Why Is My Outlet Burnt?

2017 Jul 06
Posted in: Electrical

Do you notice charred marks around your outlet? Or do you smell an acrid burning odor near a plug? 

Here’s what you should do first: 

  1. Shut off power (at the circuit breaker) to the burned outlet
  2. Call a licensed electrician for help

A charred or burnt outlet is a sign that something’s not working right with your electrical system. 
And electrical problems aren’t something you want to mess with, so you’ll need a professional’s help ASAP. 

But while you’re waiting for an electrician to arrive, learn about the 3 main causes of a burnt outlet:

  1. Arcing
  2. Incorrect wire size
  3. Overloaded circuit

In this article, we’ll go into each of these causes in more detail. Let’s start with cause #1, arcing.

Cause #1: Arcing

When your outlet is connected properly, and all the parts are tight and in good condition, electricity flows normally and shouldn’t cause any problems.

However, if one of the metal parts becomes loose or damaged, power will escape and release sparks. This overheating process is called arcing.

A common example of arcing is when the screw that holds the wire onto the terminal becomes loose. As power flows through the wire, energy escapes and shoots a spark towards the outlet’s metal receptacle box.

When arcing occurs, the plastic around your outlet will begin to melt because it can’t stand the heat. Arcing breaks down insulating materials and can also cause a fire in some cases, so it’s something a professional should fix ASAP.

Cause #2: Incorrect wire size or worn out wires

If your wires are too small or too worn, they could be what’s causing your outlet to burn.

Incorrect size: If a wire’s diameter is too small (measured in gauges), it means it’s more resistant to the flow of electricity. Since resistance produces heat, a smaller wire that’s carrying too much current will heat up faster. This heat can be strong enough to melt or burn the plastic faceplate, or create a strong burning odor.

Worn out wires: If your wires are worn, energy can escape and overheat your outlet through arcing or direct contact.

Contact a licensed electrician to inspect your home’s wiring. He or she has the tools to safely check your wiring and replace any worn or incorrectly sized wires.

Cause #3: Overloaded circuit

An overloaded circuit means you have too much demand on one outlet. When your appliances demand too much power from an outlet, that leads to overheating, which could be why you’re seeing that burn mark on your outlet.

Once an electrician replaces your burnt outlet, you may have to limit the amount of appliances you plug into that outlet so you don’t burn it again. Your electrician will let you know how many appliances you should plug into that specific circuit.

Need a trustworthy electrician to replace your burned outlet?

Contact George Brazil to schedule an electrical repair. We’ll send one of our trusted electricians to your home and replace your burned outlet in no time.

We’ve been serving Phoenix families since 1915.

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