What Causes an Outlet to Spark? Find Out!

Posted on: August 12, 2015

The electricity running through your home from the main power grid is fast and hot. In the U.S., supply lines carry electricity at 115 to 240 volts. When you plug something in, you’re dipping into this current to power your appliances and lights, making the potential for electrical outlet sparking very real.

Sparks are no laughing matter. If they’re large and hot enough, they can even start a house fire. So when you notice electrical outlet sparking in your home, it’s important to take a closer look. While some sparks may be part of normal operation, other times they can be a sign of a severe issue. It all depends on the cause of the sparking.

Common Causes of Sparking Outlets

  • Normal sparking: When power is suddenly diverted from the normal current flow to an appliance, you may sometimes see a small, brief spark between the socket and the prongs as you plug something in. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.
  • Short circuits: If an outlet becomes overheated, the insulation can melt and expose the wiring. When you plug something in, electrons jump from the exposed wire, making a large, noticeable spark that may be enough to start a fire.
  • Water: A splash of water on an outlet will cause it to spark and short out. That’s why ground fault circuit interrupters (GCFI) are installed in bathrooms. These special outlets shut off the circuit when exposed to water to prevent sparking.
  • Old outlets and cords: As connections loosen behind old outlets, electrical outlet sparking becomes more likely. Old appliances and extension cords can also cause outlets to spark.
  • Overheated wiring: Power strips are useful for getting more out of a single outlet, but if you attempt to plug too many appliances or lights into the same outlet, the wiring could overheat. This is especially true with old, flimsy extension cords used to power too many strings of holiday lights.
  • Shoddy repair work: If you attempt to fix an outlet or wire an appliance yourself, it’s important to know exactly what you’re doing. Otherwise, poor work could result in dangerous electrical outlet sparking.

Hoffman Electrical Repairs & Replaces Sparking Electrical Outlets in Tampa & St. Petersburg

If an outlet occasionally creates a small, brief spark, you have nothing to worry about. However, if a spark scares you every time you plug something in, you could have a problem. Don’t wait for it to escalate into a house fire! Call Hoffman Electrical at 866-238-3243866-238-3243 to repair or replace your sparking electrical outlets in the Tampa or St. Petersburg, Florida area.