Why Space Heaters Can Cause Electrical Outlet Problems
What has caused several outlets to stop working? How to Identify Potential Outlet Wiring Problems where Space Heaters are Used, Fix Electric Outlet Problems Caused by Portable Space Heaters.
Electric Outlets Not Working
Electrical Question#1: What has caused several outlets to stop working?
- My brothers 1920’s vintage colonial home has several outlets that are not working. I checked the circuit breakers and none are tripped.
- 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. He says the problem occurred after he left a space heater on overnight.
- He also has no power in his garage which he says is an older problem.
This electrical troubleshooting question came from: Bob, a Contractor in Massachusetts.
Additional Comments: GREAT!
Electrical Question#2: I had a breaker trip which was obviously caused by trying to use 2 space heaters on the same circuit.
- I unplugged one heater before resetting the breaker. Upon the first reset attempt, I heard some buzzing, heard the snap of an obvious arc possibly emanating from my home office area. Of course, immediately after that, the breaker tripped.
- My wife, sitting at her desk in the office reported a spark and smoke coming from an outlet that is not even included in the circuit with causing problems. Knowing exactly what locations the problem breaker services, I was interested in locating the outlet the buzzing was coming from, so I tried the second reset which buzzed a bit at the breaker box but reconnected. Prematurely claiming victory I realized only one outlet on the problem circuit was working.
- To make it worse, it’s location is almost exactly “the middle”. One incident occurred that made less sense than the sparking outlet of a separate circuit I mentioned earlier. Upon replacing a known worn switch to the garbage disposal just two locations downstream of “the middle” working outlet I thoroughly checked and rechecked for any voltage getting through to the switch wires which there was none.
- Since the working outlet serviced the refrigerator and the connections I was working on tested dead, I left the circuit breaker on. In the middle of replacing the switch, of course; the hot touched the ground and scared at least a year off my and my cat Mofus’s lives. It tripped the breaker, I reset it and not one time since has it tested anything but dead. Should I just move?
This electrical wiring question came from Billy, a Handyman in Ochelata, Oklahoma.
Portable Electric Heaters and Outlet Problems
Application: Electrical Safety a Wall Outlet for a Space Heater.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best performed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.
Electrical Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Voltage Tester, and appropriate Safety Gear.
Estimated Time: Depends on the personal level experience, ability to work with tools, install electrical circuit wiring, and the available access to the project area.
Electrical Safety: Identify the electrical power source to the Wall Outlet, turn it OFF and Tag with a Note before working with the electrical wiring.
Electrical Wiring Parts and Materials: Electrical parts and materials for the Wall Outlet should be approved for the specific project and compliant with local and national electrical codes.
Electrical Codes and Inspections: Installing or changing home electrical wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes as adopted in Oklahoma. A permit and inspections may also be required.
Thanks for your electric wiring question Bob and Billy.
How to Fix Electric Outlet Problems Caused by Portable Space Heaters
- 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.
- PLEASE NOTE:
Learn More about Home Electric Wiring
Troubleshooting Home Electric Wiring Problems
- Wiring Electrical Outlet for the Home
- Home electrical wiring includes 110 volt outlets and 220 volt outlets and receptacles which are common place in every home. See how wiring electrical outlets for the home are done.
- Electric Circuit Listing
- The size of the home electrical service panel is designed by calculating the square footage of the home and factoring in the code requirements for the electrical circuits that are required.
- Electrical Safety and Voltage Testers
- When working on home electrical wiring, quality voltage testers can play an important part in electrical safety. Electrical testers enable you to identify electrical circuits and help prevent the possibility of accidental electrical shock.
For more information about Electrical Wiring
Basic Home Electrical Wiring
- Electrical Wiring
- Home electrical wiring projects with pictures and wiring diagrams.
- This link is helpful as a Contractor
Electrical Code Articles
The following may also be helpful for you:
Learn more about Home Electrical Wiring
Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.
The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.
The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.
Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..
The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.
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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?
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,