Stuff That Shouldn’t be
Happening: Hair Dryers Burning Out Every 6 Weeks
June 5, 2018
We were recently asked to do an electrical inspection of a hair salon. To receive a permit for a salon through the Cosmetology Association of New Brunswick it requires an inspection by a licensed electrician. The inspection looks to make sure all electrical fixtures and outlets have been adequately designed and according to code.
During the inspection of this particular salon in the North Moncton area we inquired with the employees if they have noticed anything out of the ordinary with regards to the electrical in the salon. They mentioned their hair dryers were burning out on a regular basis as frequently as every six weeks. This definitely was an issue and we set out to see if we could solve the problem.
The first thing we asked was if they were using professional hair dryers or ordinary consumer types you would buy at any department store. “No” they answered, they were using professional type units built to be run all day long and not just once per day. Ok, what next?
We then asked if the hair dryers were burning out at any particular station in the salon. Again “no”, it was happening at different stations. Unfortunately, no easy answer.
Next step, check all receptacles for proper installation (eg. Grounded, no hot/neutral reversed, etc.). Check.
Next we went to the panel to check the voltages.
Line/Hot to Neutral Voltage: 120V. Check.
Line/Hot to Ground: 120V Check.
Neutral to Ground Voltage: 12V. “OH OH. HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM”.
Without getting to technical, a neutral to ground voltage difference of any amount more than 0V is a problem. It is supposed to be 0V. A 12V difference means that there will be current on the ground wire and other problems like over or under voltages on your receptacles or other electrical devices. Several things can happen like 1) it can give you a shock 2) it can delay or even prevent a breaker from tripping in an overcurrent situation and 3) it can burn things up.
In the salon we were inspecting they had a 3-phase transformer (steps voltage down from 600V to 120V/208V). Once we found the voltage difference on the neutral and ground we started with the most likely culprit – the transformer – and sure enough, the neutral in the transformer was not bonded to ground. I have seen a difference as high as 80V in one business and like the salon, their 3-phase transformer was not properly wired. This is a common mistake. Once we bonded the neutral back to the common ground of the building the voltage difference was eliminated. We will follow up with the hair salon in a couple of months to see if any hair dryers have burned out since we fixed the wiring.
Properly Wired Transformer
By now your eyes might be glazed over unless you are an electrician. Long story short, if stuff is happening that shouldn’t be like hair dryers blowing out, flickering lights or other bugaboos there is most likely a cause and you should get it checked out. It’s one thing to burn up a hair dryer, another if someone gets injured or worse because of a common error with transformer wiring.
Owner, Red Seal Electrician