Electrical Receptacle Buzzes or Sparks: 4 Causes

sparking electrical outlet

If you have an electrical receptacle in an outlet that is making buzzing noises or is sparking, you should correct the problem immediately in order to prevent the possibility of an electrical fire. Although correcting these type of problems in receptacles is a rather easy process, it is one that should not be delayed. With that in mind, this article will address some of the primary causes of buzzing, arcing and sparking in an outlet receptacle and how to identify the problem.

Worn Out Contact Blades

If when you plug in a device, the receptacle buzzes or sparks, this is a good indication that there is a problem with the contact blades inside the receptacle. Over time the blades that are used to hold the prongs of the electrical plug can become worn or loose.

If this occurs, go to the main circuit breaker box and switch off the circuit that powers the outlet. You can then test to make sure it's not the device itself by trying to plug another device into the receptacle. If the plug is not tight, or if it falls out again, then the problem is with the receptacle and not the electronic device.

There are a few types of outlet receptacles that allow you to tighten the contact blades inside the receptacle assembly. However, in most cases, it is much easier, and safer, to simply replace the receptacle. A quality receptacle can be purchased at your local home improvement store for under $10.

Loose Wires or Screw Terminals on the Receptacle

Another common cause of arcing or sparking in receptacles is a loose wire at the terminal screw connector on either side of the receptacle. Sometimes, terminal screws do become loose and the wire that is connected to the terminal can be moved just slightly when attempting to plug in a device. When this occurs, the wire can shift inside the terminal and create an arc or spark.

You can check for this by simply removing the receptacle from the wall and checking the screw terminal to make sure that it is tight. If it is loose, tighten it down with a screwdriver. If the wire appears to be scorched or damaged, you should strip the wire back and then reinstall it. In some cases, the arcing or sparking can damage the receptacle, so consider a replacement.

Bad Wiring Connections

Sometimes, arcing or buzzing in a receptacle has nothing to do with the receptacle itself. Rather, there could be a bad connection in the wiring inside the outlet box. Remove the receptacle and check the connections inside the outlet box.

If the wires are connected with wire caps or electrical tape, ensure that the connections are tight and that the wires are properly insulated. If they're not, use new wire caps or electrical tape to correct the problem.

Frayed or Damaged Wiring

While you're inside the electrical outlet box, always inspect the wiring that leads into the receptacle. Sometimes, wiring may become frayed or damaged and need to be replaced. If you do find a section of damaged wiring, you can simply cut it out with a pair of wire cutters and splice in a shorter piece and attach it with wire caps.