Sparking A Conversation About Electrical Outlet Safety

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Whether you're a homeowner or a renter, seeing sparks come out of an electrical outlet is never welcome. You begin to wonder if there are smoldering materials in the wall and if it's safe to go to sleep. Sometimes sparking is due to a very normal condition and is not a concern, but it is a hint to ensure you don't take risks with electricity. It's too easy to get careless, which can lead to danger.

Brief Sparks When You Plug Something In

Sometimes, if you look at an electrical outlet as you plug in an item, you get a little spark inside the outlet. This is actually normal, though there are some safety precautions to take. When you plug in an appliance that constantly draws some amount of electricity, such as a laptop charger, there's a brief moment of electrical connection going on -- not just the physical connection of the prongs with the outlet, but also the electrical flow. Once that electrical flow connection is established, the sparks shouldn't happen.

Do be aware that an errant spark can start fires, though. The type of sparks you see when you plug in an appliance should be small and contained within the outlet, but there is always the risk of one getting out. For this reason, even if your electrical wiring is in top shape, keep the area immediately around the outlet clean. Dust it regularly and move all papers and other potential combustible material a few inches away. Don't place furniture so close to the outlet that plugs have to be compressed and crushed to fit into the space.

Don't Ignore Flying Sparks

If you do see sparks fly out, immediately unplug the appliance and move things further away from the outlet. This is a situation where you should call your electrical service provider and double-check what they want you to do because that spark can smolder even though it looks like it's disappeared. Obviously, if you see anything start to smoke, extinguish it and call the fire department instead.

Monitor the area for the next few hours; that might sound like overkill, but you really can't relax too much. For example, in December 1996, an apartment building went up in flames because of one ember from a previous fire that had lodged in a trash chute earlier in the day. Obviously, a spark flying out of an outlet is not necessarily going to be as big as an ember from a fire, but if the spark lands on something before the spark has burned out, you could set a fire in motion.

If you want more information on preventing electrical fires, contact both your local fire department -- call their non-emergency or community outreach lines -- and local electrical contractors, such as Manchester Electric LLC. They are all dedicated to keeping you safe and preventing electrical fires, and they'll be thrilled at how proactive you're being.

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Home Repair Tips for the Novice

When I bought my first home, I was terribly inexperienced when it came to maintaining it. It seemed as if something was always broken. After spending a weekend battling with my oven, I decided that I enough was enough. I started reading everything I could about things related to the home. By the end of my research, I still could not fix my plumbing, but I could look knowledgeable as the plumber explained what was wrong. In an effort to help others avoid the tedious task of reading book after book about plumbing and appliance repairs, I started this blog. Hopefully, this information will save someone from a weekend spent wrestling with their own appliances.