Why Are My Outlets Sparking?
November 21, 2018
Sparks are great when it comes to romance, but nobody wants them coming from their outlets. While small, blink-of-an-eye flashes of blue may be normal — after all, electricity has to transfer from the outlet to the plug — multiple flashes or arcs of electricity are a bad sign.
Over 51,000 home fires can be attributed to electrical wiring. Arcing faults, which is the main cause of sparking around outlets are responsible for more than 28,000 fires, which kills hundreds of people every year and causes over $700 million in property damage (ESFI).
If you see flashes of light, electrical arcing, or any other type of major sparking, turn off power to the circuit and contact a qualified electrician as soon as you can.
Safe, Normal Sparking
When you plug something into your electrical outlet, hot electricity from the internal wires needs to make a connection. A rapid draw occurs and you may see a small spark. This is nothing to worry about; however, you don’t want to see it every single time you plug something in.
One way to prevent this small spark is by making sure the device that is being plugged in is turned off before plugging it in. If you see small sparks every time you plug something in, contact an electrician. It shouldn’t be sparking every single time.
Short Circuit Scenarios
One common cause of sparking outlets is a short circuit, sometimes just called a short. Shorts happen when an electrical current that is traveling along a path gets interrupted and ends up jumping to an unintended path. When electricity jumps its circuit, there can be overheating, circuit damage, and sometimes fires and explosions.
Short circuits may only last a millisecond, but the temperature can be very high — tens of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, there are ways to prevent damage caused by short circuits by installing arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) for every circuit.
To make sure your AFCIs are working properly, test them every 30 days. You should find your AFCIs in the breaker box.
You may be able to tell if short circuits have been occurring around your outlets and switches by inspecting them for damage, such as burning or melting marks. Another major warning sign is a bad smell, such as urine, fish, rotten eggs, or burning plastic.
If you notice any signs of a dangerous electrical situation, shut down power to the circuit from the breaker box and call a licensed electrician immediately.
Sometimes the outlets are just old. Loose connections and worn parts can increase the risk of sparks and short circuits. Old cords can contribute to the problem.
If you ever notice damaged electrical equipment, repair or replace it immediately.
If you see a small spark every once in a while when you plug something into your outlets, don’t worry about it.
Contact an electrician if the sparking happens every time you plug something in or you suspect a dangerous wiring scenario.
To ensure your outlets are safe, schedule a professional electrical safety inspection with the experts from Fix-It 24/7!
If you have any questions about your outlets or any aspect of the electrical system, don’t hesitate to contact Fix-It 24/7, proudly serving Denver-area homeowners since 2013.
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