Does A Refrigerator Need A Dedicated Circuit?

In the past, almost all kitchen appliances were connected to a shared outlet circuit. However, most of these electric appliances, such as refrigerators, have become larger over time. What happens if we plug this appliance into a shared outlet circuit? Is it safe? Is a dedicated circuit required? We've researched this subject to answer your questions and give safety guidelines for you and your kitchen.

Manufacturers recommend refrigerators have a dedicated circuit. It is required to guarantee that they run efficiently and avoid an electrical overload due to the current wiring and potential electrical hazards. Refrigerators are electrical appliances requiring a high, steady energy supply to their circuits.

As a homeowner, we ought to know more about our kitchen. So, if you are planning to buy a new refrigerator, keep reading and find out more about this topic!

Black and white inspired kitchen matched with white countertop and white cabinets, Does A Refrigerator Need A Dedicated Circuit?

What is a dedicated circuit?

Dedicated circuits intend to serve a single appliance or outlet. It is not shared by any other appliance, making it exclusive to that equipment. It ensures enough power is supplied for a particular device without overloading the system.

Classic designed kitchen with white painted cabinets and black countertop to match the overall design of the kitchen

What electric appliances needed a dedicated circuit?

The modern appliance is typically set to high electrical capacities. These appliances could potentially consume more power than the circuit is made to manage. Some of these include refrigerators, electric ovens, microwaves, dishwashers, air-conditioners, dryers, and garbage disposals.

The need for a separate circuit varies according to a given home's electrical system and equipment. It is critical to meet local rules as well as electric code criteria. 

Refrigerator’s Power Usage and Amperage

The average household refrigerator draws between 350-750 watts of power during operation. While it typically draws current between 3-6 amps.

However, it can reach up to 15-20 amps during start-up or periods of high usage. It could be 3-6 times more than the running amperage or wattage declared in the manuals.

It is also worth noting that a circuit should only carry 80% of its rated load during regular operation. Plugging another appliance while the refrigerator’s compressor is operating may cause it to trip, resulting in a tripped circuit breaker or a nuisance tripping. 

Most manufacturers would propose a dedicated circuit to protect the safety of both the device and the user. Consequently, we should consider installing refrigerators on a 15-20 amp dedicated 120-volt circuit. It is also a standard amperage used in circuit breakers at home.

What circuit breakers do I need for refrigerators?

Classic interior of a modern kitchen with wooden cabinets and white countertop and a refrigerator on the side

Circuit breakers are electrical safety devices that interrupt the flow of electricity, designed to guard against an electrical circuit from damage caused by an overloading or short circuit.

Here are the types of breakers you may use for refrigerators:

Standard Circuit Breakers

Single-pole and double-pole circuit breakers are the two types of common circuit breakers.

  • Single Pole Circuit Breakers: These are mostly found in small households that supply 120 volts and can handle 15 to 20 amperage capacity. 
  • Double-Pole Circuit Breakers: They can supply up to 240 volts to a circuit while handling 20 to 60 amperage capacity. Large appliances such as refrigerators demand double-pole breakers. 

GFCI Circuit Breakers

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) allow the panel to be protected against overloading and short-circuiting. It offers protection against electrocution due to ground fault conditions. The NEC 210.8 (A)(2) requires garages with a GFCI. Consider using this circuit breaker if you intend to place refrigerators/freezers in garages.

Can you plug a refrigerator into a regular outlet?

Yes, refrigerators can be plugged into a regular outlet. They can be plugged into a standard outlet with a grounded plug or a socket that has three-pronged faces with a voltage of 110–120. However, they pose a danger when we use them in appliances that require high power usage. 

Consider providing dedicated circuits on major home appliances like refrigerators. The main reason for this is so you can prevent your equipment from getting damaged and causing a fire hazard.

Can a refrigerator be plugged into an extension cord?

Orange extension cord on the table

Technically, you can use an extension cord to run your refrigerator. However, using one may provide a risk because it cannot handle the amount of electricity needed by the refrigerator. But if you must plug your refrigerator into an extension cord, you should take a few precautions to ensure you choose the safest decision possible.

  1. Choose the best wire gauge rating for the extension cord. An additional extra heavy-duty cord means that the wire is thick enough to conduct high levels of electricity.
  2. Buy one with a grounded plug. Most refrigerators have three prongs that redirect excess electricity in an emergency.
  3. The extension cord must also be a short wire to minimize the current load.

How many appliances can be on a 15 amp circuit?

The National Electric Code (NEC) does not specify how many devices should be on a 15 amp circuit. However, NEC 210.23 (A)(1) requires that you shall not exceed 80% of the branch-circuit ampere rating. Technically speaking, a 15 amp circuit’s maximum load shall only be 12 amp when running at once.

Is it safe to use a 20 amp outlet on a 15 amp circuit?

No, it’s not safe. According to NEC, a 20 amp outlet shall not be utilized on a 15 amp circuit. The breaker will trip if you force the circuit to draw more power than it can tolerate. Worst-case scenario, the wires will overheat, starting a fire. 

Final Thoughts

Black and white inspired kitchen matched with white countertop and white cabinets

Refrigerators consume a lot of power. The demand for a much higher power or current is stronger when starting up the refrigerator. That is why it is critical to understand the electrical needs to avoid problems.

Also, safety is crucial, and the homeowner should be aware of any potential electrical hazards in the home. You can avoid accidents by understanding how much energy a refrigerator requires and by following the recommended guidelines provided by the manufacturers. 

For more great tips on refrigerator care and maintenance, check out our related posts:

How Long Should Refrigerators Sit After Moving?

Can You Drill A Hole In A Refrigerator?

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