Reader: My refrigerator/ freezer is plugged into an outlet attached to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). How do I know this? Well, let's start with...

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READER: My refrigerator/freezer is plugged into an outlet attached to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

How do I know this? Well, let’s start with the $350 trip to Costco. (In other words, we were stocked and clearly not going to starve for a while.) After two hot days away from home, we returned to find the freezer had defrosted itself all over the hardwood. The inside light was not working. I replaced the light and found the new one didn’t work, either. I ingeniously figured this meant we weren’t getting any power to it.

We then unloaded the soggy remains of our food stash into borrowed coolers. I pulled the fridge out from the wall and found it was plugged in, but the outlet wasn’t working. All the breakers were on in the electrical panel. What to do?

I remembered a GFCI plug in the garage, somewhere on the wall between the fishing tackle and the studded tires. It had tripped to the off position. I hit reset, and the power came back on and all was well, except for the three pounds of previously frozen salmon. The cats thought they had died and gone to heaven.

I hope other people can be made aware of refrigerators plugged into outlets tied into a GFCI.

HAY: That’s a good example of why today’s electrical code specifically prohibits the use of a GFCI device on a circuit powering a refrigerator/freezer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always this way. Many houses built through about 1994 are still set up this way.

I have a similar, if not slightly more expensive story. Mine also involves coolers, a cold fish and water on the floor.

Assuming that my hand-me-down refrigerator needed to be junked when it started defrosting all over the floor, I picked up a new one on the way home from work.

After doing the ice-chest routine, gaining a hernia pulling the old behemoth out, schlepping the new one across the floor and plugging it in, I realized that the new refrigerator wasn’t working, either. Oops.

I reached over and pushed the reset button on the GFCI outlet about three feet away. The refrigerator fired right up.

Not to embarrass myself further, I didn’t bother to plug in the old fridge. I gave it to a Boeing engineer (they can fix just about anything). He worked some of his magic on it, and there it sits, in his garage to this day, still purring along mightily, keeping that Costco salmon frozen.

Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. Send home maintenance questions to Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at