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Why Does My Electrical Outlet Feel Hot?

Have you noticed that an outlet in your bathroom has been feeling warm after unplugging your electronics? Does it remain warm even when there is nothing plugged into it? An electrical outlet that is warm or hot to the touch is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. We’ve included some ways to figure out if your outlet should be replaced, and how to fix it if you do!

Ask Yourself:

What’s plugged into the outlet?

Products like phone chargers, printers, modems, video cameras, MP3 players, cordless drills and some small appliances all use wall warts (transformers) to convert AC to DC power. The process of changing the voltage inputs to different outputs causes the outlet to be warm. Unplug the product, wait about an hour and check the outlet again. The outlet should be normal room temperature. If you find one that is too hot to touch, it should be replaced. Also, any outlets that appear worn, broken, cracked or chipped are all conditions that can compromise the function and can cause the outlet to be warm.

Are too many things plugged into it?

Any devices plugged into an outlet should not exceed the circuits demand, and no single device should take more than 80% of the rated circuit. For example, when you plug two blow dryers into the same outlet or on the same circuit, that circuit should trip. In older homes it’s common to find extension cords, outlet multipliers, extenders, and un-fused power strips. The more of these items present in your home the greater the chance of overloading an outlet.

 

Is there excessive demand on the outlet?

Standard home electrical circuits are wired in a series where the circuit wires loop through the electrical box, terminate on the outlet, then continue on to the next outlet. Meaning the electrical current being used by one outlet may pass through another receptacle on the same circuit. If the current is excessive, the outlet may be warm without anything attached at the receptacle. It’s normal to have at least one outlet in the same room to be on a different circuit, this allows you to even the load requirement into multiple electrical circuits.

Is there an oversized fuse or breaker?

Older homes tend to have fewer outlets per room and circuits that are not designed to support our copious amounts of electronics. The circuit breaker should be the lowest rated item, if your circuit was installed correctly with the wire in the wall being the highest. If there was an issue the circuit breaker would fail first. If a breaker was replaced with a higher ampacity breaker, the circuit can potentially become a fire risk by allowing higher level currents to pass through the circuit than it was designed for. A warm circuit is a warning sign in this case that the wiring may be operating above its rating.

 

So, how do I fix it?

  1. Identify all the receptacles associated with the warm outlet. Turn off the circuit breaker and use an outlet tester on all light fixtures and outlets to find potentially dead outlets.
  2. If any of the outlets have extension cords, powerstrips, or outlet multipliers make sure they are compatible. If you have an extension cord, ensure it is rated for its use. Replace any unfused power strips with fused power strips. Don’t chain together power strips or extensions cords. Make sure to spread out plug load between outlets.
  3. Test and identify any wiring issues that may need to be resolved.
  4. There is a good chance the outlets are internally bad, the connections could be deteriorated or loose. Turn the electricity off and check the wiring of all your suspected outlets. Check the tightness of screw terminations, cut, or crimped wires.
  5. Use a digital thermometer gun with a laser site. This can be used to scan the electrical outlet, specifically the wires to identify a raise in temperature to identify the problem.
  6. If you are not confident in what you are doing or still have problems, consider hiring an electrician. Electrical work is dangerous and should not be made into a guessing game.

Electrical fires are an extreme danger to you and your family. If you feel like one of your outlets is too hot, check this list for tips, and if you still feel it should be replaced, call JP Electric to diagnose and fix the problem at (801) 386-7331 or visit us online.