Do Electrical Outlets Wear Out?

Have you ever plugged something into an outlet only to find the device doesn’t work? At first, you may suspect mechanical failure, but it might actually be a problem with your outlet. Though you take them for granted, electrical outlets can fail under some circumstances. Knowing the signs of wear and tear can help you recognize when its time to install new electrical outlets.

What Causes an Electrical Outlet to Fail?

Electrical outlets may fail for several reasons. Four of the most common causes we see in our line of work are:

  • Backstabbed wiring: Wires can be forced into a connector instead of through the screw terminals to connect the outlet and switch. Often, these loose connections lead to premature burnout of the wires.
  • Faulty wiring under the wire nut: Using wire nuts for anything other than covering wires can spark a problem with an electrical outlet.
  • Wrong rating for devices: The majority of homes have copper wiring. If you buy a device made for aluminum wiring, it may not work correctly.
  • Plugging devices in and out frequently: Plugging devices in and out frequently can cause the connections inside of the outlet to wear out quicker than having something plugged in and not removed frequently.

Fixing all these problems is not complicated if you understand electrical wiring, although it may be challenging for someone without experience.

Can Electrical Outlets Catch Fire?

Electrical outlets can catch fire, and the older the outlet, the more likely it is to happen. Fires often occur when sockets become worn out and lack proper grounding. Wires that break loose may be a frequent fire hazard.

How Long Do Electrical Outlets Last?

Electrical outlets don’t last forever, yet homeowners often have no idea when they should replace them. Most outlets last for 15 to 25 years, but some can fail in as little as a few years after installation. Signs of failure include:

  • Frequent tripping of outlets.
  • Damage, discoloration or cracks on the outlet. This includes blemishes or melting on the faceplate.
  • Plugs that slip out of the outlet.

How to Dispose of Electrical Outlets

If your electrical outlet doesn’t have mercury in it, you can throw it out in the garbage. If it does contain mercury, then you will need to bring it to a hazardous waste collection agency.

How can you tell if you have a mercury switch? They’re generally a lot older. Check for a stamp that says “TOP” beneath the cover plate or a small bit of mercury in a glass vial on the plate.

Are Electrical Outlets Recyclable?

Yes. Many electrical outlets can be recycled, but you can’t just toss them in your recycling bin. Instead, check with your township or county to see if it has a recycling program for outlets and other electronics. You may need to make a special trip to drop off the socket, which will be broken down with other electronics. Be sure to check in advance that outlets are on the list of accepted devices, as different localities have different requirements.

Do you have an electrical outlet that needs repair? We offer outlet replacement and installation in Raleigh. We are a Tesla-referred contractor that has been in business since 1990. We focus on electrical safety in all we do. Fill out our contact form to request service for your electrical outlets.