Is There A Surge Protector For Refrigerators?

The long and short of it is yes, there is a surge protector for refrigerators; but there is some controversy over this subject as not many people see the need to protect a fridge from power surges. The reason you want one between your fridge and the outlet is that on most modern refrigerators, there are motherboards controlling digital displays and other electronic functions. Normally a surge wouldn’t bother a large appliance like a refrigerator. Compressors are too clunky and fairly impervious to the destructive nature of power surges, so there really is no need to prevent surge damage to a refrigerator compressor. You do, however, need to protect those electronics.

So what is sufficient refrigerator surge protection? Well, most units pull around 220 watts. This is a lot of energy to get the compressor to kick in. Homes in the U.S. run 110V power flows, so when the compressor starts up it pulls about double the power above the normal flow in your home. This will, without a doubt, cause a surge at the outlet and will send the extra energy flow up into your appliance where it will slowly degrade the electronics of the motherboard. This is why you need surge protection for refrigerator units with modern amenities.

Of course if you don’t have a newer model then it is ok to plug in your refrigerator without a surge protector. Overall, the unit should protect upwards of 2500 watts, which may be difficult to find with a 220V rating. The higher wattage will allow the compressor to work without tripping the surge protector. Most devices, though, should not be affected by the start of the compressor as clamping voltage is typically set at 330 volts. Clamping voltage is the amount of juice the surge protector will let through before it considers it a power surge.

Another measurement to look at is Joules. For refrigerator surge protection, Joules is moderately important. You only need a 1 outlet surge protector, but it has to have a high enough Joules rating to be effective. Joules is somewhat ambiguous because it is not regulated. It measures how much voltage a device can absorb before the MOVs burn out. MOVs are what help stop surges.

A typical device will have somewhere around 3 MOVs. These are little semiconductors that attract heat and are perfect for diverting surges. They will degrade with every surge they absorb so you will eventually have to replace your surge protection device. As far as Joules goes, it is recommended to have at least 750 Joules for a refrigerator surge protector, but as mentioned, the more the merrier.

Some people look to GFCI outlets for protection. You should not plug your refrigerator into a GFCI outlet. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt. These stop power faults related to water intrusion. Your fridge will “sweat” from time to time and these outlets will trigger a response from the GFCI as the metal where the “sweat” occurs grounds to the unit itself. When detected, it will trigger the breaker on the outlet to shut off. The result should be obvious. So find a 120V refrigerator voltage spike protector and save yourself some costly repairs or replacements. Try Belkin or Tripp Lite for the best surge protector for a refrigerator.

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  1. Keith says

    The author needs to make some corrections regarding power facts. Most fridges don’t “pull 220 volts”. Also untrue is “when the compressor starts up it pulls about double the voltage above the normal flow “. The author may have been referring to amps or power, not volts. Other than the glaring power inaccuracies, the article is usful and sheds light on a real issue. Thank you.

  2. admin says

    Actually Keith, the author meant to say a refrigerator uses about 220 watts. Thanks for pointing out the error to us.

  3. Alex says

    Actually, GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt. Your explanation for what it does is correct, but your acronym definition was lacking. Thanks. :)


    The GFCI measures the current in the hot leg going to the circuit and also measures the current in the return leg. These measurements are manifested by winding on a core such that if the current in the hot leg and the current in the neutral leg are equal, there is a net magnetic flux in the core of zero. There is also a winding which senses the flux caused by an imbalance and that winding will be used to feed a trip of the breaker. If memory serves, the current imbalance is about 30 ma for a fraction of a second.

    Doesn’t do much for surges, but it does keep you from getting a fatal shock if you should put your body in contact with the line side of a circuit and you are grounded.

  5. Tom and Lisa Thompson says

    Just found this blog (looking for info on refrigerator surge protectors). Please be aware that GE, in order to avoid warranty service, will blame motherboard failures on “power surges,” even though nowhere in their literature do they warn about such things or recommend a surge protector! My 4-year-old GE product is kaput. :(

  6. Larry says

    The confusion between volts and watts exists in the author’s mind, and it skews what he says in a number of ways. Keith is correct that the refrigerator does not “pull 220 volts” when it starts up. In fact, it can’t “pull” any more volts than the circuit supplies. The electrical voltage, which is comparable to pressure in a hose, is determined at the transformer on the utility pole or ground-based installation. What the refrigerator can “pull” is amps or current, which is comparable to the volume of water flowing through the hose. If it is consuming 220 watts at start up, that means that is pulling about 2 amps from a 110-120 volt circuit. A watt is a volt-amp or volts multiplied by amps. It is a measure of the energy being used or the work needed to produce that energy.

    The author’s confusion affects the discussion of clamping voltage. He would lead you to believe that you want a clamping voltage above 220 volts. This is false and misleading. The clamping voltage is the voltage at which the circuit protection will kick in. The lower the clamping voltage in a device the better, so long as it is above the voltage being supplied. The Tripp Lite device that I am looking at for my refrigerator (ISOBAR4ULTRA) has a clamping voltage of 140 volts which will provide much more protection than the 330-volt clamping voltage that the author speaks of. It also provides 3,300 Joules of surge protection. The more the merrier as far as Joule rating is concerned.

    You would do well to replace this article with one written by a more knowledgeable person, as it could seriously mislead people.

  7. admin says

    Thanks for your reply, Larry. As you can tell, the article is nearly fours years old and could obviously use some updating. Your input is very appreciated and helps the community greatly. Thanks again.

  8. Ken says

    Wow you guys are smart! So many electricians in the house! Hard to find a Flat Surge protector that doesn’t make the fridge stick out any more that it does already! And I see lots of articles on skipping the refridg and going to the Entire House Protector…

    Life is never easy…and yes GE doesn’t say crap about needing a surge protector, even after calling them and asking for a recommendation. Until the motherboard fries and the repair guy says you need one.

  9. DJ says

    actually your are wrong on most accounts. Typical voltage in USA at your home is 120/240 volts. Second, a standard full size refridge pulls about 6 amps = 720 watts (6a x 120v). Now in 2014-15 maybe only 5 amps. Only the small refridges or even freezers may pull 200-300 watts. My small freezer does. Third, Only the old refridges from the 1980’s and earlier you wont have to worry about.
    Its always best to get a surge protector strip or whole house with high joules. The Higher the better and with the lowest “Clamp on voltage” you can. Joules can start around 200 but 5-700 is the lowest I would buy. Think of a surge protector as an insurance policy. The more you spend and the more joules (coverage) you have, the better off you will be. Get the ones with ‘Light Indicators” so you know when to replace. Light on=OK. Light off=Replace

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