Can a 110v outlet harm an appliance?


Old 08-22-04, 02:10 AM
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Question Can a 110v outlet harm an appliance?

A couple of nights ago a tenant came to me and complained that he ruined his printer when he plugged into a wall outlet. He said the circuit breaker tripped when this happened. In addition, a few nights before the incident occurred he mentioned that a friend brushed the outlet and felt a mild shock. He wants me to replace the printer.

I checked out the outlet, plugged in a device, and everything seems to be working fine.

Does anybody know if there is a scenario where an outlet can ruin a device?

Thanks in advance for your replies.

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Old 08-22-04, 04:57 AM
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If you checked the outlet with one of the standard circuit testers that you plug into the outlet and it says that everything is OK then you should be in the clear. It's been ages since I last received a shock from an electical outlet. That just doesn't happen much these days assuming that the socket is, indeed, wired correctly. I think the guy is just trying to get someone else to pay for his troubles and is making up stories. That would be my guess anyway. Most printers on the market today use switching power supplies that do a good job of isolating the circuits inside from the A/C line and are designed to be fairly robust. If the printer power supply was going to fail it would most likley do so when first plugged in. On many of them you could even get away with reversing the neutral and the hot without causing a problem.

Last edited by jughead; 08-22-04 at 05:09 AM.
Old 08-22-04, 10:29 AM
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After further inspecting some of the other outlets I noticed some of them had the neutral wire connected to the ground on the outlet. Could this be a problem?

Old 08-22-04, 11:12 AM
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Connecting the ground terminal on an outlet to the neutral is a very serious safety issue, and a code violation. And yes, it could very well damage electronic equipment plugged into the the outlet.

I recommend that you hire an electrician ASAP to correct this situation. If there is no ground then either a ground needs to be run, the cable needs to be replaced, GFCI outlets need to be installed and appropriately labeled, or two prong outlets needs to be installed.
Old 08-22-04, 06:48 PM
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One of those outlet testors will tell you if you have the ground and neutral reversed. It is, indeed, a safety hazzard but I wouldn't expect it to cause any difficulty with a printer provided that the neutral and ground wires are properly installed and hooked up in the breaker panel. If you have an open ground or neutral going back to the breaker panel you could indeed be inviting trouble and it would be best for you to fix any deficiencies ASAP.
Old 08-23-04, 05:36 AM
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One of those little 3 prong outlet testers will _not_ be able to tell if the neutral wire is connected to the ground pin on a receptacle.

This is called a bootleg ground, and as far as the little neon lights in a tester is concerned, it has proper electrical connectivity. But it violates the requirement that the ground and neutral be connected together in one, and only one place: at the main panel.

On a functioning outlet, a bootleg ground is only a minor safety issue. At worst, it results in a couple of volts on what is supposed to be grounded metal. But if there is an electrical failure, the bootleg ground will provide none of the protection that ground is supposed to afford. Many 10s of volts could appear on this 'ground' pin in the event of a short circuit.

In addition, while not a safety issue, the slight voltages on the ground pin could cause problems when computers use the ground pin as a ground voltage reference.

Finally, if a 'bootleg ground' is combined with another common wiring mistake: hot/neutral reverse, the full 120V supply voltage could show up on what should be grounded components. This is a significant safety issue, and also could damage equipment.

Old 08-23-04, 10:29 AM
Homer Simpson
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Aside from the Safety issues


Best advice, get an electrician to look at it. Liability issues warrant attention.

I get shocked every time I touch my switch or receptical plates( the screw
actually). I have wool carpets and the static electricity will build on me and
when I touch a grounded metal object I get about 40,000 volts. Gee, the things I do for fun. That may account for the shock and the damage to the
printer. This is very true in dry(low humidity) climates.
Say goodbye, Homer. Goodbye
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