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What causes electrical outlets to spark?

Electricity keeps our homes safe and comfortable, but it isn’t without its faults. If you’ve ever plugged something into an outlet you’ve likely seen an occasional spark. A sparking outlet could be just that, but with home electrical fires accounting for nearly 500 deaths each year, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Check out these three reasons your electrical outlets may be sparking so you can make sure your home and family are safe.

  1. Short circuits
    A short circuit is an abnormal circuit that a current flows through with little resistance. It results from the contact of components (nodes) where the resistance is normally much greater. Short circuits are a problem because a circuit with low resistance can easily overheat and melt the insulation covering the wires. When an electrical connection is made with the outlet, exposed wires can cause a spark which could result in a fire. A short circuit is very dangerous and needs to be handled by a professional electric company to ensure it’s properly taken care of.
  2. Water
    Not a lot of good can come from mixing water and electricity. If your outlet comes in contact with water, you may encounter a number of electrical problems, including electrical sparks. To prevent your outlet from sparking if it comes in contact with water, have a ground fault circuit interrupter installed. A ground fault circuit interrupter will cut the power to an electrical outlet if water is detected.
  3. Power
    Sometimes you don’t have to worry about sparks. A home’s electricity works by running through all available circuits and then back out to the main electrical grid, all without any interruptions. When we plug something in or turn something on, the electricity rapidly diverts to the outlet in use and causes a quick spark. This kind of spark is comparable to a spark from static electricity and shouldn’t be worried about.  


Electricity can be helpful or it can be a hazard. While sparking can be the byproduct of regular power changes, it can also be a sign of something more serious. If your outlets are coming into contact with water or are short-circuiting you may be at risk for an electrical fire. To keep your home safe, make sure only a trained professional works on your home’s electricity.

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