Electrical outlets typically start to show signs of wear after about 15 or 20 years. Your plugs may need attention sooner, depending on how often they’re used and the types of devices or appliances they usually power. Ignoring faulty electrical outlets may increase your risk of fire, shocks, or burns. Here’s what to look for to know when it’s time to call an electrician and have your outlets replaced.
Broken Faceplates and Loosened Slots
When a faceplate (cover) on an outlet is cracked or otherwise broken, the wiring and metal parts behind it are exposed. This means an increased risk of accidentally touching those parts or getting water into the outlet. Additionally, if your plugs keep falling out, it’s likely because of loosened slots caused by the constant motion of plugging and unplugging over the years.
Sparks When Appliances Are Plugged In
Warmth coming from plastic faceplates is a sign that an outlet isn’t properly handling the current that goes through it anymore. A more obvious sign of a problem with your outlet is sparks that come out of the outlet when an appliance is plugged in or used.
You Have Ungrounded Outlets
Outlets with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) provide protection by automatically shutting off when an unintended flow of current is detected. Homes with a combination of two-prong and three-prong plugs may be grounded, but not necessarily. In some cases, three-prong plugs may have been popped onto ungrounded circuits. An electrician can determine if the outlets in your home are grounded.
Paying attention to these signs that your outlets may need replacing could help you avoid surprise electrical problems. Also consider contacting an electrician if your outlets aren’t tamper-resistant. Under National Electrical Code (NEC), these outlets are now mandatory with new construction and they must be installed when home renovations are done.
How (and Why) to Replace Your Outlets with GFCI Outlets, howtogeek.com
NFPA 70: National Electrical Code®, nfpa.org