Why Is My Outlet Burnt? Learn What to Do About a Burned Electrical Outlet!

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A client recently called Integrity Electrical Services about a burnt outlet and the client explained: “Suddenly, my window air conditioner turns off. The electrical outlet smells like it’s burning. I look closer and see a burned outlet where the air conditioner was plugged in.

Smoke begins to fill the room, coming from the electrical outlet. The entire room reeks of a strong burnt outlet smell. Foolishly, I attempted to plug back in my air conditioner only to get an electrical shock that stunned my entire body. 

Now what?”, asks the client. 

Burned Outlet - What to do?

You may have recently had a similar situation occur to you, resulting in one of your outlets getting burned. And now you’re wondering; Why did my wall outlet burn? Should I be worried? Do I need to call an electrician?

How to fix a burnt electrical outlet?

Call our 24-hour emergency electrician service hotline at (978) 753-8350. We need to first understand more about your situation. As you’re about to learn, burned outlets are a common problem to have but the cause and solution vary case by case. 

Is it dangerous to have a burned outlet?

Smoke coming from an outlet or burn marks on an outlet is a clear warning sign of danger.

Let us explain why.

Burnt Outlet Cause

Your electrical system is experiencing an overload, so the question is – what’s the cause?

It could be something simple; outlets can get overburdened with too many appliances plugged in at once, and that includes loading up power strips. 

What causes an electrical outlet to burn out?

6-outlet power adapters won’t guarantee that you can safely plug in six devices and not have any type of power outage.

A better solution would be to hire a licensed electrician to install more outlets. In many cases, the fix is easy, but it requires a trustworthy and experienced electrician to provide you with honest advice. 

Should I reset my breaker after experiencing a burnt outlet?

Don’t just reset your breaker and consider the problem fixed, it’s important to contact a licensed electrician to help you address whatever the underlying issue is. And there is definitely an underlying problem if you’ve experienced a burnt outlet. 

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What causes an electrical outlet to burn? 

The burned outlet and smoke mean that your outlet is overheating, often due to some type of overload. That’s common sense, you don’t need a licensed electrician to tell you that.

When an electrical overload occurs, the wiring will become hot and possibly ignite or melt anything that comes into contact, including the plastic outlet. You may even experience an outage.

But here’s the thing; this electrical overload that caused the burnt outlet could be due to several serious factors.

Let’s take a closer look. 

Loose wires, also known as “Arcing.”

According to Matthew Steger, an electrical engineer; “Most older receptacles and switches were designed for use with copper wiring only. This phenomenon may lead to arcing; some house fires have been directly linked to solid conductor aluminum wiring.” 

Electrical wiring needs to be installed in a solid channel for the electricity to flow through and void of free-flowing energy.

Old and worn wires are more likely to break and lead to arcing. Older homes especially will experience outlets that burn out and even result in fire, due to outdated electrical wiring.

Think back in the past, did you hire an unlicensed electrical contractor that may not have properly installed your home’s electrical wiring? And now, an electrical outlet burns out that’s in the same area of your home that this electrical contractor wired?

Source: Win Home Inspection, https://elizabethtown.wini.com/resources/tech-articles/arcing/

Corrosion can cause an outlet to burn.

Sometimes corrosion builds up inside the outlet.

This corrosion can cause the outlet to overheat and burn. Outlets can also overheat because of the accumulation of dust and dirt.

How do I clean a burnt wall socket?

First, shut off your power.

Second, verify that the power is off using a verified meter.

Third, remove the cover.

And finally, replace the plug and cover.

However, do not attempt to fix and replace a burnt outlet if you don’t clearly understand electrical outlets. Burned outlets can result in electrocution. And electrocution can stop your heart. This is not a joke!

A failed breaker can also cause a fire. 

Any time there is a burning smell coming from your electrical panel box, you could have a bad breaker and it needs to get replaced. A failed breaker may heat up, melt and cause a fire. Similarly, if you have a fuse box, fuses can also burn out and melt.

Find a reputable local and licensed electrician that has positive online reviews and get them over to your house to address the situation as soon as possible.

Whether it’s a burnt outlet or a burning smell coming from your electrical panel, get the situation looked at immediately.

Both matters are due to some type of underlying or hazardous issue that you need to know about. You’ll either need to get the faulty malfunctioning equipment replaced, an electrical panel upgrade to increase the electrical capacity that your home is equipped to handle, or at least understand what you’re doing wrong that’s causing the problem so that you can stop doing it.

Ungrounded and overloaded circuits can result in burned electrical outlets

Often, window AC units and space heaters can result in circuits getting overloaded. Why is that? These electronic devices can trip the breaker because they pull in more amps than the breaker is rated forThese electrical devices require a dedicated and grounded circuit. 

For example, if you have a 20-amp breaker and the AC pulls 30 amps, the breaker trips. On the outside, you may notice a burning smell, or you may visibly notice a burnt electrical outlet, or even worse the outlet catches fire. Rule of thumb: Make sure the electronic device (e.g., space heater or window air conditioner) is rated at around half the power than the rating of your outlets. 

What NOT to do after an outlet burns

The worst thing you can do after burning an outlet is ignore the underlying issue, reset the breaker, and continue attempting to use the device.

You need to figure out what caused the problem (i.e., corrosion, dirt, loose wires or arcing, or perhaps a much larger problem at hand.) Replacing the burnt socket is the easy and cheap part, as these sockets only cost a few dollars at Home Depot. 

Is a burnt outlet considered an emergency?

Here at Integrity Electrical Services, our Massachusetts and local Andover electricians are prepared to help you within 24 hours through our emergency electrician service if you have a burned outlet. We do consider this situation to be an emergency because it can potentially turn into a fire.

This emergency service is designed to prioritize helping anyone that has an urgent situation needing to be addressed.

What is considered an urgent situation? An urgent situation is one that is considered to be a safety hazard, potentially resulting in fire. Emergency electricians often get sent out to help consumers that call about a burned outlet. Smoke and fire-stained outlets should not be ignored because we’ve seen these situations turn into much more serious matters.

Outlets getting burned is a very common problem to have, but the underlying issue often varies and needs to get addressed case by case.

What could cause a circuit to overload? 

According to Joe O’Connell, the owner of Integrity Electrical Services, “Overloading a circuit could be due to the fact that a circuit is not a dedicated circuit. Having ungrounded outlets can also increase the chance of getting a burned outlet.”

According to Kolb Electric, “Without the ground present, errors that occur with your outlet may cause arcing, sparks and electrical charge that can spawn fire along walls, or on nearby furniture and fixtures.”

Source: Kolb Electric, https://kolbelectric.com/blog/how-safe-is-an-ungrounded-outlet

How to avoid overloading your circuit and burning the outlet? 

A circuit overload is most commonly caused by having too many appliances plugged in one circuit. Again as mentioned above, a simple solution is to have an electrician install more outlets allowing you to plug in more devices, rather than overloading power cords.

Using multiple heavy-load-drawing appliances (like a dishwasher, hairdryer, air conditioner, and washing machine all at once) on the same circuit can lead to overloading. 

A licensed electrician can analyze your home’s electrical wiring and capacity. In some situations, you may need to upgrade your electrical panel to 200-400 amps.

When to call an electrician

Call an electrician if any of the following occur:

  • You smell burning coming from the panel or smoke from an outlet, and obviously if an outlet catches fire
  • If you hear buzzing from an outlet or panel, also a fire hazard
  • One of your electrical outlets has been blackened and melted by heat

What to do if you come across a burned or smokey outlet 

  1. Shut the circuit breaker down and turn the power off.
  2. Call an emergency electrician service. Call our 24-hour electrical service near me hotline for immediate assistance at (978) 753-8350. 
  3. Replace the burned outlet or device, or if necessary get an electrical panel upgrade, or in extreme cases consider a complete house rewiring.
  4. Replace outlets that have smoke and burn marks on them. A licensed electrical contractor should also check the burned outlet for proper wiring connections. Try this electrician cost calculator to get an idea of the cost of each electrical service.