What to Do When An Electrical Outlet Sparks. A FL Electrician Explains.
If you plug in a device and the outlet sparks, it might concern you. You’ll probably wonder if the spark is signifying a problem or if it’s just a normal occurrence and nothing to worry about.
What Does It Mean When an Outlet Sparks?
While you might be shocked, (no pun intended), to see your outlet spark, a small spark is completely normal. After all, electricity is powering the device you just plugged into the outlet.
Sometimes when you plug into an outlet, it can cause a quick spark before the electrons flow freely.
But what if your electrical outlet is sparking frequently?
While some sparking can be normal, frequent sparking can be a symptom of a serious problem.
Are Outlets That Spark Dangerous?
You might be surprised to learn that a spark occurs every time you plug a device into an outlet – you usually just don’t see it. This is because normally, the spark happens too fast for the naked eye to witness. In this case, the spark is not dangerous. However, there are some instances when outlets that spark are dangerous.
Signs of dangerous outlet sparks include the following:
- The spark is bright and yellow
- The spark lasts a few seconds
- You smell smoke after the sparking occurs
- You see burn marks on the outlet
- The spark happens every time you use the outlet
If you experience any of these signs, contact us immediately. These types of sparks are dangerous and can quickly cause an electrical fire that could damage your home and endanger your family.
What Causes Electrical Outlets Sparks?
Seeing sparks doesn’t always mean that you have a serious issue. However, it’s good to pay attention to these instances, because in a worst-case scenario, they can pose a threat to your home.
There are several causes of electrical outlet sparks:
Short-Circuiting: Outlets serve as a conduit for electricity, and heat is just part of the territory. However, when there’s an electric surge, it could result in the melting of wire coatings. If this happens, you need to avoid continued use of these wires, since they’ve become a fire hazard. Schedule repairs with us as soon as possible.
Water Damage: This one is particularly dangerous since water and electricity could result in serious injury or even death. This is a problem especially in kitchens and bathrooms, were puddles of water can go undetected until you try to insert a wet plug into a socket.
Old Age: Like with everything else with age, an outlet will show signs of wear and tear. When electrical outlets are old, they can spark more often. If this is the case at your home, have an electrician inspect and update your wiring.
How to Fix a Sparking Outlet
The most important thing to keep in mind is that all electrical repairs, no matter how minor they seem, should be done by a licensed technician. Repairs done by an inexperienced person could result in a fire hazard or worse.
That being said, there are several things you can do to control the situation before an electrician comes over to rectify the issue.
Step 1. Shut off power to the room. Do this from the circuit breaker. This should be a simple task since the breaker panel should be labeled with descriptions of the rooms and their respective switches.
Step 2. Buy a new outlet. Take a picture of the outlet and bring it to a hardware store. Make sure to purchase a replacement for the same voltage. If you’re not sure what it is, show the picture to a store employee for assistance.
Step 3. Test the outlet while the power is shut off. It’s always a good idea to double check that the power is really turned off. Once you shut off the breaker, use a multimeter to measure whether an additional electric current is coming from the outlet. Once you’re certain there’s zero current coming through, your electrician can proceed to remove the outlet and replace it with the new one.
How to Prevent Future Outlet Sparks
In addition to learning what you can do to replace a sparking outlet, it’s good to know of ways you can prevent them in the first place:
Install ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). To prevent an accident caused by a wet plug, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises installing ground-fault circuit interrupters, which shuts off electric power in 1/40th of a second.
Discard frayed cords. These days we have chargers for everything: Cell phones, iPads, e-readers, Bluetooth headphones, laptops, etc. This means lots of cords lying around your home or office at any given point. If any of these cords start to fray, dispose of them properly and purchase replacements.
Climate Design Can Help You
If you’re having any electrical issues, we can help! Proudly serving Clearwater and surrounding area homeowners.