These pictures come from the same service call. Our customer’s initially stated concern was regarding two outlets without power. As shown in the pictures, it’s pretty clear that a problem existed at this particular outlet. The outlet was so badly melted that the wires had fallen out of the outlet. Under normal circumstances, the outlet and circuit breaker should work just fine. However, in this incident there was a substantial failure.
What should have happened?
- The appliance that was plugged into the outlet should have worked with no issues.
- If the circuit that supplies this outlet had too much on it, the circuit breaker should have tripped, protecting the outlet and wire.
Why did this fail in such a dramatic fashion?
Experienced guessing by a professional electrician offers the following:
- The wires weren’t wrapped around the terminals; instead, they were inserted into the back of the outlet. The outlet isn’t designed to have wire of that size inserted which in turn causing a weak connection that increased the heat at the outlet.
- The circuit wasn’t protected by an arc fault breaker, as it was probably installed prior to their requirement. An arc fault breaker should have recognized the weak connection and “tripped.”
- The circuit breaker protecting the outlet and wire may have failed or been reset repetitively, allowing excessive heat to build up.
- The outlet may have been worn out causing a poor connection to the appliance plugged in.
What went right?
- The outlet box protected the rest of the structure. The building didn’t burn down. (Great!)
What can a property owner do to make sure they are protected from a potential catastrophic electrical fire and the associated losses?
- If a breaker trips, don’t reset it without figuring out why. Call a qualified electrician if you aren’t sure why it tripped.
- If an outlet feels sloppy or loose when you plug something in, have it replaced by a qualified electrician.
- If you have a home built prior to 2014 consider having a qualified electrician inspect and potentially install arc fault breakers to protect your wiring, building, property, and lives from an electrical fire.
- Avoid using space heaters on high settings.
If Quality Service can be of assistance in protecting your property’s wiring, or installing new wiring please call us: (970) 834-3003. We’re licensed electricians serving the Northern Colorado areas and their surroundings including Greeley, Windsor, Fort Collins, Loveland, Berthoud, Campion, Timnath, Severance, Eaton, Ault, and Evans.