Electrical outlets are present in every room, and they usually seem harmless. However, damaged outlets and receptacles can be dangerous to your family and your home. Learn about the hidden dangers associated with cracked and damaged outlets and how to find them:
Common Issues with Outlets and Receptacles
Cracked Receptacle Faces
It is very common for the plastic around the outlet to crack over time. Eventually, the plastic can fall off, exposing you to the metal contact points on the inside of the outlet. Even if the face is just cracked, the homeowner can be exposed to loose terminals and slots for the cords that plug into them. If you see an outlet in this condition, do not use it until it’s replaced.
Cracked or Missing Cover Plates
The outlet cover plate is an important safety device because it covers everything in the electrical box, including the terminals. This can give you a powerful shock. If you have children, it can be a tragedy waiting to happen. When a cover plate is cracked, the outlet can shift around resulting in loose wires and wear on the outlet.
Damaged Outlet Body
Although you can’t see it from the front, if the solid plastic body or backplate of the outlet is cracked then the wiring and inner contacts can be exposed within the electrical box and cause a short circuit. If the box is metal, the exposed hot wire can short out on the box and trip the circuit breaker, shutting the circuit off – but usually not until sparks have flown and there is a loud “pop.” Loose wires in any type of box or anywhere in an electrical circuit presents a serious fire risk.
Loose Receptacle Slots
Whether it’s due to cracks in the receptacle face or just normal wear and tear, receptacles that don’t securely hold the prongs on electrical cord plugs are another common problem. Basically what this means is that the electrical contacts have lost their tension, resulting in not being able to hold the prongs on the plug. Prongs that are loose in the slots can cause sparking (yikes!), which can potentially cause a fire.
Fishy or Urine-Like Smell
The plastics and heat-resistant chemicals used in outlets, circuit breakers, or wiring insulation may emit a fishy or urine-like smell. The odor can be carried throughout the house by the HVAC system, and it may intensify or fade with changing temperatures and circuit usage.
Damaged Outlets and Receptacles Should be Replaced
When it comes to a bad outlet or receptacle, do not hesitate to have it replaced by an experienced electrician! You may also have a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) receptacle that needs replacing, and doing this isn’t as easy as replacing a standard receptacle.
In some instances, it can be common to replace a receptacle even if it’s in good condition, such as if it no longer meets code requirements. Recent codes have required that GFCI outlets be used in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Today’s building codes also require tamper-resistant receptacles for any outlet positioned within 18 inches of the floor. This is a safety measure that prevents children from inserting objects into the slots of a receptacle. Responsible parents may well choose to replace standard receptacles with tamper-resistant receptacles.
If you are still asking yourself, “Do I really need to upgrade my outlets?” – the answer is yes! If you have a power strip or extension cord powering numerous items inside your house, then you should contact Farryn Electric. If you don’t see a test and reset button on the outlets in your kitchen and bathrooms, then this issue needs to be fixed immediately with the installation of a GFCI outlet.
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