Why Did The Neutral Wire Burn Out in My Electric Shower?

It may have happened quite a few times around your house; your electric shower stops working, and the neutral wire turns out to be the culprit.

So, why did the neutral wire burn out in my electric shower?

A burnt-out neutral wire is an indication of a loose connection which causes arcing around the wire. The temperature increases, and eventually, the insulation around the wire burns out. The circuit breaker trips and the shower stops working.

It is a good thing that circuit trips, indicating a problem in the wiring. Otherwise, a loose wire is a constant fire or shock hazard.

So, in answer to the main question, we should also take a look into what loosens the neutral wire.

Why Does the Neutral Wire Get Loose?

More often than not, a loose wire indicates a poor installation. If the wire was loosely installed, the connection could fail sooner than you expect.

However, if you have been using the shower without trouble for a long time, the loose wire could be due to normal wear and tear. Wires heat up when current is flowing through the circuit, and cool down its absence. This frequent heating and cooling can loosen the connection. This phenomenon is more common among heating appliances because they draw more current, including your electric shower.

Regular inspection of any such susceptible connections around the house can save you from problems. Unfortunately, many people overlook the neutral even during inspections.

The Hazards of Arcing

The problem with loose wire is an inconsistent connection. Arcing occurs whenever a connection is broken. Arcing creates a lot of heat. In a typical connection, it happens just once or twice, and for a brief period, so the heat doesn’t make a difference.

In a connection with a loose wire, this keeps happening, and the temperature keeps rising to the point where it burns the insulation around the wire. Over time, it may burn other wires or the surrounding, including the outlet.

Early Detection Can Save Lives

Detecting a burned or broken neutral wire is not easy unless there is an evident spark or fire. So, look for signs of broken wire, especially around circuits that power heating appliances.

Here are some signs to look for:

  • The smell is the most common signal of burning wire. It usually smells like burning rubber. The scent is easily detectible and gets stronger with time.
  • Note if there is flickering in appliances attached to a circuit, look at the light or LED panel on your electric shower and see if it flickers.  
  • Smoke and sparks are a sign that things have heated up to a point where a fire can start.

That said, early detection shouldn’t mean you have to wait for any of the signs mentioned above. Keep a regular check on all the circuits, and don’t treat the neutral as a wire that can’t cause a fire. In an ideal circuit, it may not carry too much current – but without proper inspection and maintenance, it may become a hazard over time.

Related Questions

Can a loose neutral wire cause a fire?

Yes, a loose neutral wire can cause arcing, which increases the temperature to the point that generates an electrical fire.

What causes electrical wires to burn?

Wires, neutral or not, usually burn due to overheating caused by a loose connection. Wires can also overheat due to excessive load on a single circuit. These burned wires can eventually start an electric fire.

What happens when the neutral wire breaks?

The purpose of a neutral wire is to regulate the voltage in a circuit. When it breaks, the excess voltage cannot travel back and results in overheating and damage to the equipment.

Can I leave the shower pull cord on all the time?

No, most electric shower manufacturers strictly advise against leaving the pull cord on all the time. Leaving appliances on increases standby energy consumption and carries a risk of overheating.

Can I get a shock from the neutral wire?

Ideally, the neutral wire shouldn’t carry any voltage, but for various reasons, they usually carry around 0.5 volts to 2 volts, and you might feel a bit of shock. A faulty neutral may carry enough current to cause serious physical harm.

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