A sparking electrical outlet can easily cause an electrical fire or damage to electrical appliances. Knowing why these sparks may happen puts you in a better position to stop them. Here are five common causes of sparking at electrical outlets:
Water is a good conductor of electricity, which means it can create an electrical short circuit in your wiring. A short circuit occurs when parts of a circuit that shouldn't be ordinarily connected get connected. The short circuit creates an overload of electrical current, which ionizes the nearby air and causes a spark.
One of the reasons electrical wires are insulated is to prevent them from coming into contact with each other and creating a short circuit. Therefore, exposed wires can also lead to a short circuit and cause electrical sparks. This may happen with old wires whose insulating covers are worn.
Electrical wires may also be exposed if you overload them. Forcing a wire to carry more current than it was designed for raises its resistance, which may heat up the wire and melts its insulation. A classic example is using an extension cable for multiple appliances whose total current rating exceeds the maximum rating of the cable.
Electrical sparks may also occur if an untrained person tries to service an electrical appliance, circuit or wiring, and fails. This may be the case with DIY electricians who don't have the necessary skills for the repairs. For example, when installing an electrical outlet, you may fail to insulate the ends of the wires properly, which may create undesirable electrical connections.
Loose Wires or Screws
Electrical wires or terminal screws may get loose with time as they age. The constant expansion and contraction of the materials due to electrical heat or weather changes contribute to the loosening. Loose connections create sparks when the wires or terminal screws move, for example when plugging or unplugging an appliance. The movement creates a tiny space between the contacts and the jump of the current across the gap that creates the spark.
As you can see, most of the above issues can be traced back to accidents, poor workmanship, and inferior materials. This means you can prevent most sparking issues by hiring a professional electrical contractor, such as those at B Electric Inc, who will use the right materials for your wiring. That is the same professional you should consult if an accident leads to sparking in your home's electrical system.