Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Steamer trips GFI


#1

I’ve been having a problem with two different steam cleaners tripping
the GFI outlets they are plugged into. One is a Steam Master and the
other is a Reimers, both are two gallon, manual fill units. They each
will occasionally trip the GFI… like a couple of times a week.

I called Steam Master and they said that they don’t make their steam
cleaners to work on a GFI outlet. They said that the heating element
is in water, so of course it will trip. I have the steamers next to
sinks and local code requires a GFI within so many feet of water. I
have had the steamers plugged into GFI outlets for years and this is
a new problem.

Anyway, anyone had similar issues…or an alternative explanation?

Mark


#2

I think they require outlets that are within so many feet of water
be have ground fault interrupts. Couldn’t you replace the cord on the
steamer with a longer one and plug it into a non-GFI outlet?


#3

Mark,

All steam cleaners in the jewelry business should be able to operate
properly on a GFCI circuit. The from Steamaster “I called
Steam Master and they said that they don’t make their steam cleaners
to work on a GFI outlet. They said that the heating element is in
water, so of course it will trip.” is wrong. The Steamaster, like the
Reimers, Grobet, Hoffman, and others are grounded and the heating
element is encased in a waterproof metal sheath. Electrical equipment
near water should be plugged into a GFCI circuit for the safety
benefits. Also, for safety and fire hazzard reasons, do NOT plug your
steam cleaner into an extension cord or power strip.

Ocassional GFCI circuit breaker tripping is caused by minor steam
leakes inside the machine, or extensive use allowing excessive
moisture to get inside, water near the foot switch, sitting on a
towel or rag that will attract water and release the moisture into
the bottom of the machine, or the beginning of an electrical failure
in the machine. Also, these machines draw about 11 amps and if other
equipment is on the same circuit it may trip by exceeding the GFCI
breaker rating.

To head off problems, do not plug other large equipment into the same
circuit as your steam cleaner. Also, do your best to keep the outside
of your machine clean and dry.

John
The Jewelry Equipment Dr.


#4
[two steamers] will occasionally trip the GFI... like a couple of
times a week..... anyone had similar issues...or an alternative
explanation? 

I have a steamer that is on a properly wired and grounded outlet,
but without a ground fault interrupter (GFI). If I hold a piece in
the steam with metal tweezers I will feel electric current. If I were
well-grounded myself I think I’d be getting 110 volts. Anyway, it
doesn’t feel good at all, so I make darn sure to use only tweezers
that are rubber-clad at the handle end, and to not ground myself. I
also try to wear only rubber-soled shoes on my cement-floored shop,
but I don’t really know if a cement floor can act as a ground.

What I find puzzling is that I have no problems when touching the
steamer case, which is entirely metal. I wonder if the jet of steam
itself might be generating static electricity, but that’s just an
uneducated guess.

Possibly when your GFI trips you may have grounded yourself in some
way that you normally do not. Other than having your setup checked by
a good electrician, all I can suggest is to never ground yourself and
always use insulated tweezers.

Neil A.


#5

GFIs get old. Replace one and see if that cures it.

Bill


#6

Hi Mark,

We had a similar problem, the GFCI the steamer was on started
tripping with increasing frequency until it was happening several
times a day. It turned out to be a bad circuit breaker. The circuit
breaker should be completely separate and not affect the ground
fault interrupter in any way, you would think. Can’t explain it,
don’t understand it, but a new circuit breaker fixed it.

Dave Phelps


#7

I worked in a shop in soflo for 18 years and for most of those years
the steamer shocked us all unmercifully, no matter how many ground
wires we attached and in spite of rubber soled shoes.

We finally discovered that the steam going through the copper pipe
from the steel tank (we assumed) was generating a static charge in
us, and we were discharging via the steam (water) up to the well
grounded steamer.

By simply attaching a copper ground wire to the end of the nozzle
and always grasping that ground wire in one hand while we steamed
with the other, we were never zapped again. Or we wore leather soled
shoes.


#8

Yes, The electric shock from holding the object in the steam spray
is common. It is the static charge of steam rushing out of the nozzle
and across the surface of the item being cleaned. Technically, any
material that rubs electrons off another material makes a static
charge. You will also experience this with the buffing wheel.

We sometimes have this complaint when we get steam cleaners in our
shop for repair. This is a normal experience and not related to GFCI
breaker or electrical grounding problems. The post

By simply attaching a copper ground wire to the end of the nozzle
and always grasping that ground wire in one hand while we steamed
with the other, we were never zapped again. 

is a good suggestion.

John
The Jewelry Equipment Dr.


#9
Can't explain it, don't understand it. 

Same here. We had a GFI outlet that tripped anytime it rained
heavily, and wouldn’t reset for hours after the rain. Turned out that
there was a leak around an exterior outlet OVER 50 FEET FROM THE GFI
OUTLET. Professional electricians earn their pay as far as I’m
concerned.

Jamie


#10
What I find puzzling is that I have no problems when touching the
steamer case, which is entirely metal. I wonder if the jet of
steam itself might be generating static electricity, but that's
just an uneducated guess. 

You are correct, you are causing an ESD (ElectroStatic Discharge)
event. An electric potential is built up by the flowing steam that
will eventually build up to a sufficient level - typically 6-8KV -
to jump the gap between your tweezers and the steamer nozzle or some
other ground. Just like rubbing a balloon, or shuffling your-leather
soled shoes across a carpet and touching the door-knob.

Pete
(ESD team member, prior career)