Dear Barry,

I recently purchased a home and am having problems with the electrical outlet at the laundry. The clothes dryer keeps popping the GFCI breaker. This was never mentioned by our home inspector. What could be causing this, and what is the solution? –Suzanne

Dear Suzanne,

Before addressing the GFCI problem at your laundry, a little background information would be helpful. GFCI outlets (ground fault circuit interrupters) are required in locations where persons using electrical devices might be exposed to water. Commonly, we find them in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, exterior locations, at sinks, and near pools and spas. Most people have seen GFCI outlets (the ones with the test and reset buttons between the plug-in receptacles), but many are not aware of their purpose. In the event that someone receives an electric shock while using a GFCI-protected device, the GFCI senses the imbalance in current flow and immediately disconnects the circuit. In other words, GFCIs prevent accidental electrocution.

Outlets for laundry appliances are exempt from GFCI requirements because electric motors can cause needless tripping of GFCI outlets. This may be what is occurring when you operate your clothes dryer. Have this checked by a licensed electrical contractor. The simplest solution is to replace the outlet with a standard non-GFCI fixture. You home inspector may have neglected to disclose this condition because it does not violate any requirements or safety standards.

Dear Barry,

My husband and I were having a serious discussion about our refrigerator, with differing points of view of course, and we’re hoping that you can provide some clarity and agreement. When the fridge motor shuts off, it makes a loud clunking noise, and this has gotten progressively louder over the years. I think we should have a repairman take a look at it, but my husband says it works fine and we don’t need to worry about it. Who is right? –Becky

Dear Becky,

Clarity is often easier to achieve than agreement, but let’s give it our best shot. The clunking noise emanating from your refrigerator may or may not indicate a fatal problem. Apparently, the unit is getting older and is probably nearing the end of its serviceable life. Nevertheless, there are four possible ways for this situation to play out:

1. You can call an appliance technician and be told that the unit is ok.

2. You can call an appliance technician and be told that the unit needs repair or replacement.

3. You can forego an appliance technician and have the unit continue to function.

4. You can forego an appliance technician and then have the unit break down.

Options #2 and #4 will enable you to say, “I told you so.”

Options #1 and #3 will enable your husband to say, “I told you so.”

At this point, it’s a toss-up as to who is right. But consider this: The energy efficiency of new refrigerators is so vastly improved over the old technology that the mere savings in electrical consumption could pay the cost of a new fridge in a surprisingly short time — sometimes less than two years. Consider also that many appliance dealers offer one full year of interest-free financing. The financial advantages of replacing your old fixture should not be lightly dismissed. Pencil out the numbers and you may have the basis for mutual agreement.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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