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Indoor Sparklers And Firecrackers: Replacing Damaged Outlets And Electrical Cords

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While sparklers and firecrackers can provide a great deal of amusement during outdoor Independence Day celebrations, your electrical system shouldn't spark or pop under normal use.

Damaged outlets and plugs or loose wires can pose the threat of serious injury or fire, and should be repaired or replaced as soon as the problem is observed.

Removing a sparking outlet

If an outlet sparks or crackles when a plug is inserted, a wire may have come loose or the outlet itself could be defective. A standard 15 amp outlet costs less than a dollar, so if you intend to check an outlet for loose wiring, you should just take a few extra minutes to replace the outlet itself.

You must start by turning off the circuit breaker that regulates the flow of power to the outlet. Once this is done, use a flat head screwdriver to remove the cover plate that hides and protects the outlet.

You can then remove the upper and lower screws that secure the outlet in the gang box inside the wall. The outlet can then be pulled out to access the wiring.

Disconnect all wires by loosening the terminal screws on the sides of the outlet and pulling the wires away. If more than one set of three wires are present, keep each set separated.

Installing a new outlet

If there are only three wires present, wrap the end of the black wire in a clockwise direction under the top brass terminal screw, then tighten the screw securely to be certain that the wire is fully connected.

Connect the white neutral wire to the top silver terminal and the green wire to the single green terminal in the same manner.

If a second set of three wires are present, connect the second black wire to the bottom brass terminal, the white wire to the bottom silver terminal, and the green wire to the single green terminal along with the first green grounding wire.

Push the outlet inside the gang box in the wall, tighten the two connecting screws, and replace the cover plate.

Replacing damaged wiring and plugs

If you hear a loud popping sound as you insert or retract a plug, wiring may have come loose inside the plug or damage to the wiring may have occurred. This often happens when users grab the wire instead of the plug to unplug an appliance.

It could also be the result of a rodent or pet chewing the wiring, causing the bare wires to touch and create an unstable electrical current. This will likely result in a circuit breaker shutoff, which is a good thing, because it may prevent fire or serious injury.

It's easy to remove the damaged end of the wiring and replace the plug. All you need is a male (the model with the prongs, not the slots) plug replacement and a wire cutter/stripper tool (optional but very helpful).

Use the wire cutter to cut the wires a few inches beyond the suspected point of damage, which is likely near the plug. You will then use the stripper component of the tool to remove about one inch of insulation from the ends of each of the individual wires in the sheath.

Use a screwdriver to remove the end of the replacement plug to expose the connection terminals, then connect the black wire to the brass terminal, the white wire to the silver terminal, and the green wire to the green terminal in the same manner as previously described in wiring an outlet.

You can then replace the end of the replacement plug, then tighten the two screws that secure the wire in place. These are located on the opposite end of the replacement plug.

After these modifications, the only snap,crackle, and pop sounds you should expect to hear are those of outdoor fireworks on Independence Day. If you're not comfortable doing the work yourself, talk with a company like RDS Electric.