Why Does My Outlet Spark?

When it comes to your home’s electrical outlets, the last thing you want to experience is a spark. As you know, electrical sparks can be dangerous since they can result in an electrical fire. Additionally, you probably won’t feel very comfortable about plugging in another appliance or device into that outlet again after it’s sparked once before. However, while an outlet spark can be a bad thing, it can be normal as well. The following are the different reasons why your outlet might be sparking:

  • Normal sparks – The way your home is powered is through the electricity that runs through the home’s circuits and back to the main grid. When something is plugged into an outlet, some of that power is diverted to that outlet for use. This quick draw on power can cause a small spark. However, this should only occur once — after the electrons begin flowing freely again, there shouldn’t be additional sparks. You shouldn’t worry about such a spark.
  • Short circuit – A short circuit happens when too much heat builds up within an outlet, thereby causing the insulation around the wires to melt. Once the wires are exposed, the chance of an electrical fire breaking out increases when that outlet is used. Basically, what happens is that the electrons will leap to the wrong area and cause a big spark. You should be able to notice the issue due to the size of the spark as well as the heat generated by the outlet.
  • Old outlets – It’s worth noting that older outlets are more vulnerable to short circuits since outlets tend to wear out over age and connections will loosen.
  • Exposure to water – If the outlet is exposed to water, it can result in a spark and a short. This can be quite dangerous. However, if you have GCFI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets, then you should be safe from a potential electrical fire or from electrocution. This is because a GCFI outlet will identify the short and shut down the circuit immediately to prevent a safety hazard. GCFI outlets are pretty common these days, especially in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Bad outlet repairs – It’s important that if a sparking outlet is inspected and repaired, it’s done so by someone that is experienced and properly trained. Attempting to repair a sparking outlet yourself is generally not a good idea since you can actually make it worse, thereby causing bigger sparks and increasing the risk of an electrical fire.

These are some of the reasons why your outlet may be sparking. Although smaller sparks may be normal if they only happen right when you plug something in, any other type of spark you see should be addressed. If you’re having problems with one of your outlets, then make sure that you have it inspected by a professional electrical contractor.

If you’re in the Houston, TX area and looking to schedule an outlet inspection or repair service, be sure to call us at (832) 702-4263 or visit us online at Aaron’s Electrical Service for a free estimate.