Receptacles are a convenient way to plug all types of appliances and lighting into to supply power. These devices are often referred to as outlets as well. Although the names are different, we are referring to the same device. However, these convenient devices have their share of problems over the years. As with any other mechanical device in your home, over time, the device will get worn from years of service and require replacement at some point.
To determine whether it needs replacement, you first need to know the warning signs of a defective outlet, Here is a look at the many things that can go wrong with a receptacle in your home.
Since receptacles, often called outlets, are a fixed device, they have no moving parts. Receptacles have metal contact points for the hot, neutral, and ground connections that, over time, begin to wear and loosen their gripping power that holds cords in tightly. The downfall then is exposed contact points on the plug connection and little or no contact area with the receptacle contact blades. This builds the resistance and causes heat. The heat will cause problems in the wiring and likely lead to a circuit breaker tripping or a fuse blowing. As a safety measure, replace worn out receptacles and those with cracks or of the polarized varieties. Polarized outlets only have two slots and are easily recognized.
A common problem with receptacles is also loose wiring on the connection points of the terminals of the receptacle. A loose wire will also make for a bad connection and cause an unusual amount of heat buildup. Loose connections can also cause sparking in the junction box that can result in arcing. You'll likely see burn marks around the terminals if this happens.
This is a likely electrical fire in the works if not corrected immediately. Do not put your family in danger!
Receptacles are made of plastic and are susceptible to breakage and/or cracking. These receptacles can be safety hazards and should be replaced. Vibrations, lack of someone tightening the terminal screws effectively, and wire types that are affected by heat, can all contribute to the terminal connections. You should be especially careful when using aluminum wire for electrical connections.
The life of your receptacles often depends on the amount of use they receive and the quality of the receptacles. There are different grades of receptacles that make a big difference on how long they last. Of course, the professional grade receptacles are built much better with a heavier duty contact area. Be sure that whatever type of receptacle you buy to replace an old or defect one, it should always be the same size rating or larger to handle the load that will be attached to it. If you have a 15-amp receptacle, you'll need at least a 15-amp receptacle to replace it. That doesn't mean that you couldn't use a 20-amp receptacle as a replacement.
Remember, things like overloaded circuits can weaken and damage receptacles and this can lead to electrical fires.
If you haven't checked your receptacles, now is a great time to check them for tension, cracks, and signs of bad connections before they cause severe damage to you or your home.