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Sparking outlet? Common electrical wiring issues at home

Every time you switch off that toaster oven or plug in your smartphone charger, you notice a slight spark. But, since it doesn’t seem to be getting any worse, you continue to ignore it. Should you be worried?

Maybe.

Electrical wiring
Sometimes, if the electrical switch or device that’s being plugged in is already switched on, that slight spark is just an indication of the complete electrical circuit between device and power supply. The best thing to do here is to ensure that the electrical switch and device is in the ‘off’ position before you plug in the device and therefore complete the circuit.

But perhaps you still notice that spark? An electrical malfunction is one of the leading causes of electrical fires in the home.

Is it just the one socket emitting a spark? Or perhaps it’s the device? Does the device (like a phone charger or hair straightener) spark when you plug them in other sockets? Without knowing the answers to these questions, you won’t know whether the fault lies in a faulty outlet, faulty house wiring, or a faulty device.

Our electricians in Melbourne can perform crucial testing in your home to determine the cause of the problem.

What are the possible causes of sparking in electrical outlets?

Truth be told, the short but frustrating answer is that there are a ton of reasons why you may experience sparking or smoking electrical outlets. Below, we outline some of the most common reasons.

And while we think it’s great you’re educating yourself, the most important rule you must follow is to engage a licensed electrician for any kind of electrical work in your home.

No matter how small you think the problem is, or how simple the solution, it’s imperative you rely on a qualified professional to accurately diagnose the issue at hand and provide a safe and reliable solution.

1) Short circuits: do you smell burning from your sockets?

Short circuiting can be a serious issue which is why it’s important to check your electrical outlets regularly and make sure they’re wired properly.

When you have a short circuit, electricity flows in an unintended path, causing sparks or shocks and potentially starting fires. Short-circuiting can occur as a result of overloaded circuits or faulty wiring, with weather conditions such as wet surfaces also increasing the likelihood of it occurring (more on that one below).

It often occurs when too many appliances are being used at the same time or if an appliance containing several parts has been damaged and exposed. A short circuit should always be taken seriously and a qualified electrician should be contacted in order to resolve the problem safely.

2) Water Exposure

As we all know, water and electricity do not mix.

Riskier in wet rooms like the kitchen or bathroom, water damage or water exposure can lead to sparking power sockets. If water gets into a socket, you probably won’t know what to do. And that’s the most obvious signal to contact an electrician who will inspect, repair, or replace the damaged socket.

When water meets exposed wires (as explained above), sparks and fire may ensue.

3) Faulty house electrical wiring can simply be caused by age

As with almost every other element in the world, electrical wiring and sockets are not exempt from the perils of age. Outlets will wear out, wires will fray, and as a result, sparks might become more prevalent. If an aged wiring system is a concern in your home, perhaps it’s time for some new wiring.

 4) Damaged wiring

More specifically, damage to the coating or protective layer that covers a wire.

Overheating can cause the wire ‘jackets’ or ‘insulators’ (the coloured coverings of wires that do not conduct electricity) to melt and disintegrate. Now, electricity is travelling along exposed wires, and that can lead to an increased risk of electrical fire.

Other signs you should also keep an eye out for

 Warm sockets

In addition to visible sparks, outlets that are warm to the touch may also indicate a problem deep within your electrical system. It could be an overloaded circuit or have a short-circuit somewhere in the wiring.

If you feel a socket that’s warmer than usual, make sure to get it checked out right away to ensure a safe and properly functioning electrical system.

Humming or buzzing sounds

Hearing humming or buzzing coming from a power socket can be a sign of a larger electrical problem lurking in your system.

This sound indicates that the circuit supplying power to the outlet is being overloaded, either because it has too many appliances connected or because something else like a faulty switch or wire is causing an increase in current flow.

Paying attention to these sounds and having them checked out by a qualified electrician should be done right away, as this could indicate a major interruption in the electrical wiring of your home, leading to serious safety issues such as electrocution or even fire hazards.

Can an outlet spark cause a fire?

An outlet spark can indeed be a contributing factor in a fire. Outlet sparks can occur when outlets are overused, or as mentioned above, due to ageing and old wiring.

If not properly addressed, outlet sparks can catch onto nearby combustible materials and be the cause for a dangerous fire.

It is always important to be aware of the condition of outlets in your home, take note if they are frequently overheating, and contact an electrician immediately if you detect any signs of sparking or additional abnormalities. Taking these preventative measures can reduce the risk of fire in your home.

Should I worry if my outlet sparks?

Sparking outlets are a potential indication of poor wiring, and should not be taken lightly. It is best to have an electrician come out and investigate the area with a voltage detector to make sure there are no live wires exposed that could be hazardous.

Taking precautionary measures such as avoiding use of the outlet, plugging in only one appliance at a time, or avoiding undue stress on the wires can also help reduce chances of damage.

In some cases, sparking may simply be caused by power surges or loose connections. However, it is always best to err on the side of caution and have a professional look into it before further use.

If it is happening frequently, we urge you to get in touch with your local electrician.

There are two main instances we frequently encounter:

  • Noticed a spark on a single outlet only? Then it sounds like an isolated issue, either with a certain circuit or the outlet in particular
  • Are outlets all around your home sparking? Sounds like there’s a bigger problem within your home’s electrical system. Now’s the time to get it inspected!

Dangers of DIY electrical work like wiring

The modern handy man (or woman) is something to be admired. What once may have begun as a laborious to-do task has now transformed into a hobby, with weekends filled with all types of DIY projects around the home, from arts and crafts to tinkering around in the garage with a vintage car.

No matter what the task, the general consensus of enjoyable and beneficial DIY is that you remain within your skillset to avoid frustration, danger, and wasted time and money.

However, the type of DIY job you should never attempt to do yourself is electrical work. Not only is it dangerous, but also there are stringent regulations in Victoria when it comes to electricity.

DIY electrical work does not provide assurance, protection, confidence, or safety. And aren’t these the things you need in your home?

Electrician Melbourne wiring

Choose the licensed pros

Further, when a licensed and qualified electrician like Briggs Electrical eventually does come over to fix your errors, the mistakes you’ve made might even end up costing you more than if you’d called us in the first place.

Without the proper tools and know-how, messing around with electricity in your own home can have disastrous effects. Additionally, your insurance can be voided for any damage that is a result of unlicensed electrical work.

If faulty electrical wiring and sparking sockets are a concern in your home, choose a qualified and licensed local electrician in Melbourne to inspect, repair, and replace your power outlets. Call Briggs today!

We also offer a true emergency service, so no matter the time of day, our electricians are here to help with all your electrical emergencies. Call 1300 300 222 anytime or, for less urgent requests, lodge a job online.