Why Space Heaters Can Cause Electrical Outlet Problems

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

What has caused several outlets to stop working? How to Identify Potential Outlet Wiring Problems where Space Heaters are Used.

Guide to Space Heater Outlet and Wiring Problems

Electrical Question: What has caused several outlets to stop working?

  1. My brothers 1920’s vintage colonial home has several outlets that are not working.
  2. I checked the circuit breakers and none are tripped.
  3. I’m getting a reading on my tester of 40-50 volts and 120 between the metal box and the hot side of the receptacle .
  4. He says the problem occurred after he left a space heater on overnight.
  5. He also has no power in his garage which he says is an older problem

This electrical troubleshooting question came from: Bob, a Contractor from Agawam, MA.
Additional Comments: GREAT!

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electric wiring question Bob.

Problems with Space Heater Outlet Electric Wiring and How to Fix Them

  • Space Heaters and Electrical Consumption
    • Many electric space heaters are a high consumers of electricity and can cause problems with electrical circuits, especially if the electrical wiring is out dated or under sized.
  • Space Heater Receptacle Outlet Problem
    • The outlet where the electric space heater was plugged into is most likely where the problem is.
  • Burnt Plug or Cord
    • It is common to find a burnt neutral connection and damage to the electrical outlet.
  • Check the Outlet Electric Wire Connections
    • I strongly recommend having a qualified electrical contractor make the necessary repairs to the electrical wiring.
    • The electric wiring should be inspected for burnt connections and deteriorating receptacle outlets
    • Damaged wiring should be repaired or replaced as needed, and the receptacle outlets should be replaced.
    • Electrical wiring in older homes should be examined and upgraded and brought up to the current electric codes whenever possible.
    • Space Heaters and Smoke Detectors
      • For an extra measure of safety, make sure to install and test smoke detectors and GFI outlets where required in older homes.
      • PLEASE NOTE:

        • Space Heaters can help to save on your electrical bill when they are used correctly and used according to the manufacturers instruction manual.
        • Many space heaters require a dedicated circuit which should be installed by a qualified electrical contractor.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

2 Responses to “Why Space Heaters Can Cause Electrical Outlet Problems”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Mark,
    Heaters typically have temperature sensors installed to prevent the unit from overheating when installed and used according to the manufacturers specifications. From what you have described the existing heater may not be the right choice for this application. In my location we get freezing temps as well so you may want to consider the following:
    Install temperature regulated electric pipe wrap for the pipes and cover the hose bib with an insulated cover.
    Disconnect the hose and drain the water out to prevent freezing water and a clogged hose.
    In some cases, if self regulated heat tape is used on the the pipes, and an insulated enclosure is built or placed over the hose rack then the unit may not freeze.
    I hope this helps,

  2. Mark says:

    I have an electric wall heater used to keep a water pump house from freezing in the winter where temperatures drop to -20F. I came back one day after a cold snap and the plastic heater grill was melted and the heater did not function. We may have had a power outage during the time I was away. If the heater is running, the power goes out and the fan stops, what keeps the heater from over heating and causing a fire? Are there protection measures built in or that I can take to prevent overheating during a power outage?


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