Reasons You’re Seeing the Electrical Outlets Sparking in Your Home
A flash and then it is gone. Sometimes all that is needed is a spark; possibly to start a campfire for roasting marshmallows, or for hopeless romantics, to find love under the twinkling lights of the Eifel Tower. A small flash can lead to fantastic life adventures. However, when it comes to your home’s electrical wiring, sparks may be more cause for concern than a warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia and happy times.
J & A South Park electricians know that most often than not, that quick, bright blue spark you may see when plugging into a wall outlet, is just a simple, fantastic display of science. It is, in fact, considered reasonable to be able to witness the transfer of energy between two electrical units. The power running through those small but mighty wires run fast and hot. This transfer of energy may not necessarily be a warning sign of problems; however, it may in actuality be a precursor of the trouble brewing within the electrical system that resides neatly behind your plastered walls.
So, when does this personal firework show turn into an indicator that something is wrong with the outlet? Is the flash short and quick and only happening every so often? Alternatively, does the outlet spark with an audible popping sound every time you plug into the wall unit?
It is essential to identify the type of underlying issue your electrical outlet, or outlets may be having. Our electricians here at J & A South Park want you always to remember when in doubt, call us out.
Plain Ol’ Ordinary Sparks
We have all seen that blue bolt of lightning from time to time when plugging in our laptop, the vacuum, or other small appliances within the home. The supplied electricity within your home, as well as your neighbors, is sourced throughout each home in most of the same way. It runs along the circuits in the wiring and then back out to the main grid, most often, uninterrupted. When you very quickly turn on an object or plug into an outlet to draw its power, some of the electricity that transferred from the outlet to the prongs of the plug can, in an instant, become visible to the human eye. This tiny lightning bolt of energy may be shocking for one to observe but in reality is only as threating as a small jolt of static electricity.
Out of the Ordinary
Okay, so, if we all from time to time become privy to be witness to the miracle of energy transfer, when does it become a dangerous situation? With an average of 5,300 fires involving electrical receptacles occurring in the US each year, we at J & A South Park know electricity is never a subject to treat lightly.
Is the spark persistent? This blue jolt should be a very brief flash. If the spark lasts more than the allowed blink of an eye, shut off the breaker to the outlet immediately, then unplug what appliance you were attempting to power up. Call an electrician right away, for this behavior is entirely out of the norm for your home’s wiring. This persistent spark could be an indicator that there is long-term damage to your home’s wiring. This damage could have started as a small, undetectable flaw that has over time built up to be a dangerous situation and poses a severe risk of electrical fire.
An odor or burning smell should never be complimenting the spark when plugging in your electrical plug. An odd or burning rubber smell could indicate that a wire has melted, or possibly, cables that should be avoiding one another are now too close for comfort and making contact when they should be far apart.
A standard 120-volt electrical outlet houses three essential wires. The black wire is considered the “hot” wire. This hot wire transfers the power from the electrical panel in your home to the outlet within the wall. The wire that is colored white is the neutral wiring. Neutral wires provide paths for the energy to travel back to the source and is a necessary component for electricity to work correctly. The last wire, the green or bare ground wire, is the safety protector of the circuit. Ground wires account for energy’s safe travels back to the earth. Making sure that the circuit is grounded drastically lessens the dangers and risks of being electrocuted.
An electrical short can occur when a live wire comes in contact with the ground or neutral wire. This misconceived connection then provides a path for electricity to travel through the receptacles’ circuit with no conductor to outlet the energy. Without a means to transfer the power to another appliance, the circuit draws an excess of current, which will then in turn melt or burn the wires within the walls of your home.
A short-circuiting outlet is one of the most common causes of electrical fires. Making sure that you are having a licensed professional evaluate your home’s wiring, outlets and electrical panels, to ensure that wiring is safe and sound in the proper arrangements for the optimal output of energy.
To GFCI or Not to GFCI
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. We should all have them in our kitchens, in our bathrooms, outside and possibly as the outlets our appliances use. Although, what do “GFCI” outlets do?
This question can have a straightforward answer.
If there is a difference of strength between the electricity going out of an outlet than the amount returning in, the GFCI stops the flow of the current immediately.
A GFCI outlet monitors the amount of electrical current flowing out of an outlet and then compares the output of energy to the flow of power returning into the said outlet.
Outlets protected by GFCI should be installed anywhere there is an outlet placed in an area that may be subject to moisture or humidity. Accidental shock can result in an outlet that has become damp yet this is not specific to bathrooms and kitchens. Laundry and utility rooms, as well as wet bars and unfinished basements, are now in some areas required to have installed GFCI units. Check with your local building authority for the more recent compliant requirements to ensure your home is up to code and safe.
When an Indoor Pool is Not a Great Idea
Since we were of the age necessary to comprehend a picture story book, we have seen the tags and signs sending a clear warning of the resulting dangers blow drying our hair in the bathtub can produce. Common sense knows that water mixed with electricity is a recipe for disaster. However, electricity units behind closed walls can have compromised wiring without our knowledge. If you are witnessing abnormal sparks from an outlet near a water source or window, the outlet could potentially be wet from behind the wall. Turn off the breaker to the outlet and examine the wall around the plug for water rings, temperature changes, or texture differences.
There are many factors when it comes to water and the electrical outlets in your home. What is the amount of saturation? Is it just a drop of water that happens to trickle down the wall and miraculously make it right into the tiny slits of your outlet? Is the water coming from a leaky window and has been a constant flow of water for who knows how long? Or, even worse, has there been a significant flood in your home?
In any case, an instance of water meeting an electrical outlet in your home must result in turning off the power to the outlet immediately.
In an extreme saturation, flipping the main breaker to your home is your only option. Make sure your breaker box is labeled correctly and that it contains complete details of the breaker’s outlet locations. Ensuring that your breaker box is appropriately labeled, matching outlets that are present throughout the rooms of your home, will lessen confusion when in a time of panic and disaster.
Electrical outlets that have come into contact with any amount of H2O, and for sure any non-GFCI outlets, need to be replaced by a licensed electrician. Turn the power off to the outlet and call us at J & A South Park straight away.
Although, often a drop of water from the sink or even humidity from the shower could be enough for the GFCI to intercept an issue and disconnect the electrical current. A GFCI outlet is imperative to elevate the hazard of electrocution and risk of fire, but a tripped GFCI does not replace the need to turn off the breaker to the outlet before attempting to perform any work. Ensure that the power to the outlet if off by testing it with a voltage meter. Then remove the cover to allow air circulation to the outlet. Allow the outlet adequate time to dry completely before returning it to its duties and make sure to test the GFCI outlet before putting it back to use.
Tired and Worn, Your Outlets are Just Old
Age catches up to even the spriest of us all. As the years pass along neglected outlets can become worn, loose, and can drastically increase the risk of short-circuiting. Loose connections can be the culprit for the massive warning sparks. Just as the styles, standards, and compliances often change for most practical appliances, so the technology for wiring and electrical equipment in your home changes as well. Remeber good ol’ knob-and-tube wiring? Today’s professionals are not wiring homes using the same procedures and regulations as they did in the 1920’s. Vintage and retro may be appropriate in fashion but when it comes to your homes electrical wiring, understanding the hottest and latest trends is essential.
Rewiring your home every five years is not a practical solution. However, keeping on the upkeep and condition of the wiring in your home will allow you to avoid many problems along the way and most importantly, in the future.
Shoddy Electrical Work, Buddy. Call J & A South Park to fix it!
Are you the self-proclaimed DIY king or queen? Your self-motivation and jack-of-all-trades skills are impressive. However, when it comes to the electrical work in your home, there is no room for trial and error. Learning from videos online works for many great home projects, although, there are very few projects that call for such a minute margin of error than when it comes to the electric within your home. The configuration of the power running through your home is always best left on the to-do list of a credible professional electrician. Asking for the contractor’s license and verifying that the document is valid is always a best practice. Ensure that little blue spark does not turn into an untimely firework display. Call a reputable and local company with competent and professional electricians; call us today at J & A South Park.