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Serving the Buffalo Area since 1995

Scherer Electric Blog

Why Your Outlets Are Sparking (And Why You Need Them Repaired)


You plug an appliance into a wall socket. An everyday occurrence, nothing important. But as the plug goes into the socket, a spark flashes. When you take the plug out later, you also see sparking. 

Occasional sparking outlets are normal and not a reason to panic. What you’re seeing is a fast draw on electrical power, and the effect isn’t much larger than a static electricity spark. 

When sparks at outlets become regular events, ones you can anticipate each time you plug in a device, you may have a serious electrical problem. Don’t attempt to tamper with the outlets yourself. Stop using the sparking outlets and call our licensed pros for electric repair in Buffalo, NY. We can determine which of these common causes is causing the sparking and then have it safely fixed.

Short circuits 

This is the cause we find most often behind sparking outlets. (Literally behind it!) Outlets have two sides, the “hot” side and the “neutral” side. Electricity forms a circuit as it travels from the hot side, through an appliance, and then to the neutral side. 

However, electricity will always take the shortest path available to it. If the wiring in the socket loses insulation, electricity can arc directly from the hot wire to the neutral wire inside the outlet, creating a short. This is a major electrical fire hazard, since the arcing can ignite the building material around the outlet. Professional electricians can safely replace the outlet and exposed wires. 

Former DIY or botched repair/installation job

Another sadly common problem we find with sparking outlets is that they received a poor repair job in the past—a patchwork quick-fix from either an “do-it-yourselfer” or an unlicensed amateur electrician. We’re not pointing the finger at you: a previous homeowner may have tampered with the outlet, installed the outlet themselves, or hired a non-pro. These types of haphazard “repairs” may work for a while, but often later lead to melting insulation and exposed wires. Like short-circuiting, these bad repair and install jobs are fire hazards, and professionals must put in a new outlet.

Outlet age

Outlets have lifespans, just like most parts of your house. As the outlet wears down with use, it can come loose or lose insulation around its wiring. If you don’t have GFCI or AFCI outlets in your home, we recommend having them installed to replace the old outlets, especially if the old outlets are sparking.

Appliance problem

If only one appliance in your home is causing sparking at the outlets, then the cause may be an old, fraying cord rather than the outlet. Check the cord carefully, and if it looks damaged, throw the appliance out because it could be a fire hazard. If the sparking continues, call electricians to investigate the electrical system.

When in doubt about any part of your electrical system, let professionals handle the service. It’s far better to be safe with this part of your house than to try to ignore something like sparking outlets as a mere nuisance. Your family will sleep better (and safer) at night thanks to the work of our electricians.

Scherer Electric is Western New York’s Favorite Electrician! Trust us for any electrical repairs your home needs.

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