What causes an electrical outlet to burn?

What causes an electrical outlet to burn?

It is easy to ignore your flickering light, and the circuit breakers that trip more frequently than usual.

But when you have a burning smell from inside your house, and you are sure you didn’t leave the toaster on, that would be difficult to ignore, you then check and discover it is from an electrical outlet.

Apart from the unpleasant smells of burning plastics, a burning electrical outlet is risky and dangerous to your household as it could result to further damages, so the first thing to do is to shut off the power to the burned outlet from the circuit breaker.

You begin to wonder, what causes an electrical outlet to burn?

You might have even had to change it once or twice, but the same thing happens. Until you acquire some knowledge of them, you might have to change your electrical outlet a few more times.

Well, some factors cause your outlet to burn, and learning about it would keep your home safe.

Possible Factors

Loose Connections

One of the most common causes for a burnt outlet is loose connections.

Loose connections amidst the hot terminal screws of the outlets would create a gap between two conductors and cause power to escape which produce sparks that would result in overheating. The process of overheating is electrically termed arcing.

Since the makeup of the electrical outlet involves these metal parts and some insulating materials like plastics that can quickly burn if a loose clamp doesn’t securely hold the plugs enough. So, how your outlets get burned should already being to add up.

If your outlets are appropriately connected and are in excellent conditions, you wouldn’t be having any problem related to arcing. So to avoid this issue, you should ensure all the metallic parts are tightly fitted together, and your connections are tight enough to enable the free flow of electricity.

Worn out wires

Apart from loose connections, another common cause of burning outlets is worn out wires.

Wires can get worn out after some years or even months if usage, and when they do, it could result in some wrong contacts in the outlet. The sizes of these wires are reduced and can break the flow of electricity which would further produce sparks and arcing.

We also have to note that not only worn out wires in your outlet could be the source of this fault but also incorrect sizes of wire cables connected, as wires are built to conduct electricity better when they are together with other wires that match them.

It would be improper to imagine that a professional electrician would connect two wrongly sized wires, but you or maybe your previous house owners, with less knowledge of electricity, might have had a prior wiring problem.

worn out wires

A DIY project could have been carried out on your outlet already, and some wires could have been replaced with some other available ones with different diameters.

If you have not known, resistants produce heat, so when the larger sizes of wires are connected to another wire of a smaller diameter, it will increase resistance to the flow of electricity.

The plastic of your outlets might have been burning because the wire with a smaller diameter has been carrying too much current which has been causing too much heat for the outlet’s insulators.

Overloaded Circuits

Over-demanding your outlet, where you put too many appliances in your outlet could be your way of unknowingly damaging them.

When you require so much from these circuits, it results in overheating, which could be the reason why you have been continuously changing your outlets.

overloaded circuit

There is a specific amount of load you can simply put on your outlet that wouldn’t cause damage, but if your situation is that you have limited electrical outlets and numerous appliances.

It is not impossible to get them all connected at once, all you have to do is to get an electrician who could help you create more electrical outlets. It’s as simple as that!


At least one of the reasons briefed above are the cause of your burned electrical outlet; they might also be the reason for those pop sounds, the heat, the discoloration of your outlet covers or the tingling sensation when an electrical device is plugged in the outlet.

Especially if you have diagnosed the problem, and the cause is a wiring problem, you should check the other outlets in your house for other damages, as electrical faults from one point could affect others.

So while experiencing any of these, mainly when your burned outlet has resulted in frayed or damaged wired, contact an electrician to make the appropriate repairs.

Even if the burned outlet still works, you can save yourself from a lot of future damages or spending by stopping the use of this outlet, and contact an electrician instead or starting up a DIY project and making it worse.

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