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When Is It Time to Replace Power Outlets?

Electrical outlets are all too easy to overlook despite their usefulness in our everyday lives. If you are like most people, you only think about them when they’re not working. However, you can keep your home safer and ensure you always have working power outlets by knowing how to detect the main signs of a bad outlet.

Can an Outlet Go Bad? Can One Bad Outlet Affect Others?

Like other electrical devices, power outlets can go bad for a variety of reasons. For example, aging, wiring issues, damage to the outlet, and electrical failure due to too many devices being plugged in can all cause an outlet to go bad.

While one bad outlet doesn’t always affect other outlets, a bad outlet can sometimes cause circuit breakers to trip, resulting in the other outlets not working as well. Some homes also have outlets connected through series wires that will cause other outlets to be affected when an outlet they’re connected to breaks down.

How to Know If an Outlet Is Bad: Eight Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Outlets

While power outlets are typically safe to use, they can pose a serious danger if they’ve been wired incorrectly or have developed an issue that could cause electrical fires or electrocution. Since some power outlet issues can be hazardous to your health and home, it’s important to know how to tell if an outlet is bad. Learn more about the top eight signs that you need to replace your power outlets and how to test if an outlet is bad below:

Outlet Replacement Sign 1: The Outlet Is Not Working

This may seem obvious, but if the outlet is no longer powering your electronics, it may need to be replaced. In the case of an outlet that isn’t delivering power, you can test if an outlet is bad by seeing if the other outlets in the room are working. When other room outlets are not working, you may need to reset a tripped breaker. When a breaker hasn’t been tripped, you could have multiple faulty outlets that will need to be replaced by a trained electrician

Outlet Replacement Sign 2: Burn Marks or Melting

Check for blemishes on the faceplate, outlets, and wall. Dark discoloration and melting are major red flags, as they indicate short-circuiting and sparking. Outlets in this condition should not be used again as they could be a fire hazard. Call an electrician and have the outlet replaced as soon as you can.

Outlet Replacement Sign 3: Cracks and Chips

Cosmetic blemishes like chips and cracks are also a cause for concern because they allow dust and other debris to build up inside the outlet. This dust and debris can serve as kindling when a plug is inserted, potentially causing an electric arc. It’s best to avoid using cracked or chipped outlets until you have them replaced.

Outlet Replacement Sign 4: Plugs Fall Out Easily

Loose plugs may seem like an annoyance more than anything, but they indicate wear and tear and can cause sparking and electrical arcing. If your plugs fall out easily, this may be a sign that you are due for new power outlets installed by a trained electrician.

Outlet Replacement Sign 5: Outlet Feels Hot to the Touch

Another way to tell if a wall outlet is not working as it should is if the outlet is hot to the touch. A hot outlet indicates worn, damaged, or incorrectly installed wiring. Any wiring or electric current malfunction has the potential to cause an electrical fire, so it’s best not to leave anything to chance. Instead, stop using the outlet until an electrician can inspect it and replace it if needed.

Outlet Replacement Sign 6: You Smell Smoke or See a Spark

Trust your senses. If you see or smell smoke, sparks, or burning near your outlets after plugging something in or turning on an appliance, don’t hesitate to contact an electrician. Since all these signs indicate a serious issue with your outlet, wait to use it until the electrician can inspect it and fix the source of the problem.

Outlet Replacement Sign 7: Your Outlets Are Not Grounded

A power outlet that isn’t grounded can put you at risk of electrocution, appliance damage, and fire due to its inability to properly direct electricity to a safe location. You can tell your outlets are not grounded if they only have two prongs or holes. Since two-pronged outlets are outdated and potentially dangerous, they should be replaced with grounded three-prong outlets. If you have never replaced your home’s original two-pronged outlets, it is recommended you do so.

Outlet Replacement Sign 8: Flickering Power

If a device is flickering on and off, it could mean the outlet can no longer keep up with demand. This inability to supply enough power can be due to wear and tear, damage, or an outdated design. Prevent short-circuiting or damage to your personal belongings by having an electrician replace flickering outlets.

The Benefits of GFCI Outlets

When your notice any of the signs of a bad outlet, you may need outlet replacement services. Instead of replacing bad outlets with older three-pronged outlets, protect your family against electric shock by installing ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. These outlets are designed to prevent potentially deadly ground fault accidents from occurring.

The GFCI outlet works by monitoring the current traveling from the appliance to the outlet. If it detects a minor change in current—even just a five-milliamp difference, which could indicate the occurrence of a ground fault—it automatically cuts power to the appliance. Due to their ability to immediately cut power after they detect a minor change, GFCI outlets are especially important to install in areas near moisture, like kitchens, bathrooms, patios, and yards.

All new homes are built with these outlets in the appropriate areas, but older homes will need an upgrade. You can check if your home has GFCI outlets by seeing if your outlets have three prongs, a reset button, and a test button. 

How Long Do Electrical Outlets Last?

Though you should always replace two-prong outlets with a GFCI outlet, you might be wondering how long standard three-prong outlets last so you can know when to replace them. Typically, three-prong outlets last around 15 years, but they may last longer if they’re rarely used.

In comparison to three-prong outlets, GFCI outlets last between 15 to 25 years. Due to the similar lifespan of GFCI and standard three-prong outlets, it may be time to have either type of outlet inspected if your home is 15 years old or older.

Electric Services Near Sacramento

If you’re looking for power outlet replacement services near you in Sacramento, turn to the certified electricians at Bonney. Our team has been providing electrical services to the greater Sacramento area since 1978. When you contact us for an appointment, our team will thoroughly inspect your outlets to find the cause of the problem and provide a solution right for your needs. We also offer various coupons and financing options to ensure you receive a great deal on your electrical inspection and service.

Learn more about our GFCI installation services today. If you have any questions or want to schedule an appointment, please call us at 800-444-0551 or visit us online to schedule your service appointment.