Do Refrigerators Need Dedicated Circuits?

refrigerator plugged into wall

It's a rare situation that you'll want to plug a refrigerator and a standalone freezer on the same circuit. However, there are cases that may necessitate this. If you run out of circuits and have to run the refrigerator and freezer, here are some things to consider.

Splitting Fridge and Freezer Circuits

In this post, we look at a situation where a DIYer uses a receptacle to split power from one circuit for the freezer and the refrigerator. The worry is not whether the circuit could handle the two devices, but whether the approach is against the code.

For a basement connection, the approach is not against code in most localities. However, you have to check the codes that apply in your area to be sure.

The NEC 210.8(A)(5) Exception 2 allows basement circuit plugs to be unprotected by GFI if the plugged appliances are located in the same area and are not constantly moved. In the case of the fridge and freezer, this code seems to be well followed.

While the use of the two appliances on the same circuit might not have any code of standards issues, that doesn't necessarily mean it's okay. There are many other factors to look at when using the freezer and fridge on the same circuit.

wiring furnace

Do Refrigerators Need Dedicated Circuits?

Ideally, the refrigerator could operate well and at optimum levels when on a dedicated circuit. However, that doesn't mean it must be on a dedicated circuit.

What you want to consider is the total amperage of the circuit in comparison to the appliances that will be using the circuit in question. For instance, if a circuit is dedicated to lighting alone, it can be used for the refrigerator, and there will be a problem.

Most domestic refrigerators run between three and six amps. With most domestic circuits running between 15 and 20 amps, it's okay to use two refrigerators on the same dedicated circuit.

However, you should take care with timing. You don't want to start both the refrigerator and freezer at the same time. At the start, the amperage of the refrigerator can spike to 15 amps. If you're using other devices on the circuit plus the refrigerator and freezer, the circuit is likely to trip when the fridge starts up.

GFCI Outlets Come in Handy

If you're using a freezer and fridge on the same circuit, you want to use GFCI plugs to avoid a situation where the entire circuit trips. A GFCI with a trip alarm will let you know when the circuit is overloaded. This is the only way to prevent the worst-case scenario.

For the case of the DIYer in question, it's not even necessary to have a GFCI installed. If you have been using the circuit for a long time without it tripping, it might just be faring well.

Split-Wired Receptacle

The split wired receptacle is the best solution for plugging the refrigerator and freezer on the same circuit. The receptacle serves two circuits in your home. This allows you to draw two separate circuits and hence reducing the risk of overloading one circuit.

The only issue when it comes to using a receptacle is that you will have to rewire the outlet. This can be confusing and dangerous for beginners, so you should only think about it if you're a hardcore DIYer or a certified pro.

Electrical Circuits and Appliance FAQ

circuits wiring

The power needs of different appliances must always be accounted for when being plugged into electrical outlets. The National Electrical Codes (NEC) book provides guidance on which appliances need dedicated circuits and which ones don't.

Even so, there are many appliances that are not strictly articulated in the codes. For instance, the microwave is a device that does require a dedicated circuit. However, the code does not outright mention the name microwave in its guidelines.

In many situations, homeowners have to use their wisdom and follow appliance instructions when installing some appliances. At the same time, you must keep safety measures at the back of your mind.

You do not want to use the wrong appliances on electrical outlets and jeopardize the safety of your home. We all know that electricity poses the risk of starting fires and electrocution. These are serious risks that must be avoided by doing the right thing in all installations.

The text above tries to answer some of the pertinent questions in regards to refrigeration and freezer power needs. Even so, there are many questions that homeowners have in regards to the power usage of different devices.

Can I Run a Refrigerator and Freezer on a 20 Amp Breaker?

circuit wiring

Whether the two appliances can run on one circuit depends on several factors. One is the wattage of each appliance. Another is the amperage of the outlet.

Most domestic outlets are rated between 15 and 20 amps. With the circuit supplying dedicated 120 volts, you want to ensure that your fridge and freezer combined need less than 20 amps offered by the circuit.

In most cases, starting a freezer will require much more than just 15 amps. As we have seen above, you will require at least 20 amps to run a freezer at the start. The same may go for larger refrigerators. In that case, it is not advisable to run the freezer and fridge on the same circuit.

Do Refrigerators Require a Dedicated Circuit?

A short answer is yes, you should have a dedicated circuit for your fridge. This is especially true if your manual says so. However, there are many situations where the fridge can be used on a shared circuit.

For instance, if you have a 20 amp circuit, it can be shared between the fridge and basic lighting. In situations where the circuit is used for minor devices such as lighting, there should be no problem sharing it with the refrigerator.

With that said, a dedicated circuit may be necessary if other appliances with huge power needs are used on the same circuit. Do not share the same circuit with your freezer, water heaters, and other heavy consumption appliances.

Can I Plug a Refrigerator into a Regular Outlet?

refrigerator plugged into wall

Yes, your refrigerator does not need a special outlet. If you are talking about a regular domestic refrigerator, you can plug it into the regular 110 to 120 volts outlet.

However, do not plug your refrigerator into a wall socket that has two terminals. Ony use your fridge in a three-pronged socket. This is because the third terminal helps get rid of excess power in case of a surge.

With that in mind, you do not want to plug a commercial refrigerator into a wall socket before consulting the manufacturer. Large refrigerants such as those used in supper stores should be installed according to the manual.

In some instances, such refrigerators have to be connected to the circuit directly and not plugged into the wall. Make sure you consult the manufacturer to find out more.

Can a Stove and Refrigerator Be on the Same Circuit?

Yes, a stove and refrigerator can be used on one circuit, but there are many factors that count. The most important step is to calculate the wattage of the two appliances together. If the wattage does not exceed 1000W, then the two appliances could be used on the same 15amps.

Ideally, you should not use a stove that has an electric oven or an electric burner with the fridge on the same circuit. The best stove to use with the fridge on the same circuit is a full gas stove.

Suchstoves merely use the electricity for sparking the burners. In such a case, they do not use sufficient electricity to affect the refrigerator using the circuit.

Can I Plug a Fridge into an Extension Cord?

Extension cords offer a solution for people who do not have sufficient wall sockets. The only problem with extension cords is that they are designed to serve a limited amount of power at a time.

If you are not sure of the maximum voltage and wattage that the cord can support, do not use it with your refrigerator. If you have checked and found that the cord can support your refrigerator's wattage, then you can use it.

When you use the wrong cord that does not match the capacity of your power needs, you run several risks. The most dangerous situation that could occur is a fire outbreak.

There are also risks such as electrocution that could be caused by overheating and exposed wires. There are extensions that only have two terminals. Such should never be used for refrigerators. The refrigerator must never be plugged into any socket that is not three-pronged.

Can Microwave and Refrigerator Be on the Same Circuit?

You should never use a microwave and refrigerator on the same circuit The NEC requires that permanent microwave devices have a dedicated circuit.

The same could be said about refrigerators. However, you should be clear on which type of refrigerator is in question. To avoid the risks of circuit tripping, ensure that the microwave is on a different circuit from the refrigerator.

In case the two must share a circuit, make sure you unplug one device when using the other. For instance, since most people use the microwave for a few minutes in a day, make sure the refrigerator is unplugged any time you are using the microwave.

What Happens If You Plug Too Many Things into an Outlet?

You can plug several devices and appliances into an outlet, especially in a case where you have an extension. The problem with this approach is that the socket could get overloaded An overloaded socket poses the risk of overheating.

Overheating eventually causes fire sparks and can lead to a fire outbreak. Besides fire outbreaks, there is a chance that any person touching the appliances could be electrocuted. In situations where the power supply is regulated, the socket might trip.

What Can I Run on a 15 Amp Breaker?

The 15 amps dedicated circuit is supposed to serve devices that are rated between 1000W and 1500W. Although such a circuit could handle up to 2000W when choosing devices to use, make sure it has a lower wattage.

This is because all devices have their power efficiency. Energy-efficient devices could be up to 80 or 90 percent accurately rated in terms of wattage.

Some devices, such as microwaves, might have as low electrical efficiency as 60 percent. In such a case, the watts needed to run the device could be 40% higher than the stipulated wattage.

How Do You Know If a Circuit Is Overloaded?

An overloaded circuit can be detected by observing the electrical patterns in your home. One of the major signs of overloaded circuits is the diming of lights. Both the ceiling light device lights will go dim when the sockets are overloaded.

You can easily tell if the circuit is insufficient for your refrigerator by looking at the light If its lights are dm, chances are that the power provided is not sufficient.

The other signs you want to look at are the buzzing of outlets and switches, warm or heated outlets, and cords, among others. You should be more concerned if smell burning wires o plastics from sockets.

The burning smell is usually accompanied by an irregular performance of appliances.

Bottom Line

If you want to store more foods than can be handled by your refrigerator, there is no doubt that you may have to use a freezer or second refrigerator. In all these matters, you must consider the possibility of using the two devices on a single circuit.

Start by checking on the product's manual to determine the ampacity of the refrigerator and the freezer. Check to see if there are other devices that use the circuit in question and compare to the overall ampacity of the circuit.

If the circuit has sufficient capacity to run both the freezer and refrigerator, you are good to go. Make sure you install a GFCI outlet so as to get a warning in case the circuit gets overloaded.

Most importantly, never start the freezer and refrigerator at the same time when power has been off for a considerable time.