Bathroom outlet problem


Old 11-30-05, 12:33 PM
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Bathroom outlet problem

I am brand new to perusing the site and have found some great info. But my specific situation is this:

Using 1875 watt hair dryer this morning as usual in my upstairs bathroom, with curling iron also plugged in to same dual outlet and with bathroom light on. After about 5 minutes the dryer and iron went off and my husband's bathroom light downstairs as well as the power strip in his adjacent room went out. He went to the breaker box, found it tripped (?), reset it, then I tried it again and off they all went again.

Finally, I unplugged my iron and used only the dryer, and the dryer worked but the downstairs bathroom lights dimmed slightly.

The downstairs bathroom outlet has a GFCI but the upstairs bathroom does not. It seems that the home inspector did not catch this 1.5 years ago when we bought the home. The home is about 18 years old.

First, I believe that there may be something loose inside the upstairs, non-GFCI outlet because I have previously noticed that the upper outlet of the duo will deliver power and then stop (in other words, the light on my iron will go off and on with a little wiggle of the plug). So, should we simply tighten the screws and wires inside the outlet, or replace the outlet with a GFCI, or call an electrician? I have not yet tested my dryer at other outlets. Any ideas?
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Old 11-30-05, 12:56 PM
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That hairdryer uses practically all the capacity of the circuit. Don't try to run anything else at the same time. Furthermore, the hairdryer will dim the lights every time. This is not necessarily a sign of trouble.

Appliance manufacturers are just responding to consumer demand, but I don't think that hairdryers as large as 1875 watts are a good idea. Most people would be better served by a lower-wattage appliance.

Most likely the upstairs bathroom receptacle is on the same circuit as the downstairs bathroom receptacle, and gets its GFCI protection from it. A receptacle does not necessarily need to be a GFCI receptacle to be GFCI protected. Buy an $8 outlet tester to confirm GFCI protection.

If wiggling the plug causes the iron to go off and on, it may be more of a problem with the plug than with the receptacle. Try it in a different receptacle and see if it does the same thing. If it does not, then you might consider replacing the receptacle. Or you might just need to move the backstab connections (wires poked into holes) to the adjacent screw connections. The screws make much better connections than those flimsy backstabs.

You may not have any problems at all.
Old 11-30-05, 12:56 PM
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Both bathrooms and the other room are all on the same circuit. Both bathrooms are probably protected by the GFCI in the one bathroom but there's no guarantee that this is the case.

The fact that the breaker is tripping is simply a result of an overloaded circuit - you are using to many high wattage fixtures at the same time.

If your home was built today, each bathroom would be required to have a dedicated 20 amp circuit GFCI protected. The current circuit is probably only 15 amps and is serving too many rooms. You could upgrade but routing the wiring to do so could be tricky and expensive. You are not required to do so and the simplest thing is to realize that you can't use the hair dryer and the iron at the same time.

It's possible that there are loose connections, but most likely the circuit is simply being overloaded.
Old 11-30-05, 01:10 PM
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Some do, some don't

I have tested other appliances in the upper outlet receptacle in the upper bathroom. Most other hair irons do the same thing, the power goes on and off to them. This also happens with my Sonicare electric toothbrush charger. However, night lights work just fine without so much as a flicker.

Sooo, I am perfectly happy to use just one appliance at a time but I will also work with my husband to use the $8 tester, and if necessary to turn off the power and check the receptacle for looseness, or just to replace it.

I feel much better now but still await any additional comments from anyone. Thanks!
Old 11-30-05, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by GeorgiaGirl
if necessary to turn off the power and check the receptacle for looseness, or just to replace it.
It is common for a frequently used receptacle to wear out and loosen up. This is especially true if someone unplugs appliances by jerking on the cord instead of the pulling the plug. Simply replacing the receptacle with a new one will probably fix your intermittent power problem. The breaker tripping was a simple overload.

I recommend spending a few extra dollars and buying a "spec-grade" or "commercial-grade" receptacle since the bathroom receptacle gets used daily for appliances that draw a lot of power.
Old 11-30-05, 02:16 PM
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You might want to install a GFCI receptacle and then reqire the downstairs GFCI receptacle so that it does not provide pass through GFCI protection.
Old 11-30-05, 09:11 PM
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Not that it hasn't occurred to you, but I also have an 18 year old house and two outlets were "loose" as you might say. Simply tightening the screws on the receptacles fixed the problem. You should be able to tell - especially with a GFCI - if things are loose.

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