Why Is My Outlet Hot to the Touch?

2017 Jun 07
Posted in: Electrical

You go to unplug something into your electrical outlet, but you notice it feels warm. Should you be concerned?
 
A warm outlet doesn’t mean your home is going to burst into flames or have severe electrical failure right away, but it’s a sign that something’s wrong.
 
Think of a warm outlet as a symptom, like when you have a fever and your forehead feels warm. Just like many illnesses can cause a fever, there are many reasons why your outlet is hot.
 
We’ll share 6 common reasons why your outlet is hot to the touch:
 

  1. Your appliances/devices use transformers
  2. You have too many devices plugged into one outlet
  3. The outlet is broken
  4. The wiring is damaged 
  5. You have too much demand on the circuit
  6. Your fuse or breaker is rated too high

Let’s go into more detail about each of these and how to solve them. This list starts with the problems that are easiest to fix and then progresses to the more difficult issues.

What electrical problems make my outlet feel warm?

Problem #1: Your appliances/devices use transformers

Devices like laptop chargers, modems, computer printers and many other small appliances use what’s called a transformer (sometimes called a “wall wart”). Transformers convert AC to DC power, which means they have to change the voltage inputs to different voltage outputs. This process can cause your outlet to feel warm. 

Solution

Try unplugging the device and waiting for a couple of hours. Then, see which of these 2 scenarios happens to you...

  • Does your outlet feel like normal room temperature? If so, everything’s back to normal. It means your device’s plug is what’s causing your outlet to feel warm.
  • Does your outlet still feel hot to the touch after a couple of hours? Call an electrician to take a look.

Problem #2: You have too many devices plugged into one outlet

Do you have too many devices plugged into one outlet? Or is your power strip overloaded with plugs?
 
If so, that could be what’s causing your outlet to overheat and feel warm when you touch it. When there’s too much demand on one outlet, it starts to feel warm because of the increase of electricity.  

Solution

Try unplugging a few items and moving them to a different outlet. If after a couple of hours your plug still feels warm, keep reading, because it may be one of the following issues...

Problem #3: The outlet is broken

Over time, it’s common for outlets to break, crack or chip because of normal wear and tear. These conditions compromise the outlet’s ability to control electricity, which can cause your outlet to feel hot to the touch.

Solution

You can try replacing the outlet yourself, or you can call a professional to help you.

Problem #4: The wiring is damaged

Loose electrical terminations and frayed wires can cause your outlet to feel warm because the electricity escapes and heats the outlet cover.

Solution

Contact an electrician to inspect your wiring and replace any damaged wires.

Problem #5: You have too much demand on the circuit

Most homes are designed to have at least one outlet in a room be on a different circuit to prevent excessive demand. However, this may not be the case in your home, which is what’s causing your outlet to feel warm. 
 
Here’s why it makes your outlet hot: If all of the outlets are on the same circuit in your room, then the electrical current being used by one outlet may pass through another one. So even if nothing is plugged into the warm outlet, it could feel hot to the touch because there’s excessive demand on another outlet on the same circuit.

Solution

Is your outlet hot to the touch when nothing is plugged into it? That indicates that you might have too much demand on the circuit. You can’t safely fix this problem yourself, so you’ll want to contact a certified electrician to do it for you.

Problem #6: Your fuse or breaker is rated too high

Your fuse or breaker may be rated too high, which allows for more electricity to pass through your circuit (wires in the wall). This is a potential fire hazard, and a warm outlet may be a warning sign that your circuit is operating above its amperage rating.
 
For example, let’s say that your circuit can only handle 10 amps of electricity, but your fuse/breaker is designed to trip around 20 amps. That means the breaker won’t trip when electricity reaches the 11–19 amp level, which makes the wiring get hot and in turn makes your outlet feel warm. This is dangerous and can, in some cases, start a fire. 

Solution

An electrician can replace your current fuse/breaker with a lower rated one so your circuit doesn’t get too hot.
 
If your home is 50+ years old, you probably need to rewire your home because your existing wiring can’t meet the demands of modern electrical appliances. 
 
Either way, you’ll want a licensed electrician to inspect your home’s electrical system and provide recommendations.

Need an electrician in the Phoenix metro area?

Contact George Brazil Electric for your electrical repairs. We’ve been keeping Arizona families safe and comfortable since 1955.

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