Wrong Kind of Blowout? Why Your Hair Dryer Trips the Circuit Breaker

by Kim Causey
man holding red hair dryer in bathroom

It's disheartening every time: You wake up, grab a shower, get ready to blow dry your hair and click... nothing happens. Your hairdryer has tripped the circuit breaker once again. You just can’t afford to be late for work again this week, so you do a quick updo and head out the door, pushing off dealing with your hairdryer problems for some other time.

This May Also Interest You: Homeowner's Guide to Understanding a Circuit Breaker Panel

When a circuit breaker trips, the electrical flow is cut off to prevent the circuit from overheating and causing damage. If this is happening over and over, try plugging your hair dryer into another outlet. Getting the same result? Then it is time to dig a little deeper.

Finding the real reason a breaker has tripped can be frustrating. If you’ve tried the blow-dryer in another outlet and are still getting the same results, here are a few reasons the breaker might be tripping:

1. Overloaded Circuit

An overloaded circuit is an issue lots of people face. It happens when the circuit has more load than it can carry. It can also happen if many appliances are operating at the same time.

Until you reset your breaker, the circuit remains dead, meaning it can’t be used. If you find yourself constantly dealing with this issue, it’s a sign the breaker is being used excessively and you may need to move appliances to other outlets.

Keep in mind that heavily powered appliances like air conditioners and TVs are running on 15 amp circuits, so it’s liable to trip when you add other small appliances to it. By moving appliances to other circuits and turning off some appliances, you decrease the load and, hopefully, the overload.

Another big cause of circuits tripping is overheating. This happens when more amps than required are “grabbed,” overloading the circuit.

2. Short Circuit

Another reason why a breaker may trip is a short circuit. This happens when the black wire touches the neutral one. When there’s lower resistance, there’s a sudden flow of electricity. This intensifies the flow and causes the breaker to trip. Sometimes, a short circuit isn’t caused by the wiring of the outlet and circuit, but instead by the wiring of the appliance.

To determine whether a short circuit is the reason the breaker tripped, check your outlets to make sure they’re not brown or black in color. Also, check to be sure you don't detect a burning smell. If you notice either of these red flags, it’s time to call in a professional.

3. Ground Fault

Just like with a short circuit, a ground fault happens when a hot wire touches the bare wires located on the metal box that is situated on the ground wire. This is very dangerous if it happens in areas of high moisture, as it carries a high risk of shock.

To keep this from happening, make sure your outlets in the bathroom and kitchen that are located near areas of water are protected with ground-fault circuit interrupters.

4. Faulty Hairdryer

If you’ve been using your hairdryer for several years, chances are your circuit is tripping because the device is old. Old and faulty appliances can cause the breaker to trip, and it’ll keep happening over and over. The good news is that the fix is simple: Buy a newer hairdryer.

5. Number of Devices Plugged In

A simple solution for fixing your hair dryer problem may be to simply change which outlet you’re using. If the outlet is overloaded, it can easily trip the breaker. Try switching to one with nothing else plugged in. If you don’t have another outlet nearby, you can run an extension cord as a short-term solution.

6. Hair Dryer Levels

Newer hair dryers tend to have a higher wattage of around 1,875 watts — a big difference from years ago when hair dryers were 750 watts. When you’re running a small appliance with higher wattage, you're more prone to blowing the circuit before you’re even able to use the appliance. Shop around for a hairdryer with a smaller wattage. Bigger does not always equal better in this situation.

7. Rewiring

If you’ve lived in your home for more than 30 years, your wiring is old and, chances are, it’s also damaged. One way to resolve this issue is to get your whole house rewired. That means calling in trusted professionals to make sure the job is done right. Getting the wiring up to date can also save you the hassle of other appliances causing your circuits to shorten and causing a fire.

When to Call a Professional

Most homes have a breaker box containing circuit breakers that can trip or turn off. Some breaker boxes have breakers that contain one fuse that can be blown by too much power. These cannot be flipped back on by a switch or handle.

Other reasons to consult a licensed expert include:

  • Your circuit breaker or fuse box is hot to the touch
  • There’s a burning smell coming from the breaker panel or fuse box
  • You can see burned metal, frayed wires or other visible damage
  • You can hear noises such as buzzing, hissing or popping
  • You see sparks when plugging something in

Some of the above problems could indicate your wires are getting overheated. This can break down insulation in the walls of your home and can possibly result in an electrical fire. If you keep having issues, you may want to look into getting a larger breaker box or fuse box.

Common Hair Dryer Questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about hair dryers:

Why does my hair dryer cut out?

Your hairdryer could have overheated. If you’re using it for more than 10 minutes at a time, you may find that it needs to cool for 2 to 3 minutes and then you should be able to use it again.

How long is a hair dryer good for?

Hairdryers normally last for 600 to 800 hours, which translates to between 300 and 400 uses, depending on how long you use it each time.

How hot is the air from a hair dryer?

Hairdryers only reach about 140 degrees on the highest setting.

Why does my hair dryer smell like it's burning?

That could be a sign that your lint catcher on the dryer needs cleaning. Try taking it off and cleaning it. If the problem persists it may be time to buy a new one.

If your circuit breaker tripping has become a recurring problem and you can’t seem to figure out why, contact a licensed electrician. They can quickly and safely identify your problem, find the cause, fix it and get your appliances running again.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from HomeServe is important. Having a plan in place gives you the peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.