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My Electrical Outlet Sparks When I Plug Something In

Troubleshooting from George Brazil


If you notice a spark at an outlet when you plug in an appliance, you’re probably wondering if there’s a problem that needs immediate attention or if this is normal.

Well, it’s most likely normal if the spark:

  • Is blue
  • Lasts only for a brief moment
  • Is infrequent (doesn’t happen every time you use the outlet)

On the other hand, it’s most likely a problem if the spark:

  • Lasts longer than a brief moment
  • Is yellow
  • Happens every time the outlet is used
  • Produces a burning smell

We’ll explain those 2 situations in more detail and what you should do next.

If you think your sparking outlet is an issue, don’t wait to call an electrician. A spark, big or small, could cause an electrical fire. Contact us and we’ll send over an electrician who can diagnose and fix the problem ASAP.

Sometimes, a visible spark at the outlet is normal

In reality, a spark happens every time you plug an appliance into an electrical outlet-you usually just don’t see it.

You see, behind your outlets are live electrical wires that basically sit waiting to feed any appliance that’s plugged in. So as soon as you plug an appliance into the outlet, live electrical current “jumps the gap”, trying to establish connection with the appliance. And for this very brief moment, a tiny blue spark occurs.

But normally, this spark occurs only for a split-second. And most of the time, you don’t even see it.

But beware “dangerous” sparks at the outlet

  • Signs that the sparking at your outlet is dangerous include:
  • The spark lasts longer than a brief moment
  • The spark is intense and yellow (not blue)
  • The sparking happens every time you use the outlet (not matter what appliance is plugged in)
  • You smell smoke after the spark or see burn marks on the outlet

See some of these signs? Contact an electrician immediately. Sparks at an outlet can easily and quickly cause an electrical fire and put your family and house in extreme danger.

In fact, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, over 51,000 home electrical fires occur every year and are responsible for:

  • 51,000 fires
  • 500 deaths
  • 1,400 injuries
  • $1.3 billion in property damages

So what causes dangerous sparking at electrical outlets?

Well, a few different electrical problems can cause an outlet to spark, including:

  1. Water/moisture in the outlet
  2. Loose wiring
  3. Lack of a ground wire
  4. Frayed or uninsulated wiring
  5. Old, worn out outlets
  6. Cracked or broken outlets

Note: Always avoid plugging in appliances while they are in the ON position. Instead, make sure appliances are turned off while plugging them into an outlet.

The bottom line: Leave the diagnosis to a professional and don’t attempt to solve this problem on your own. If your outlets are producing dangerous sparks, the most important this is to get professional help fast so you don’t risk electrocution or electrical fires.

Need help from an Arizona electrician?

If you’re not sure whether the sparks at your outlet are a problem or not, contact us.

We’ll inspect the outlet, diagnose the problem and fix it to keep you and your home safe.

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