What to Do When You See an Electrical Spark
At some point, you’ve probably plugged in an appliance and seen it – a brief spark, a short burst of blue light as the outlet and plug start to connect. But what causes this spark, and should you be worried about it?
What Does it Mean When an Outlet Sparks?
All outlets can create a spark when connected to an appliance – after all, electricity is powering the device you plug in. Some sparks are just more dangerous than others.
The electrical system in your home is divided into different segments, or circuits. Electrical current runs through these circuits, which often have at least one outlet where appliances can join into the circuit. When the plug and outlet are almost touching, an electrical current from the circuit reaches across the tiny gap and creates a spark. This brief, blue spark is normal.
But what if your electrical outlet sparks often? While some sparking is common, frequent sparking can be a sign of a serious problem.
Are Sparking Outlets Dangerous?
Whether you notice a little flash of blue or not, there is always a spark when a plug and outlet connect. However, these sparks are usually not dangerous. But since most electrical fires start in outlets, it’s risky to ignore them.
What are the signs of dangerous outlet sparks?
If you notice any of the following signs – call a licensed electrician, like Malek Electrical!
- Lengthy Sparks – A spark should come and go in the blink of an eye. If a spark lasts longer than a second or doesn’t fizzle out immediately – it’s time to call a professional.
- Different Colored Sparks – Normal outlet sparks are only blue. If you notice yellow, white, or any other color, it may be the sign of a serious problem.
- Sparks that Smell – If you smell smoke or catch a whiff of melted plastic after you plug in a device – turn the plug off immediately. You may be smelling the start of a fire.
- Big Sparks – It’s normal to see a quick, small spark, so if you see a big spark that seems to leap out of the plug socket – there’s a problem.
- Burn Marks – Blackened or burn marks on an outlet usually indicate an overloaded circuit or a loose outlet wire.
- Constant Sparks – Sparks that happen every time you use the outlet are not normal.
Contact Malek Electrical immediately if you experience any of these signs. Because your safety is our highest priority, we provide 24/7 electric services to Central Texas including Bryan, College Station and the surrounding Brazos Valley! Sparks like this are dangerous and can quickly cause an electrical fire that could harm your family and damage your home.
What Causes Electrical Outlet Sparks?
There are several causes of electrical outlet sparks, so contact a licensed electrician if you notice any of the following:
- Overloading – Since your home is divided into different electrical circuits, it’s possible to overload one specific circuit. When you have multiple appliances or devices plugged into the circuit that runs in your kitchen and none plugged into a bedroom, there’s a greater chance of plugs sparking in your kitchen. Try not to overload circuits or plug too many devices into one outlet.
- Short-Circuiting – Outlets are a conduit for electricity, and heat is just part of the process. But when there’s an electric surge, it could cause wire coatings to melt. If this happens, schedule repairs with us as soon as possible – and avoid using these wires since they’re a fire hazard.
- Water Damage – Water and electricity should never mix and could cause serious injury or death – especially in bathrooms and kitchens where puddles of water can go unnoticed until you try to insert a wet plug into an outlet.
- Old Age – Like many household appliances, electrical outlets can wear out over time – and old electrical outlets can spark more often. Have a licensed electrician inspect and update your wiring.
- Improper Repairs and Installation – Always hire a qualified electrician. It’s extremely dangerous to DIY anything electrical.
How to Fix a Sparking Outlet
The crucial thing to remember is that all electrical repairs, no matter how minor they may seem, should be done by a licensed electrician – otherwise, they could be a fire hazard or worse.
That being said, you can do a few things to control the situation before an electrician gets there.
1. Shut off power to the room – Do this from the circuit breaker. Since the breaker panel is usually labeled with descriptions of each room and their respective switches, this should be a simple task.
2. Buy a new outlet – Make sure to buy a replacement for the same voltage. It helps to take a picture of the outlet to show a store employee if you need assistance.
3. Test the outlet while the power is shut off – Once you are sure the breaker is off, you can use a multimeter to measure whether an additional electric current is coming from the outlet. Your electrician can then remove the outlet and replace it with the new one.
How to Prevent Dangerous Outlet Sparks
To prevent an accident caused by a wet plug, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises installing ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). GFCI outlets automatically shut off electric power in 1/40th of a second when it detects an electrical fault.
Another way to prevent dangerous outlet sparks is to discard frayed cords. If any of the cords in your home or office start to fray, throw them away and purchase replacements.
Trust Malek’s Licensed Electricians
Always remember that electricity can be deadly, especially when wires are crossed or electrical current has come into contact with moisture. If you notice one of your outlets sparking abnormally, don’t connect a plug to the damaged outlet – contact a licensed electrician, like Malek, as soon as possible. If you’re having any electrical issues at your home or business, we can help! We proudly serve Bryan, College Station, and Central Texas with same-day electric service and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Our licensed electricians offer 24/7 electric services to get your home or business back to normal as quickly as possible. Schedule an appointment with Malek Electrical today!
July 16, 2021