The other two are not. After three years I have just replaced the breaker because of this heavy use it failed. The cost, $42.00 at Lowes. I have two outlets in the bedroom on a 20 amp breaker along with the converter. I have some knowledge of electricity plus I consulted a licensed electrician, we are perplexed.
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Old 02-21-2012, 11:18 PM   #2
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The refrigerator is not a heavy user of electricity. Is the problem that you've got toaster & microwave plugged into this outlet?

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Old 02-22-2012, 12:48 AM   #3
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Codes, economics, space for GFCI outlets in a 2" wall. AS uses CB GFCI's rather than outlet ones, I would guess because of the dimensions of those outlet ones.
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:13 AM   #4
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The outlet is in the galley and we do use it for the coffee maker, toaster and
other appliances but not at the same time. No, the microwave is on its own
circuit.
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Old 02-22-2012, 10:25 AM   #5
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A refrigerator does not require GFI protection and really should not be on a GFI circuit due to nuisance tripping. This is presuming the outlet is not otherwise accessible (it's behind the fridge and does not serve the counter-top area).
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Old 02-22-2012, 10:36 AM   #6
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AS would be wiring this way because of costs. It is cheaper to run one circuit AND provide GFCI to the outlets requiring such protection, on one circuit. Not the best of wiring design. If you can determine the location of the first outlet requiring GFCI, making that one a GFI receptacle and feed downstream from it, you may well eliminate your situation. Replacing the breaker with a regular breaker at this time. You will also find that won't trip as often OR not at all, while still getting the protection you need.
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Old 02-22-2012, 08:59 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Ganglin View Post
A refrigerator does not require GFI protection and really should not be on a GFI circuit due to nuisance tripping. This is presuming the outlet is not otherwise accessible (it's behind the fridge and does not serve the counter-top area).
i wonder if it IS required because the outlet can be accessed from outside the trailer?
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:46 PM   #8
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I've read a number of threads on here tonight regarding GFI and refrigerators. I've currently got a problem...you guessed it...with GFI and my refrigerator. This thread seems to be the most recent, so I decided to post here.

In the past 3 years of owning my Airstream, I've had no issues with plugging the Airsstream in to my house via a 20A GFI outlet on the exterior front of the house. I don't run the A/C this way, it's just to run the converter and cool the fridge prior to a trip. I've never had an issue with the GFI blowing.

Fast forward to yesterday and I was plugged in, fantastic fans going, even ran a vaccuum cleaner, no problem. Long story short, I found later in the day that there was no 120V to the trailer. Yup, the GFI on the outlet from the house was tripped. I reset it and then set down a path of systematically turning things on and narrowed it to the fridge. The fridge and only the fridge (even the converter was unplugged) will trip the GFI. I've pulled the electrode out of the fridge. In the whopping 15 seconds it was "on" today, it was still noticeably warm when I removed it, so it's working. It wasn't corroded in its sleeve in any way, just a nice tight slip fit. The wires are in great shape. Despite the trailer being 38 years old, the fridge is only about 6.

Based on what I've read here and in other threads, why would I want to plug-in to a non-GFI outlet when it has worked fine in the past? Wouldn't the GFI blowing now indicate a problem? I would also be worried that GFI 20A outlets at campgrounds would also blow when I hook up which wouldn't be cool. Should I just shut up and spend the $40 on a new electrode and change it and cross my fingers?
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Old 03-12-2012, 06:59 PM   #9
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WineStream: I would measure the resistance between the metal shell of the heating element you removed and each of the leads into it. The ceramic insulation inside the element may have broken down, allowing enough current to leak from the heater to the shell, which could cause the GFI to trip. You should measure essentially a resistance of infinity on each lead. It only takes .005 amps flowing to ground from the heater to cause the GFI to trip.

There could be some other part of the electronics in your newer refrigerator which is leaking a small amount of current. These things can be tricky to find.
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Old 03-12-2012, 07:19 PM   #10
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WineStream: I would measure the resistance between the metal shell of the heating element you removed and each of the leads into it. The ceramic insulation inside the element may have broken down, allowing enough current to leak from the heater to the shell, which could cause the GFI to trip. You should measure essentially a resistance of infinity on each lead. It only takes .005 amps flowing to ground from the heater to cause the GFI to trip.

There could be some other part of the electronics in your newer refrigerator which is leaking a small amount of current. These things can be tricky to find.
I'm getting about 67kOhms on both leads to the jacket, but that value fluctuates a lot and never really stabilizes. It keeps climbing by 0.1kOhm about every second as I hold the heating element in my hand.

I guess given my conditions and the cost of a new electrode, I'll just replace it and see if that does the trick.
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Old 03-12-2012, 07:47 PM   #11
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I = V/R so 120 / 67,000 = .00179 amps (not quite 2 mA). So, yes could possibly be the issue, especially if the resistance is fluctuating. I can see that with heat expanding things, it could drop enough to trip the GFI out which only takes 5 mA.

Let us know if a new element solves the problem. I hope my WAG and your measurements pan out to be the true issue.

Before buying one however, try the refrigerator with the element disconnected and make sure that it does not trip the GFI due to some other issue.
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Old 03-12-2012, 08:25 PM   #12
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Before buying one however, try the refrigerator with the element disconnected and make sure that it does not trip the GFI due to some other issue.
Actually, that one did occur to me, too. I tried it. As soon as it realized that there was no AC circuit, it flipped over to propane and started running the igniter. No GFI tripped.

I picked up a new heat element online. It should be here within a week and I will indeed update here with the results.
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Old 03-18-2012, 03:29 PM   #13
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I installed the new electric element to the fridge today. I'm happy to report that it is no longer tripping the GFI on the house outlet where I have the Airstream plugged in. So, I'd call the fridge element the culprit. I ran the fantastic fans and the fridge (just like when the problem occurred) for about 30 minutes and still no GFI blown.
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Old 03-18-2012, 03:52 PM   #14
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Jason: Thanks for the update. It is always nice to get things fixed and I am glad to hear that my arm chair diagnosis turned out to be correct. I hit one now and then...grin.
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