Having an outlet in your home that shocks you when you plug things in can be annoying and dangerous. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to diagnose and fix that problematic shocking outlet.
What Causes an Outlet to Shock You?
There are a few potential causes for an outlet shocking you when you plug in devices:
Faulty or damaged wiring is the most common cause of a shocking outlet. If the hot and neutral wires are loose, damaged, or touching each other, it can create issues. This allows electricity to flow through the outlet cover and shock anyone who touches it.
Checking the wiring and reconnecting any loose wires is often the solution. But if the wiring is too damaged, it will need to be replaced.
No Ground Wire
Outlets should have a ground wire that connects to the grounding system of your home. If the ground wire is missing or disconnected, a shocking outlet can result.
Adding a ground wire will correct this issue if the outlet box allows for it. Otherwise, a GFCI outlet that doesn't require a ground wire can be installed instead.
Outlets do wear out over time. The contacts can corrode or break down, allowing electricity to arc and jump to the cover plate.
Replacing an old outlet is a simple fix in this scenario.
If there is moisture or water damage behind the outlet, it can cause electrical shorts and shocking.
Eliminating the moisture source, drying out the outlet box, and sealing openings can prevent further issues.
How to DiagnDiagnose a Shocking Outlet
Before attempting to fix a shocking outlet, it's important to diagnose where the issue is coming from. Here are some steps:
1. Unplug Devices
Unplug all devices from the outlet and do not use it. The shocking could be coming from a faulty device rather than the outlet itself.
2. Check Other Outlets
Plug devices into other nearby outlets to see if they also shock you. This helps determine if the issue is isolated to one outlet.
3. Inspect the Outlet
Remove the outlet cover plate and visually inspect for any signs of damage, burn marks, or corrosion. Feel along the outlet with the back of your hand to try and locate where the shock is coming from.
4. Turn Off Power
Turn off the circuit breaker for that outlet so you can safely work on fixing the issue. Verify power is off by plugging in a tester.
5. Check Wiring
With the power off, remove the outlet from the box to inspect the wiring. Look for any loose, damaged, frayed or improperly connected wires.
6. Check for Moisture
Inspect the back of the outlet box for moisture, water stains or rust which could be causing the shocking.
How to Fix a Shocking Outlet
Once you've diagnosed the cause of the shocking outlet, you can move on to safely fixing the issue:
Reconnect Loose Wires
If you found any loose wires, carefully reconnect them according to wiring diagrams. Ensure hot and neutral wires are separated and secure.
Replace Damaged Wiring
Damaged or worn wiring needs to be replaced. Turn the power off, remove the old wiring, then run new solid copper wiring between the outlet box and your electrical panel.
Add a Ground Wire
If there is no ground wire, add one if possible by connecting it to the grounding system. Alternatively, install a GFCI outlet which doesn't require grounding.
Replace Old Outlet
Swapping out an old, worn outlet is a quick fix that can resolve the shocking issue. Match wires color to color.
Eliminate Moisture Source
Find and repair any leaks or moisture sources in the area to keep the outlet safely dry. Let the outlet fully dry out before using again.
Hire an Electrician
For major wiring repairs or if you are uncomfortable working on outlets, hire a certified electrician to safely handle the shocking outlet issue.
Preventing Future Shocking Outlet Issues
To avoid more shocking outlet problems in your home, here are some tips:
- Regularly inspect outlets for signs of damage or wear
- Only plug in grounded devices and ensure appliances are in good condition
- Never overload outlets with too many devices plugged in
- Use GFCI outlets in kitchens, bathrooms and other wet areas
- Keep cords and plugs dry and protected from damage
- Address any moisture issues in your home to keep outlets dry
With proper outlet maintenance and electrical safety, you can avoid those unpleasant shocking sensations from problematic outlets. Carefully diagnosing the cause and fixing shocking outlets will make your home's electrical system safer.