Electrical outlets are not meant to “break”. In fact if you have one or more electrical outlets not working in your home, they could become an electrical hazard. Delaying the inspection and replacement of electrical outlets, using them incorrectly, or ignoring the problem can and does lead to unintended and horrendous consequences.
Electrical outlets can and do go bad. Age and type of outlet may be a big factor, especially in older homes that need to upgrade. Faulty wiring can play a part when outlets go bad, especially when an outlet has loose connections. A loose connection will not be immediately apparent, however over time loose connections can arc which may cause an outlet failure. Schedule an inspection with an experienced electrician when you have an outlet failure.
The US Fire Administration notes that sparks, embers or flames from plugged-in equipment account for roughly 2 percent of electrical fires. The main reasons an electrical outlets sparks include:
- Water Damage – Can water in an electrical outlet cause a fire? Absolutely. Water in an electrical outlet is very dangerous. Keep water away from your outlets.
- Short Circuits – When an abnormal connection occurs in your outlet, it may spark.
- Overloading an Outlet – Most residential circuits have a max load of 15 amps (1800 watts). Kitchen and bathroom circuits are usually 20 amp (2400 watts). If you operate multiple high wattage appliances on a circuit, you will overload it (think floor heater/1500 watts and vacuum/1400 watts). When you overload a circuit you will cause, at minimum a breaker to trip but, more dangerously you could cause sparking or even electrical fire.
- Outdated Outlets – Some older home have not upgraded from older outlets. If this is the case, you run the risk of units becoming loose, wiring splitting or other failures that can lead to sparking. It’s also probably time to consider changing electrical outlets from 2 prong to 3 or GFCI outlets if you have not already made the update.
- Improper Repairs – Quick fixes and DIY repairs are not recommended for electrical outlet issues where the risk of sparking could increase with fault outlet repairs.
When any of the above occur, it’s time to call an experienced electrician who can safely assess the next steps for your outlets and wiring. It may be a simple outlet replacement, or sometimes will involve additional rewiring in order to bring the property up to safe electrical outlet standards.
What Causes a Burnt Electrical Outlet?
Brown or black marks on electrical outlets are typically a sign of a burnt outlet. If you see black or charred marks on your outlet, smell any type of burning odor near your outlets, immediately shut off your power at the circuit breaker and call an electrician who will know how to fix the outlet with safety in mind.
Black charred marks resulting from a burnt electrical outlet can most commonly be attributed to arcing. Arcing is the when the parts of your outlet overheat and it happens when a metal part in the outlet becomes damages or to loose. It’s a very serious issue and can happen even when a simple screw holding wiring loosens. It will in turn cause the plastic all around the electrical outlet to heat, melt and possible lead to an electrical fire.
What To Do When An Electrical Outlet Sparks, smokes or looks burnt:
If you do find yourself in a situation where your electrical outlet sparks, it’s best to play it safe. The recommended steps to take when this happens: move in order to prevent further hazards and damage
- Shut off the breaker assigned to the affected outlet
- Unplug any devices connected to the sparking outlet
- Call a licensed electrician to perform an inspection on the outlet
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