Not So Shocking

Electrical outlets in walls and floors can be shock and electrical fire hazards. Where does the danger come from? Find out here -- plus get tips on replacing your outlets.

Electrical outlet

Don't get zapped

There are many reasons your electrical outlets could go from being handy to being scary.

For example, older homes may have receptacles which are damaged or which, otherwise, may have deteriorated over the years. For example, if even part of the outlet's plastic faceplate broke away, the prongs of a plug could bridge from the electrical contacts to the grounded strap, resulting in electrical arcing.

Outlets also deteriorate from repeated use -- everyday stuff, like from plugging-in and unplugging appliances (as is often done in kitchens and bathrooms). As a result, when plugs fit loosely into receptacles, especially the two-prong ungrounded type, they may slip partially or completely out of the receptacle.

>> How to protect your child from electrical hazards

If your outlets have poor internal contacts or loose wire terminals, they may become overheated and emit sparks. Even a receptacle with nothing plugged into it may run hot if it is passing current through to other outlets on the same circuit. To prevent damage to the receptacles, appliances should be switched off before unplugging from a receptacle.

Get safe

Have a qualified electrician replace damaged receptacles or those that feel hot, smoke or sparks, those with loose fitting plugs, or outlets where lamps flicker or won't light.

If your electrical outlets are okay now, keep them that way! Don't unplug anything by pulling the cord at an angle. Doing so may break away the brittle plastic faceplate, leaving live parts of the receptacle exposed.

>> 10 Safety tips for home entertaining

Video: How to replace an electrical outlet

 


More home improvement

This article was adapted from material by the CPSC.


Do it yourself!

>> Get DIY tips, tricks and techniques to make your home better than ever!

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Comments

Comments on "How and why to replace an electrical outlet"

Tom July 11, 2012 | 2:23 PM

Mpffff we do it all the time at our summer house as it gets down into the fall. Modern elrcietc heaters are rated for direct contact with flammables such as paper and cloth, have no exposed heating elements and for the most part include tip-switches, thermostats, fusible links and similar safety devices. That being written, common sense (which isn't) prevails. Look for a ceramic-type heater that is thermostatically controlled, carries the appropriate certifications (UL if US, CE or CA or similar if elsewhere), place it well away from clutter, cloth and clothing, never use an extension-cord with it and rest easy.

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