Outlet suddenly trips with new dyer....

andrelaplume2June 1, 2012

Our home is 25 years old. We have lived here for 5 years. We have a small bathroom in our bedroom. It has a regular outlet mounted half way up the wall. It is not a gfi (?) outlet�ie no black and red button on it. For 5 years I�d plugged my trusty Conair hair dryer in the wall and use it. Never blew a fuse. Never had the dryer �trip�..ie never had to press the reset button on the hairdryer�the one built into the plug.

Recently the Conair died. I recall commenting to my wife that it lasted a long time (10+ years and that the new conair 1875W dryer did not seam to be made as well. Note the *new* Conair is likely 3 � 5 years old. It has been sitting as a backup in the closet. I learned long ago that if there are women folk in the house�you better have a backup!

Since using the *new* Conair, the fuse has tripped several times. By this I mean the dryer shuts off and the outlet (and the one in the bath in back of ours) has no power. I run down the basement and will fill find the fuse tripped and I�ll have to flip it back.


1) Why would this be happening? Could there be an issue with this hair dryer? Why doesn�t the hair dryer �trip� the switch built into it before my fuse trips? Should I just buy new new dryer? The dryer is 1875W�I think the old one was as well.

2) 7 months ago we had a subpanel installed in the basement. Its not active though�no power�still waiting to finish drywall. Could this have anything to do with it. I�d think not since I never had this problem until the old hair dryer died a month ago.

3) Should I have a gfi installed in the bathroom. Would this then �trip� allowing me to reset the sucker right there without running down to the basement?

If you guys suspect its just the dryer, great�.but I am curious as to why this happens. Thanks!

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Are you using this dryer on a 15Amp or 20Amp circuit? If 15 amp, good chances are that everything is performing as they should. Watts are (volts*amps) and (125 volts*15 amps) = 1875 watts!!! Most hair dryer manufacturers have taken advantage of the new codes requiring the bathroom outlet to be on a 20-amp circuit and I haven't seen a hair dryer rated less that 1875 watts in years.

The reason why it's tripping the breaker and not the built-in device is because it's not a fuse, but a GFCI, designed to trip if you drop it in water.

If your circuit is 20 amps, however, there's a problem either with the dryer or the circuit, and that should be addressed as soon as possible.

If this hair dryer has a temperature selector, try it on a lower setting; it will draw less amperage and you should be fine.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 8:17PM
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"I haven't seen a hair dryer rated less that 1875 watts in years. "

They also routinely play games to get the power rating, like using 130 V instead of 120 V.

After all, bigger is better, right?
It sounds like an older 15 A circuit, and they are going to be touchy with almost ANY blow dryer.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 9:17AM
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Ron Natalie

Now you know why they require 20A circuits in bathrooms. Anybody who has teenage daughters in the house know the perils of hair dryers and curling iron on lighting circuits.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 11:19AM
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didnt they know this 20+ years ago!!!!

Is there anything I can do? Can I make a 15A into a 20A? Would that be safer?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 11:25AM
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Ron Natalie

Unless someone oddly installed 12G wire on the circuit there's no way to UPGRADE it short of running new wire.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Well I looked in the box..there are some 20s in there but I am pretty sure the one I have flipped is labelled 15.

I tried to to get it to trip this morning. Turned it in and of. I had not showered, no moisture in there if that matters. I even had my daughter run hers on the other side of the wall. No problems.

My daughter said her dryer was sparking though!!! I looked in the area where the air blows out and noticed a green flash in there now and then...yes green. WHAT THE HECK IS THAT? Could this have something to do with my problem...though she says she was not using the dryer when it tripped yesterday morning...

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 12:46PM
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The OP said the previous dryer, which he also believes was 1875W, did not trip the breaker. Has anything else been added to this circuit, or is it just the receptacles in the two bathrooms? If there is nothing else, I would not expect a 15A breaker to trip for at least several minutes or more at 15.6 amps. Years ago, I had a coffee maker and a toaster oven for a combined 18 amps, on a 15 amp circuit, running both for up to 4 minutes with no problems. Of course, I corrected the issue once I realized it existed! If there is good access to the wiring, it may be a simple job to upgrade this circuit to 20A, but as ronnatalie pointed out, you'll probably have to put in 12 gauge wire. DO NOT just install a bigger breaker without making sure the wiring is 12 gauge. It would also be advisable to put this receptacle on its own circuit.
A GFCI receptacle will not protect against overload, just shocks. If it overloads, the breaker would still trip and not the GFCI. If you were to replace the receptacle or remodel the bathroom, you'd have to put in a GFCI.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 3:25PM
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Having used these things regularly, the older hair dryer was most likely NOT 1800+ watts. More like 1200w.

Andre: No, this was not done 20+ years ago. It is now.

If you look inside the dryer while it is running, you MAY see sparking. This is normal (commutator arcing).

You could try shopping for a unit that uses less power.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Yes the thing tripped after several minutes...the old one may have been 1500 watts...doubt it was 1200...I tried the 1875 sucker on the LOW setting...takes way to long to dry hair.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 10:06PM
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Most of the newer dryers have a screen that needs
to be cleaned regularly. Dust and hair gets
sucked into the machine and gums things up.
Also the newer ones have the heating elements
in ceramic so the hair and dust that gets
sucked in doesn't burn on the red hot heating elements.
Also, I took one apart that had a real slow fan,
and found that a lot of hair got wrapped
around the fan armature and wouldn't let it
turn freely. Most of the dryers sold today
are 'throw-aways' and are not designed to be
repaired. I would put a meter on it to find
out exactly what it was drawing. Even one
of those Kill-A-Watt meters will tell you
the watts it is drawing. Those are real
handy to have around, anyway.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 8:39AM
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