What Causes an Electrical Outlet to Spark?

Sparks from an electrical outlet can damage the outlet and electrical wires, or even start a fire.

It’s very disconcerting when the electrical outlets inside your home begin to give off sparks. Electrical problems that cause this deserve immediate attention, as they can be the cause of devastating home and property damage. The culprit is often faulty home repairs that should have been performed by a professional.

Device Turned On

An electrical outlet can create a spark if an electrical device, such as a toaster or a hair dryer, is turned on before it has been plugged into the outlet. The high electrical load being transferred from the outlet to the plug can sometimes jump and cause some sparking. Always make sure that your devices are turned off before plugging them in.


Arc fault circuit interruption, or AFCI, is a crucial safety feature of electrical outlets that homeowners may overlook when installing their own electrical work. AFCI will cause the circuit to shut off power should it detect an arc fault, which is a jumping of electrical conductivity from the outlet to another fixture through the air; this is the cause of many sparks and electrical fires. GFCI, or ground fault circuit interruption, is another safety feature built into electrical outlets that cuts the electrical current if it detects that electricity is flowing through an unintended conductor, such as a human body.

Old Outlets

As outlets and switches age and their electrical connections loosen, they pose a greater risk of causing electrical sparks and even starting an electrical fire. Old and worn appliance cords can also cause faulty electrical connections resulting in sparks.

Improper Repairs

Do-it-yourself repairs may be cheap and quick, but some solutions, such as putting a penny behind a blown fuse to complete the electrical circuit, can end up creating some dangerous conditions. If you experience any electrical problems, especially sparks, in the wiring or electrical outlets of your home, shut off the power to that area through your circuit breaker and call a professional electrician immediately.