What causes an electrical outlet to spark
Because of safety risks involved, it's best to let a trusted electrician take care of sparking outlets. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)
It can be frightening when an electrical outlet sparks. Sometimes it’s normal, and sometimes it’s an indicator that there is something wrong with the outlet. Here is what you need to know about electrical outlets, why they spark and when it’s time to call in a Los Angeles electrician.
The power in outlets
In the United States, the power running through outlets is fast and hot. It should easily flow through the available circuits in your home and back out to the main grid without being interrupted. The outlets in your home use this fast-moving current to provide you with the power you need. When an appliance is plugged in, some of the power moves into the appliance to be used.
When that power is suddenly diverted to an appliance, there will be a quick draw on the available power, causing a brief spark. Once the electrons are flowing freely, there should be no reason for a spark to form. This is normal, and it’s comparable to static electricity.
If too much heat builds up in an outlet, it can actually melt the insulation that surrounds the wires. As the wires become exposed, the chance for an electrical fire increases. When a connection is made, the electrons can leap to the wrong area and cause a serious spark. This is known as a short circuit and can actually case an electrical fire.
Water can quickly cause an outlet to spark and short out. Installation of a special outlet known as a ground fault interrupter (GFI) will cause the circuit to shut down rather than starting a fire.
Outlets gradually wear out over time. As the years pass, the connections will gradually loosen, increasing the chances that a short circuit will occur and start a fire. Appliance cords that are old and worn can also cause an outlet to spark.
When people decide to fix an outlet themselves, it’s important that they know exactly what they are doing. When people try to take short-cuts to fix electrical problems, they often create far more dangerous situations that can result in fires.
Repairing faulty outlets
If an outlet sparks briefly once in a while, then it’s probably normal and safe. When an outlet sparks every time you plug something in, you probably have a problem on your hands. Replacing an outlet is not a difficult job, but if you suspect a problem it should be left to the professionals. Installing a GFI in a line can be tricky and can cause problems for items further down the line if not done properly.
To avoid creating hazardous situations, call a Los Angeles electrician. During 2010, Angie’s List helped provide information about highly rated service providers more than 10,000 times when members searched the List or called the call center. The peace of mind that comes with knowing the job is done right will be priceless and your home will be safer.