Outlet loses power, no breaker tripped

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  #1  
Old 10-22-05, 10:41 PM
breckbone
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Outlet loses power, no breaker tripped

Hi all. I have been running across a problem lately of power to our bathroom plugs going out while my wife is using her hair dryer. The power goes out at the plugs and does not trip a breaker. I'm assuming there's some sort of overload or something, but I know very little about this. The power will come back on either immediately or several minutes later.

Any help would be appreciated! Thanks in advance.

breckbone
 
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  #2  
Old 10-23-05, 05:38 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Oregon
Posts: 1,219
There are no 'overload devices' used in home wiring that are supposed to work the way that you describe; cutting the power out and then automatically restoring it later. Circuit breakers, fuses, and GFCIs all require that you manually reset them before power is restored.

This indicates to me two possibilities, one a minor annoyance, the other a serious fire hazard.

1) Most hairdryers have a thermal overload device. When it overheats it turns off the hair dryer; when it cools down the hair dryer will work again. This could indicate dust has built up in the hairdryer, or that the blower motor is going. The fix is to clean or replace the hair dryer. The way to figure out if this is the case is to test the outlet with something else (say a small plug in night light) when the hair dryer isn't working. If the outlet has power but the hair dryer isn't working, then this is the issue.

2) You could have a loose connection somewhere in your wall, or a switch contact that is failing (another form of loose connection). Loose electrical connections mean _heat_. The heat could be pushing wires apart, breaking the connection and cutting power to the hair dryer. Without power flowing, things cool down and the connection reforms. Since you say 'You know very little about this', then the fix is the call an electrician and have them check all of the connections in this circuit, and have them check the GFCI receptacle and the circuit breaker.

This latter condition must not be allowed to persist. Bad electrical connections that get hot will only get worse, and the temperature of a bad electrical connection could easily start a fire.

You should immediately check to see if the problem is the hair dryer itself. If the problem is not the hair dryer, then you should immediately stop using the hair dryer on this circuit, and call an electrician. While this is a 'do it yourself' site, a certain amount of background is required to work on electrical systems, and the symptoms that you describe make me say that this could require an immediate fix if the problem is not the hairdryer.

-Jon
 
  #3  
Old 10-23-05, 11:45 AM
breckbone
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Thanks for the quick reply. The only reason I brought up the overload was while searching through the forums for a similar problem. Your suggestion of the overheating wire is what I was originally thinking...and worried about. I neglected to mention that we bought a new hair dryer and the problem persisted.
Now, when I said I don't know much about this, I was referring mostly to the breaker box. I have installed outlets, switches, celing fans, etc. I'm comfortable w/that kind of stuff. That being said, is this still, in your opinion, an electrician's job? I'm picturing all the bathroom plugs needing to be re-wired and don't think I wanna mess with that.

Thanks again for any further assistance!

Breckbone
 
  #4  
Old 10-23-05, 12:04 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Oregon
Posts: 1,219
If you are comfortable with wiring receptacles and switches, then IMHO you can tackle this problem.

Simply turn off the circuit. Then map it out and find every junction box in the circuit. Then in turn at each junction box investigate to check for any discolored wires, loose device terminations, or loose wire-nuts. Be particularly suspicious of any splices that were made using the 'backstab' connections on a receptacle; if possible then replace these using wire-nuts and pigtails.

You should also consider replacing the bathroom receptacle where the problem is showing up.

-Jon
 
  #5  
Old 10-23-05, 01:23 PM
breckbone
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Ok...thanks. I'll try it this afternoon and see if I can find any probs. I guess if nothing is obvious to me, I should probably call an electrician...but this would be better if it worked since they are so expensive.


Thanks again,
Breck
 
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