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Old 02-20-2013, 01:27 PM   #1
150ron OP
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Question Home electric outlet went bad, why? (pic inside)




Plug is only about 4+ years old, worked fine until recently, whenever something was plugged into it, it would make a fizzle sound and the device that was plugged into it (hair dryer or clothes iron) would start to smoke.

Its wired correctly, and tests out fine, just replaced it with a new plug (same exact outlet but a new one), and all is fine again, just do not want this to happen again.

The pic shows the white (neutral) wire started to burn, and melted the plug with it,

wire seems to be a number #14, the breaker is one of those single, but double units, and its a 15 amp, that plug is used mostly for my wifes hair dryer which is a 1875w one, and the clothes iron,

whats going on?
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:41 PM   #2
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Wire was loose. They heat up when loose and over time you end up with that. 15 amp breaker is the correct size for #14 copper.
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:42 PM   #3
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That's some scary stuff there...

We had a house fire 7 months after the house was finished. It was an outlet that caught on fire, an unused floor outlet. The fire inspector never did tell us what caused the outlet catch but I will say that I found three loose grounds on outlets in my kitchen when I pulled them out for a backsplash job. Makes me want to pull all the receptacles and switches in the house and torque down the wires.
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:48 PM   #4
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That connection got hot - you can see the heat marks.

Heat = power = voltage drop = resistance.

So the connection had a larger resistance than what is acceptable.

---------------------------------------
The above are all facts from the evidence of your photo.

Question. Was the screw tight on that connection? Or did you not check it?

----------------------
On industrial sites is is not uncommon for regular checks to be made on high current connections. That is each connection is checked for tightness by torquing it. They are known to slacken off over time.

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When you first observe something is wrong, don't let it sit there and develop into a larger problem. Investigate.

You may like to check the other outlets ...
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Old 02-20-2013, 01:51 PM   #5
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The screw was SUPER TIGHT, I had to crank down to break it loose, the screw being loose was not the case at all here.


Ground was connected securely as well as the black (hot) wire, all 3 were really snug.

I changed it out and the new outlet works fine, just do not want this happening again.
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:03 PM   #6
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Super tight now, but when it was installed (loose) then had the high amp loads attached to it (iron and hair dryer) the connection got hot and cooked itself. Ash is not a good conductor, but it sure fills in space well and cooks connections like a poor quality soldering iron... The fizzling sound you heard was arcing at that connection.

You DID cut back that white wire a half inch so you could make the connection with good clean copper, right?

Edit: Looking at the photo, it looks like the outlet might've been installed after the sheetrock guys were done shooting spooge all over the walls - and the wires... I wonder if the connection to the outlet was made with some sheetrock mud on the wire. Could've been a tight connection, but a poor electrical connection.
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:13 PM   #7
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Yes, of course i cut that white wire about 1 inch, so all the black/molten stuff was gone, and connected it with the fresh copper wire.


That one specific line has 6 recess lights on it, all the outlets in the room, and the TV, so im thinking when all 6 recess lights are on, the TV and she plugs in that 1875w hair dryer, is that overkill for this #14 wire and 15 amp breaker?
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 150ron View Post
Yes, of course i cut that white wire about 1 inch, so all the black/molten stuff was gone, and connected it with the fresh copper wire.


That one specific line has 6 recess lights on it, all the outlets in the room, and the TV, so im thinking when all 6 recess lights are on, the TV and she plugs in that 1875w hair dryer, is that overkill for this #14 wire and 15 amp breaker?
Add up the watts and see. Something doesn't make sense, tho. The hair dryer should not have had smoke coming out.
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:32 PM   #9
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the Recess lights are 65w each, there is 6 of them, the TV is a 52'' plasma flat screen, about 6 years old or so, and the hair dryer is a 1875w one, then theres the cable box, alarm clock/radio, and i think that is it.
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:44 PM   #10
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Even if the circuit breaker was overloaded, that wouldn't affect the connection at that outlet - unless there are other devices downstream of it, and you're not showing us all the wires that were connected to that outlet originally. What you've got a picture of is a dead end branch circuit - it won't care if what's upstream of it is overloaded or not.

BTW, 15 amps on a 120V circuit is 1800 watts - that's being overloaded just by the 1875W hairdryer
I'm surprised the circuit breaker hasn't been popping; they typically only like to see a sustained load of about 80% capacity.

Edit again: assuming you have a healthy supply voltage of 120 Volts, you're pulling almost 21 amps from the breaker if the load you've described is accurate. (lights, TV, misc. electronics, hair dryer). Lower voltage supply means even higher current... You sure that's only a 15 amp breaker?
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rapidoxidationman screwed with this post 02-20-2013 at 02:52 PM
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Old 02-20-2013, 02:56 PM   #11
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Looks like a lot of the wire was outside of the head of the screw. It's also a residential grade (cheaper) recepticle.

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Old 02-20-2013, 03:01 PM   #12
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I wrap the sides of the receptacles in electrical tape covering the screw heads. No possible contact with the box that way.
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Old 02-20-2013, 03:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rapidoxidationman View Post
Lower voltage supply means even higher current... You sure that's only a 15 amp breaker?
Not in this case. Voltage is required to push current. More current with less volts would only be true for some kind of constant-power goodie.
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Old 02-20-2013, 03:31 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rapidoxidationman View Post
Super tight now, but when it was installed (loose) then had the high amp loads attached to it (iron and hair dryer) the connection got hot and cooked itself. Ash is not a good conductor, but it sure fills in space well and cooks connections like a poor quality soldering iron... The fizzling sound you heard was arcing at that connection.

You DID cut back that white wire a half inch so you could make the connection with good clean copper, right?

Edit: Looking at the photo, it looks like the outlet might've been installed after the sheetrock guys were done shooting spooge all over the walls - and the wires... I wonder if the connection to the outlet was made with some sheetrock mud on the wire. Could've been a tight connection, but a poor electrical connection.


^^^^^

What he said.

Look at the ground wire..... paint on the wire under the screw. Also you can see evidence of paint on the neutral wire. That combined with the screw was most likely loose when installed created arcing and eventually you have the result. Not sure why that hair dryer smokes though,,,, does it work okay in other outlets???
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Old 02-20-2013, 03:42 PM   #15
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Not a pro and my 2 cents: cheap, crappy outlet & hair dryer combined.

I have 6 wimmensfolk in my domicile. Hair dryers wiped out cheap outlets several times. My burn marks are usually at the blade connections. Doesn't surprise me that your burn is at the screw. I suspect that the reason that your screw was so tight to loosen is that the interior threads were jazzed with ash/carbon and/or plastic melt behind the threads. That said:

Long ago, an electrician told me to tighten the screws and leave the device hanging out of the wall overnite if possible. Then come back the next day and put a bit more turn on the screws before putting the device in the box and closing it up. I was told that the solid copper wire would get mashed a little by the initial tightening and loosen slightly when the wire took a peen under stress. The second tightening snugged up the screw on the peen and made for a tight connection. Depending on the critical spec of the fixture, this electrician would flatten/peen the wire with a light hammer on the side of his dykes for installation.

There is a torque spec for these connections. Some electricians have a screwdriver that puts the proper torque to the screw. Some elec. codes call for a GFI . Check your code and put one in anyway if you don't want to worry about elec. fires. GFI outlets are supposed to be a bit stouter.
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