Everyone uses electrical appliances every day as part of their daily routines. There are many times when you plug in an electrical device in the outlet, and it causes a spark. Sparks are usually blue or yellow and occur only for a brief moment.
At most times, we ignore it and continue using the appliance. But ever wondered what exactly causes the outlets to spark? Are they dangerous, should you be concerned about them? What can you do in case of a spark and how you can prevent them?
In the upcoming sections, we will answer all these questions related to outlets sparking. Read along further to find out about the types of electrical sparks, causes of electrical sparking, how to handle them, and how to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
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Types of Electrical Sparks
When you connect an electrical appliance to a power outlet, for a brief moment when the plug is about to touch the power socket, you see a blue spark. Blue sparks are good sparks that occurs when the electric current flowing through the outlet reaches towards the plug of the appliance through the tiny gap that remains between them.
However, in other cases, you could encounter an abnormal spark which can point towards some more significant fault with the electrical system. There are specific ways through which you can identify if the spark was normal or abnormal. These are listed below:
- If the spark is of white or yellow colour or any colour other than blue, then it is considered an unusual spark which should further be investigated by a trained electrician.
- If you notice any burning smell of plastic or wires burning during a spark, with or without smoke, it is an abnormal spark. Immediately switch off the appliance and pull out the plug from the outlet to prevent any fire.
- If you notice that the spark is quite big and seems to come out of the outlet at a greater distance, then it is an abnormal spark.
- If the spark lasts for more than a second or continues in short bursts, it is nor normal and needs investigation.
- If the spark is blue, occurs for a brief second, and is not associated with any burning smell, then it is considered a usual spark for which there is nothing to worry.
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Causes of Outlet Sparks
Normal sparks usually occur when you plug in a device and are not considered dangerous. Abnormal sparks, on the other hand, can be caused by a few problems related to electrical systems. These causes are discussed below:
Short-Circuiting is one of the most dangerous causes of abnormal sparks. When the hot wire touches the ground wire or the neutral wire in a circuit, it can cause short-circuiting, which can be the cause of sparks.
Short-circuiting causes extra current to flow through the circuit, causing to overheat and can result in a fire. This problem should be rectified immediately and fixed to avoid more severe issues.
If water touches or enters a power outlet, it can cause sparking, which can lead to a fire. Any water contact with a power outlet is a dangerous situation and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
When a circuit becomes overloaded because of too many appliances being connected with it, it can cause sparking. Also, combining too many appliances in a single outlet either directly or through an extension wire can result in excessive sparking. Distributing a load of devices over different outlets and circuits can fix the problem of overloading.
Wear and Tear With Time
With age, the electrical outlets in your home also get damaged. They become loose and worn out with them. This can cause them to spark and become overheated.
Abnormal sparks can also be caused by improper or faulty installation of wiring. This can become the cause of electrical severe faults or fire. Hence, always get your electrical installations and repairs done by professional electricians.
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What To Do About Outlet Sparks
Everybody encounters normal sparks daily while plugging in electrical appliances. While most of them are normal, they should not be ignored altogether. In some cases, they may be caused by some other electrical problem which might just be manifesting through sparks at that time.
However, those problems may prove to be quite dangerous in the long run. Always use the guidelines mentioned above to see if the sparks appear normal or abnormal. Even if the sparks look normal, it is a good idea to get them checked if they occur continuously.
Abnormal sparks need to be examined by a professional at the earliest to prevent any big mishap. The electrician will inspect electrical outlets and replace/fix them if the wiring is loose or if they have worn out with old age.
Sometimes, the problem might lie within the wiring of the house in which case the electrician may need to replace or fix the wiring of the complete house.
How To Prevent Outlets From Sparking
Although sparking is usually normal, but sometimes outlets sparking can be quite dangerous. Hence, it is a good idea to do all that you can to prevent sparks and other problems associated with them. These tips for the prevention of sparking are listed below:
- The first and foremost thing is to get your wiring installation done by trained professionals so that no such problem arises because of faulty wiring or installation.
- Take extra care not to let water or moisture enter the power outlets. Always use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) which shuts down as soon as it comes in contact with water.
- Distribute a load off your high-power electrical appliances over several circuit breakers and outlets so that the possibility of sparks because of overloading can be minimized.
- Get your wiring and outlets repaired or replaced if you notice any sign of ageing or lose connections to prevent sparks caused by short-circuiting.
- If an outlet seems damaged, avoid plugging in any device in it and get it checked for repair or replacement.
One should never ignore outlets sparking even if they appear normal to you. If the cause of sparking is something serious, it can be dangerous for everyone in the house, especially if you have small children around.
However, you should not handle the wiring and electrical systems of your house yourself no matter how easy the task might seem. Always get your electrical repairs and installations done by an expert so you can ensure everyone’s safety during and after the repairs and installation process.
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Cost of Other Home Improvement Areas
You can check out the cost of hiring professionals for other aspects of your home improvement project. Some of the general cost guides can be found below:
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