Outlet Sparking: What's Normal And Why They Could Be Sparking

Posted on: 23 February 2016

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There are a number of different reasons that your home's outlets could be sparking, some more benign than others. Know the reasons that your outlets are sparking so that you can take the proper course of action when it occurs so that you can prevent fire or electrical damage to your home. 

Normal Sparking VS Abnormal Sparking

First, you should know some degree of sparking of your outlets is normal, but these sparks should be tiny and brief and a blueish color and are caused by the rapid draw of electricity from the grid to your appliance. Although a small amount of sparking is normal, you should be concerned if you notice that the spark does a few different things.

If the spark last longer than a quick flash, there is most likely problems with your wiring. If you smell an unpleasant smoke or ozone smell after the spark occurs, this is indicative of a melted wire and you should immediately shut off the circuit to that outlet and call an electrician. If the sparks are large and yellow, you should also be concerned. 

Short Circuiting

One possible reason your outlets could be sparking is due to them short circuiting. When too much heat builds up in your outlet it can melt the insulation surrounding the wires. The wires start to become exposed, and as you plug something in the electrons leap across the uninsulated wires, causing a spark. These sparks can be quite large and they can eventually start an electrical fire.

Water Exposure

If there is water near the circuit, this can cause the outlet to spark and quickly short out. If you have outlets in your bathroom or near wet areas in the kitchen, you should ensure that they have a ground fault circuit interrupter installed. This will shut down the circuit if the outlet is exposed to water and sparks in order to prevent a fire. 

Age 

As the wiring in outlets get older, the outlets start to naturally wear out. Loose connections and frayed wires are a common occurrence in older outlets. These loose connections and frayed wires can cause large sparks when you go to plug anything in. If your outlets are of significant age and you notice constant sparking, think about having them rewired. 

If you notice that your outlets are sparking and think it is due to one of the above reasons, contact a local electrician, like Lowry Services: Electric, Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, to have them come inspect and repair your outlets and wiring. Don't neglect the problem and let it cause eventual damage to your home!