20amp GFCI outlet on a 15amp circuit. melted wires

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When the hair dryer is on, our 15AMP circuit breaker has been tripping lately to the bathroom's outlet. Sometimes my wife sees a tiny flash when the power to the outlet goes out. I just looked at the outlet and it's a 20amp GFCI on the 15AMP circuit breaker. I just looked at the three neutral wires on the other side of the pigtail and they are melted.
So, here are a copy of questions
1. Should I replace the outlet with a 15AMP GFIC instead of the 20AMP? 2. Can I just cut back the wires that are melted and put in a new pigtail or should the wires coming into the outlet box be inspected or possible replaced?
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**Yes, but that has no bearing on your problem

**If there is enough wire to cut them back, beyond the point where the copper is annealed, that's fine, and I would use pigtails, and be sure that they're tight
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First of all, your bathroom should have a 20 amp circuit. It sounds like your house was built a while ago, and a 15A circuit was put in.
Also putting in a 15A GFi is not going to help. You can leave the 20A outlet, it is still limited to 15A by the breaker. Your wasting your money changing it to a 15A GFI.
If replacing the wiring to a 20A circuit is not feasible, then either get a smaller hair dryer, or perhaps take some load of that circuit by putting in some CFL bulbs.
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wrote:

Has anything else changed recently? Added any new loads in the bathroom or on circuits that might also be on the bathroom breaker?

A tiny flash where?

First of all, your bathroom should have a 20 amp circuit. It sounds like your house was built a while ago, and a 15A circuit was put in.
Also putting in a 15A GFi is not going to help. You can leave the 20A outlet, it is still limited to 15A by the breaker. Your wasting your money changing it to a 15A GFI.
If replacing the wiring to a 20A circuit is not feasible, then either get a smaller hair dryer, or perhaps take some load of that circuit by putting in some CFL bulbs. --------------------------------------------------------------------------
Agree! With three neutrals melted, I'd be looking for the cause. We can assume it's an overload . . . but I'd want to make sure. I'd also be worried that an excessive load caused damage somewhere else on the circuit, perhaps at a junction box between the outlet and the circuit panel. I'd pull new #12 wire to the bathroom and abandon the old circuit leg.
If that's not practical, I'd at least disable the high setting on the hair dryer. I learned long ago that electrical heaters and other high wattage items cause the most problems at their highest setting. I've melted outlets that were supposed to be able to handle 1500 watts but didn't.
I got two space heaters for the attic and they're both run off separate circuits and I've disconnected the HI switch cable internally on the heaters to keep them from pulling more than 750 watts. Even that is a lot of current for older wiring and outlets. As wiring ages, it tends to carry less and less current due to oxidation, vibration loosening connectors (backstabbed connectors are especially prone to aging badly) and other electrical and non-electrical demons like rodents.
-- Bobby G.
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@Ziggs:
What else besides the bathroom is connected to the 15amp circuit in question which "nuisance trips" whenever you use a hair dryer in the bathroom ? There has to be a lot more on that circuit than just the bathroom if the neutral wires "melted"...
Is it possible somewhere upstream in the circuit that you are cross connected with the neutral of another different circuit and it is that cross connection which has caused the melting ?
If you think about it you could have two separate 15amp circuits running and only overload the neutral in the bathroom outlet box where the heavy load from the outlet there where the hair dryer gets used whenever the other cross wired circuit is also under a load...
Even though all neutrals are connected to the same bus bar in the load panel, the neutral wires from different circuits fed from separate circuit breakers should never be connected together anywhere but at the neutral bus bar in the service panel as that can allow the neutral wires to overload and melt just like happened to you...
I am suggesting this theory since you did not mention any damage to the hot conductor in the effected outlet box...
~~ Evan
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Melting is more typically caused by a poor connection that has some resistance. That resistance produces heat.
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wrote:

that has some resistance. That resistance produces heat. <<<<<
Bingo! A poor connection in the box (either at the GFI or the pig tail) is the most likely cause of these issues.
A 15amp circuit for a hand held hair dryer is a bit skinny. As suggest by another post, consider a lower watt hair dryer.
Check the tightness & condition of all neutral wires at the neutral bus.
cheers Bob
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I checked my wife's hair dyers....one was 1500w, the other was 1875w
plus
Conair 228r Hair Dryer 1875w Revlon - 1875 watt - Hot Air Styler SOLIS #S404 INFERNO 1875 WATT HAND HELD HAIR DRYER Phillips Handheld hair dryer 2000W - HP 8195/00
15 amps is a bit low for bathroom :(
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On 5/29/2011 11:03 PM, DD_BobK wrote:

Those 1875w units are 1875w @ 230v, 1500w or less on 115v. That Phillips HP 8195/00 is 230v only. 1500w on 115v is the largest allowed plug-in home appliance in USA, unless they have a 20a plug: (-|).
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On 5/29/2011 10:18 PM, Congoleum Breckenridge wrote:

Cite.
The 1875W dryers could have 20A plugs (as you note at the end of your post).
The NEC only allows 80% plug-in loads on 15 and 20A circuits. (IMHO this is a bad rule for several reasons.)
UL says the receptacles and plugs are rated 100% and will list short time use devices (like a hair dryer) with ratings up to 15 or 20A with 15 or 20A plugs. (IMHO this is perfectly reasonable.)
--
bud--


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wrote:

There actually is a difference. Temperature and control. RoHS takes more of both. That's why they have as many as 12 zones (as ours does, though it's not the one I linked). That many zones isn't necessary for a lead solder process. The margin of error is almost zero with RoHS.
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wrote:

You're certainly welcome to believe what you want, but you can't have your own set of facts. Sorry.
That's why we replaced the oven. Four zones wasn't enough to do RoHS reliably. The RoHS process really is that tricky to do right.
You should learn something about the subject before spouting such nonsense. Your continued defense is telling, though.
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wrote:

You've been making a living on RoHS soldering for 30 years? Somehow I doubt that. You obviously know *nothing* about the subject.
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wrote:

Because you haven't got any. You're simply wrong and are now in too deep to admit it.

You have a reputation of an idiot. I happen to be right.

I happen to be right. You're completely clueless if you don't think there is a difference between RoHS and lead processes. Ovens matter!

You misspelled "can't".

Then why did you indicate that you had 30 years of relevant experience? Because you're talking through you ass. Not hard, since that's where your head is.

Don't run away mad. Next time talk about something you have at least a passing knowledge of.
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wrote:

Clearly you have never seen a catastrophic overload condition applied to undersized wiring...
The sort of thing where an improperly wired Edison multi-wire branch circuit is being fed from the same leg of a home's electrical service -- twice the rated current the neutral can safely carry can be passing through it when both circuits are being operated close to capacity...
This is why I suggested the OP make sure that *only* the bathroom is being fed from the circuit demonstrating the problems and that there is no connection to the neutral wire of another circuit anywhere...
A loose connection is not always the answer, if that were the case people wouldn't need to call out an electrician every time they had an issue, they would only need to check that all the connections were properly tightened and that should solve the problem...
~~ Evan
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How does that have anything to do with my suggestion that if he has three neutal wires with melted insulation coming off the pigtail connection in a box, it's more likely due to a bad connection generating heat right there than two breakers feeding back through the same neutral? Yes, that's possible, but in my experience, it's far more likely that it's the former.

Geez. I never said a bad connection was the ONLY answer. I said when you find a few inches of melted insulation at a connection point, ie wire nut, screw terminal, etc., it's far more likely the problem is the connection not a mis-wired Edison circuit. You, on the other hand never mentioned the more common, limited problem.
And the last part, about calling an electrician makes zero sense. People have a variety of skills. Many homeowners could not do the simple checking of wire connections and correctly diagnose the problem, so they would in fact call an electrician, regardless of the cause.
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How does that have anything to do with my suggestion that if he has three neutal wires with melted insulation coming off the pigtail connection in a box, it's more likely due to a bad connection generating heat right there than two breakers feeding back through the same neutral? Yes, that's possible, but in my experience, it's far more likely that it's the former.

Geez. I never said a bad connection was the ONLY answer. I said when you find a few inches of melted insulation at a connection point, ie wire nut, screw terminal, etc., it's far more likely the problem is the connection not a mis-wired Edison circuit. You, on the other hand never mentioned the more common, limited problem.
And the last part, about calling an electrician makes zero sense. People have a variety of skills. Many homeowners could not do the simple checking of wire connections and correctly diagnose the problem, so they would in fact call an electrician, regardless of the cause.
** I rarely find burn outs from improperly connected Edison circuits. I'd have to say that a good percentage of Edison circuits that I explore, are incorrectly done. Typically, I just find the white wire turns brown from the excessive heat, right at the neutral buss. The OP has a classic, loose connection under a wire nut, with a high amperage draw, over time anneals the copper, degrades and overheats the connection to the point of disintegration, and opens the circuit.
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Thank you RBM. Now we have an electrician weighing in. Good to see we're on the same page.
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Right, except how often do you open up a switch box which has multiple circuits fed into it and see ALL of the white neutral wires connected together ?
I never said it had to be an Edison circuit, just that if someone had made an incorrect connection somewhere upstream and connected the neutral wires from more than one circuit together that could cause the exact same issue...
Given that the bathroom outlet was replaced with one with a higher rating by someone who obviously didn't know what they were doing all bets are off -- there could be several factors which added up to cause that burn out...
Again, no one seems to know what else besides the one GFCI bathroom outlet is also on the same circuit...
~~ Evan
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wrote:

Right, except how often do you open up a switch box which has multiple circuits fed into it and see ALL of the white neutral wires connected together ?
**I don't believe that there are multiple circuits in this junction box. It sounds to me like it's one circuit branching off in several directions.This was standard practice some years ago. Typically, where you find the burn, you have the problem. It's not impossible that the problem is something more obscure, just that it typically isn't.
I never said it had to be an Edison circuit, just that if someone had made an incorrect connection somewhere upstream and connected the neutral wires from more than one circuit together that could cause the exact same issue...
Given that the bathroom outlet was replaced with one with a higher rating by someone who obviously didn't know what they were doing all bets are off -- there could be several factors which added up to cause that burn out...
Again, no one seems to know what else besides the one GFCI bathroom outlet is also on the same circuit...
~~ Evan
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