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Why Are My Outlets Sparking?

Why Are My Outlets Sparking?

Have you ever gone to plug in an appliance or something electrical and noticed that there are some sparks when the prongs touch the outlet? A lot of people dismiss this as normal and continue on with their day. But, if you have outlets sparking when you plug in appliances, then that may be a sign that something is wrong.

Sure, an outlet sparking will not always result in something bad happening, but given how dangerous things like electrical fires are, you probably do not want to take a risk. There are a bunch of different reasons why an outlet can spark, so it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a sparking outlet.

In this article, we are going to explain some of the things that can cause an outlet to spark.

Normal sparking

As we mentioned in the beginning of the article, not all sparking is a sign that something is wrong with your electrical system. There is such a thing as “normal sparking.” Normal sparking almost always happens when you unplug an appliance. See, electricity continues to flow to an appliance until the prongs on its power cord are completely detached from an outlet. This is why you sometimes see appliances continue to work, even when the plug gets pulled halfway out the wall.

Since the electricity continues to flow until the prongs are completely pulled out of the outlet, you may see a spark occur as the last prong is pulled out. This is because the unused electricity has to go somewhere and when it cannot find anywhere to go, it sparks. Think of it almost like static electricity. Static electricity builds up due to friction and it has to find somewhere to go, so it sparks.

While normal sparking can be annoying (especially if it gives you a minor shock), it does not really signal that anything is wrong with your electrical system. That being said, it may be a sign that you are not treating your outlets correctly. Normal sparking usually occurs when someone pulls a plug out at an odd angle. It may sound odd, but it is true.

Pulling plugs out at weird angels can damage outlets. Damaged outlets can then lead to hazardous electrical fires. So, you want to be careful about how you pull out plugs. Always pull plugs slowly and make sure they are straight when you pull them out. Never pull out a plug quickly or at a weird angle.

Water build up

I think it is safe to say that we all know that water and electricity do not mix. Well, unfortunately, sometimes outlets get exposed to water. Water can cause issues with the internal parts of an outlet and cause it to start sparking when it is used. Water can interfere with the internal wiring and if there is any leftover water or dampness inside the outlet, then that can interfere with the way the electricity works.

Regardless, just know that water (or any liquid for that matter) can damage outlets and result in sparking. There are generally 3 ways that liquid enters outlets. First off, if the outlet is outside, then it is possible that rain has gotten into the outlet. Most external outlets are designed with covers or put in an area where they are not susceptible to rain. But, sometimes rain finds a way and you end up with a damaged outlet.

The second way that liquid can interfere with outlets is through moisture build up in the walls of a home. A lot of homes have outlets in the bathroom. Well, water can build up in the walls because of all the steam that comes from the shower. This water build up can cause issues with your outlets. Now, the bathroom is just one example. Another example would be leaky pipes, which can deposit water behind walls, which then leaks into the wiring, which then results in a damaged outlet.

The final way that liquid can get into an outlet is if someone spills liquid into the outlet. Now, this happens very rarely and generally you know if it happens, so we will not go into much detail.

Worn out outlet

Typically, when you think of things in your house that wear out over time, you do not think of outlets. In fact, some homes have outlets that have not been rewired for 20 or 30 years because home owners do not think about as needing to be replaced. But, believe us when we say that outlets, and the wiring behind them, do get worn out.

As the components behind the outlets get worn out, you will start to see sparks. As the outlet’s wiring gets even more worn out, then you will start to see sparking even more often. The solution here is to get rewiring done. You can get rewiring done on your entire home or you can just get it done on one specific section of your home’s wiring.

If you are interested in getting more info about home rewiring, then please see this post on the matter. Please be aware that all rewiring needs to be done by a licenced electrician.

Faulty outlets

Finally, the last reason why an outlet may be sparking is that it was simply not installed properly. Sometimes (although it happens very rarely) an outlet will just not be installed correctly. This can result in sparking down the line. The solution, as you can probably guess, is to call an electrician and have them come to your home and properly install the outlet.

 

 

These are the 4 main reasons why an outlet may be sparking. If you notice your outlet sparking, and you think it may be due to one of the 3 reasons above (not counting normal sparking, since as we explained, that is not due to any issue with your electrical system) then call an emergency electrician right away. Also, make sure that you stop using the outlet right away. Do not use the outlet until an electrician has had a chance to look at the outlet.