A ground fault circuit interrupter is a device that automatically breaks a circuit whenever there is an imbalance in the flow of electrical current between the supply and return conductors in a circuit.
Considering its role in the safety of life at home, identifying the cause of its sparking and popping should be paramount.
I would love to start by assuring that as this article progresses, you will not only come to see the causes of the sparking or popping of GFCI outlets.
But, you will also see why it is also that way for a dryer outlet, the dangers that these sparking outlets pose, and whether or not it is safe to use an already Sparked or popped outlet.
There are numerous reasons why your GFCI outlet pops and sparks—the sparking results from a short-circuiting, aged outlet, overload on an outlet, or bad wiring. It could also be a faulty repair, damage by water, a broken receptacle, and a loose wire. Also, your outlet pops when the loop that transfers electrical current to the outlet breaks.
Outlet Sparked and Popped
Have you ever experienced an electrical outlet sparking or popping when plugging an appliance or device into it? No doubt you have.
It is a widespread and everyday occurrence, yet you still get shocked at the sight of it. Although this often means nothing, at other times, it’s a serious indication of the terrible state of your outlet.
Therefore, you must adequately ascertain your outlet’s condition to make the right call.
To do so, you need to be capable of telling the difference between a normal and an abnormal (dangerous) spark.
#1. Normal Spark
You can classify a spark as expected if it is blue, happens quickly (in the blink of an eye), and not frequently.
Note that this spark happens when rapid power diverts from the outlet to the connected appliance. That power flow causes the blue spark, which is normal.
And this is why as long as everything is functioning correctly, the electrical current will speedily flow from the primary grid to all circuits, appliances, and devices at home.
And then, at the end of it all, the electrical current flows back to the primary grid where it began.
#2. Abnormal (Dangerous) Spark
There are so many different sparks that when you observe, you should know it indicates that you are seeing an abnormal spark.
Below is a table that shows the type of spark that is abnormal and the observation from your outlet:
|Type of Spark||Observation Features from Outlet|
|White or yellow sparks||If your outlet brings out a blue spark, it’s a safe and regular spark. But a white or yellow is unsafe.|
|Frequent sparks||If it happens all the time you plug anything on the outlet, whether a big or small device, then it’s probably a dangerous spark.|
|Long and large sparks||If the sparks are tiny and quick, then they are normal. But a spark that lasts 2 to 3 seconds and then goes on and off the outlet is unsafe.|
|Burning smell||If, after an outlet spark, you perceive a smell of smoke or melting plastic, turn off the outlet’s power. You should not take this lightly, especially when you see a burn mark.|
#3. Causes of Sparking Outlets
Even though we conclude that small sparks are normal and safe, it still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful and observant.
Below are the probable causes of abnormal sparking outlets in your house:
When there is too much heat build-up in your electrical outlet, this problem of short-circuiting occurs.
The excessive heat will cause the wire insulation to melt, and with the wire exposed, there is a high possibility of an electrical fire starting after a spark.
My advice to you would be for you to call a professional to handle the issue.
#2. Aged Outlet
Statistics show that 6% of home fires annually result from old electrical outlets that wear out over time.
But this you can avoid by rewiring your house and replacing all old appliances with new ones.
#3. Outlet Overload
note that this happens when you plug too many devices or appliances into a single or particular outlet, resulting in outlet overload.
And this overload will only bring about sparking, tripping, and sometimes even electrical fires.
#4. Wire Damage
It is so in houses with old wiring; wires deteriorate, suffer from overheating, and sometimes get eaten by rodents. And the worst is that if exposed, they can cause electrical shock.
#5. Poor or Faulty Repair
Letting anyone not a professional perform a repair is too risky and can cause issues for you later on, either in the near or far future. So, when thinking of electrical wiring, only use a certified professional.
#6. Water Damage
GFCI immediately cuts power to the outlets once it discovers or detects the presence of water.
And so, because water and electricity are enemies, it can cause sparks and many other issues.
#7. Broken Receptacle
When the plastic surrounding the outlet gets broken, the contact points made of metal become entirely exposed.
And this increases the risk of fire outbreaks and electrocution, which is why you should fix it as quickly as possible.
#8. Loose Wire
You will observe this as an issue through a buzzing or crackling sound. If you have a little knowledge of electrical, all you need to do is cut off the power to the outlet and remove the cover plate.
Make sure that the screws are tight and firmly holding down the wire.
Dryer Outlet Sparked and Popped
When your dryer outlet sparks or pops, especially when the outlet itself is hot while the dryer is not, it is most often because of a loose wire connection.
And if you let it go unchecked, it can result in a fire outbreak. Another reason your dryer outlet will spark or pop is when its finger grips wear out.
You will notice that it falls back out when you try to plug your dryer cord into the outlet. That is when you know that your outlet has popped or sparked.
To help you check the finger grips of your outlet, you can use a tension-checking tool from here. Then, all you have to do is plug it in and out, telling you the amount of tension your outlet has.
What Causes an Electrical Outlet to Pop?
The loop carries electrical current from the starting point of the primary grid to the outlet.
But when this loop breaks, you will notice the electrical outlet popping, and if you listen carefully, you will hear a popping sound.
Note that if you begin to hear this noise, you should immediately stop using the outlet to avoid further risks. It is also an obvious problem with either your outlet or the wiring.
Are Sparking Outlets Dangerous?
There are two types of sparks from a sparking outlet: normal and abnormal. The usual spark, which has blue and does not last more than a second, is not dangerous but safe.
Whereas an outlet with white and yellow sparks that is large and lasts long, occurs frequently, and with a burning smell are the ones that are abnormal and even dangerous.
The abnormal sparks are the ones that end up blowing up appliances and devices, causing electrocution and even fire outbreaks.
Is It Safe to Use an Outlet That Sparked and Popped?
If your outlet sparks or pops, I recommend you turn off the outlet and unplug all appliances.
Then, you need to call in a professional to change the outlet because leaving the outlet there will only be exposing you, your family, and your properties to electrocution and house fire.
Furthermore, if you keep using a sparked or popped outlet, your devices and appliances are also at risk of blowing up if the outlet worsens. So, rather than risk everything, it’s best to stitch in time.
GFCI outlet sparks and pops for many reasons, but you can classify the spark as either normal or abnormal.
You also now know why dryer outlets pop and that you can test the finger grip of your outlet with a tension-checking tool.
A sparking outlet can be dangerous depending on the spark, and preferable to change the outlet when it sparks.