CMC’s DIY Electrical Guide: How to Fix a Warm or Sparking Outlet

Jul 9, 2021

Do you need to fix a warm or sparking outlet? If an electrical outlet feels warm or sparks­, that means it’s overloaded and is overheating; presenting an immediate safety hazard. The cause of a warm or sparking outlet is usually due to having too many appliances plugged in and/or exceeding the outlet’s power rating. Other potential causes include loose or damaged wiring, worn appliance plugs, or a defective dimmer switch.

You’re usually better off calling a professional electrician, but there are steps you can take to resolve the issue if you have to fix a warm or sparking outlet.

Causes of Sparking Outlets

A spark can be caused by a short circuit in which a wire coating has melted, causing an electrical surge. Water damage can affect the socket as well. Another possibility is wear and tear with age; old outlets tend to spark more frequently.

When Is a Sparking Outlet Dangerous?

Outlets spark any time you plug in a device. While sparks are usually too fast to see, they can be dangerous if they last for more than a few seconds, are bright yellow, or are accompanied by the smell of smoke. If a spark happens every time the outlet is used, or you see burn marks on the outlet, it’s time to call for help.

Steps to Fix a Warm or Sparking Outlet

If you’re careful, addressing a faulty outlet may not require an expert. You’ll want to precisely follow these steps to ensure your safety:

  1. Turn off the circuit breaker that feeds the circuit where the outlet is located.
  2. Unplug every cord, device, or appliance that is connected to the affected outlet.
  3. Remove the screws for the outlet cover, then the cover, before removing the outlet.
  4. Check for any disconnected wires; if the wire ends aren’t properly connected, they may touch each other and produce sparks.
  5. Purchase a new receptacle, whether you plan to replace it yourself or with the help of an electrician. Before you go to the hardware store, take a picture of the old outlet and be sure to purchase a replacement rated for the same voltage.
  6. If you have a multimeter, check for any electric current, even if the breaker is off, and proceed only if you know there’s zero current passing through the outlet (your electrician will do this as well).

Preventing Outlet Trouble

Once you’ve replaced a sparking outlet, you can take steps to prevent future sparks.

  • Use Power Strips Only When Necessary: Use them sparingly and temporarily, and avoid plugging in multiple power strips, which can overload the outlet.
  • Get Rid of Damaged Wires/Cords: If you notice a device or charger cord starting to fray, replace it and dispose of the old cord properly.
  • Install GFCIs: Ground-fault circuit interrupters shut off power in a fraction of a second if a plug or socket gets wet. This prevents an electric shock, burn, or fire.
  • Get Your Wiring Checked: An electrical technician employs advanced tools to check for wiring problems and wear and tear. Loose or damaged wiring can cause outlets to become warm and spark, which increases the fire hazard in your home.

Call CMC Electric for Same-Day Service

Our local electricians are available to quickly assess your outlet problems. If you have a warm and/or sparking outlet, don’t wait. We are professionally trained and licensed to quickly address the root cause of the problem. Call 919-804-1645 to request service today.

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