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Tips & Tricks Blog


What Does It Mean When an Electrical Outlet is Warm?

01/18/17

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And What Should I Do About It?

We're all accustomed to our modern conveniences, and most homes are packed with all manner of electronic devices plugged into various outlets and power strips. But because we’re used to power always being present, we often neglect to perform routine safety checks around the home.

And one of the most important ones for ensuring the security of your home’s electrical systems is touching your outlets or switches to feel if they are warm. Because if they are, you could be facing some problems.

Diagnosing Your Warm Outlet

To be clear, a warm outlet doesn’t mean you have an pending electrical failure or fire hazard. It does mean that something is happening behind the wall, and you should pay attention to it. There are six basic reasons why a switch or outlet is warm – and they build upon each other in terms of intensity and level of concern:

1. The “Wall Wart” is Working
Having a charger, modem, or basic electronic device plugged in can make an outlet feel warm. Simply remove the plug from the outlet, and then wait a couple of hours – if it hasn’t cooled down, either replace the charger or investigate the outlet further.

2. Too Much Demand at the Wall
You might just have too many plugs in one outlet, whether you’re using a power strip or outlet multiplier. They may be convenient, but you have to watch how much energy they’re drawing. You just might need to unplug a few items and place them somewhere else.

3. Damaged Wiring
Loose terminals or wiring inside an outlet or switch will generate extra heat simply because of the flow of electricity. Such issues should be corrected immediately.

4. Broken Infrastructure
If the visible parts of a switch or plug are broken, replace the entire thing immediately and use the opportunity to investigate the larger system.

5. Too Much Demand on the Circuit
Depending upon how your electrical wiring was designed, you might have an excessive amount of current flowing to a switch or outlet. You probably need to rewire the circuits so all the plugs and switches in a given room aren’t on the same circuit, and that’s not a DIY home improvement project. Call in a professional electrician for help.

6. Incorrectly Sized Fuse or Breaker
Such an issue will typically occur in an older home that hasn’t experienced any recent code updates. Basically, older electrical systems simply aren’t rated to handle the demand load of modern electronics, so if your outlets and switches are warm, it might be time to upgrade your electrical wiring across the board.

What should I do next?

When you find a warm outlet or switch, do everything possible to minimize any risk of an electrical fire. If limiting the number of items plugged into the outlet doesn't eliminate the trouble, or if you find damage or loose wiring, it's safest to call in a licensed electrician to assess and correct the issues. Your local Mister Sparky® can help with any electrical problem, big or small.



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