Outlet Sparking: Staying Connected & Safe

Did you know that there’s a spark every time an electrical outlet connection is made? You may not always see that little flash of light, but it’s there—both when plugging in and pulling a plug out. Creating that spark might catch you by surprise, but it’s totally normal. While most sparks are typically no cause for concern, there are harmful sparks out there too. Here, we’ll explore how to detect those abnormal sparks and the reasons your outlet might be creating them.

So, What Does Normal Look Like?

When it comes to electrical, think small and blue. Small sparks are normal, big sparks that leap out of the socket are not. And sparks should be blue—only blue. Yellow, or any other color sparks, should not occur. Normal sparks will come and go very fast. They shouldn’t hang around or take time to fizzle out. Anything that smells like melted plastic or smoke is not okay and deserves a call to the electrician.

I'm Seeing Sparks. What's Up?

Like we said, sparks happen all the time, whether you see them or not. But here are some different causes you’ll want to be aware of—and a few that may demand professional attention.

Rapid Draw

This is basically another way of saying that pulling your plug out quickly can cause a brief spark. Electricity runs very hot and very fast along available circuits, and when you withdraw your plug from its socket, you see a little bit of that flow. These sparks are normal—as harmless as a touch of static electricity. And once electrons are freely flowing, there’s no longer a reason for a spark to form.

Short Circuit

Inside an outlet, you’ll find hot, neutral and ground wires. If wires become loose, those hot wires may come into contact with the neutral or ground ones. When that happens, it creates a short circuit and the extra current can cause excessive heat. If you’re thinking that excessive heat in your outlet is reason for serious concern, you’re right. It can melt the insulation that covers wires and damage internal components. The electricity running through those exposed wires could even result in a fire. If you suspect a short circuit, call a professional electrician.

Age

Everything gets old, including outlets. Connections may loosen with repeated use and outlets gradually wear out over time. Old, frayed cords can also cause sparking and arcs of electricity from the hot wire to the nearest ground—which may potentially be the person holding the cord. Aging electrical is a very big deal, so be sure to replace any components past their prime, inside or out.

Negligent Repairs

Electrical is definitely one area that demands the help of a professional. Don’t ever take short cuts when it comes to electrical repairs, or allow an electrical system to be worked on by an unqualified individual. If the person “fixing” the problem isn’t up to the task, you may be creating more hazards than you started with.

If There's A Problem, Call a Pro.

As mentioned earlier, issues like yellow sparks, sparks lasting longer than it takes to insert a plug, the presence of smoke, or a burning odor are all warning signs. You can’t put a price on safety. Or peace of mind. So, if you have any concerns when it comes to electrical, it’s probably a good idea to simply call in an electrician to evaluate the situation for themselves. 

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