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When is it time to upgrade your outlets?

Dingy, discoloured outlets? Outlets that won’t hold a plug? Here’s how to tell when it’s time to give up the ghost and replace those tired, old outlets…

How to Know When to Replace Outlets

From visual to functional cues, these signs indicate it’s time to replace the outlets in your home:

You insert a plug in an outlet and it falls out

If the slots of an outlet are loose, and plugs fall out no matter what appliance is connected, the contacts within the outlet are worn. This may not seem like a big deal, but the missed/loose connections created by worn outlets can cause electrical arcing and put you at major risk of house fires. If you notice plugs falling out of problem outlets, it’s definitely time for a replacement.

Outlets feel hot to the touch

Outlets that feel hot to the touch are a sure sign of electrical trouble, indicating loose, damaged, or worn wires hidden behind the walls that pose a huge fire hazard.

Your outlets are discoloured from heat

If an outlet or the surrounding wall are discoloured, this is a giant flashing warning sign your outlet may be burned, damaged, or improperly installed. Short circuits commonly leave scorch marks and melt plastics surrounding the receptacle and can quickly result in a fire. Never attempt to use a discoloured outlet. Cut power to the outlet at the panel and contact an electrical professional to have it inspected and addressed immediately.

You plug in an appliance and see a spark, smoke, or smell something burning

Any of the above signs are a clear indicator your outlets should be immediately inspected and replaced due to short circuit or water exposure. Sizzling or popping sounds are especially worrisome, indicating a fire waiting to happen. Turn off power to the outlet at the panel, and have your outlets inspected as soon as possible. 

Your GFCI outlet s don’t trip when tested

If you press the TEST button and GFCI outlets don’t trip (and you’re sure they have power/the breaker hasn’t tripped), they’re no longer protecting you and should be immediately replaced. Ditto if you hit the TEST button, the outlet is tripped, but the RESET button won’t restore power. GFCIs only last about 10 years – five in areas prone to storms and power surges. Replace effected outlets with a new GFCI as soon as possible, as these speciality outlets are essential to safeguarding lives in areas of your home exposed to water. Once your outlets are replaced, test them monthly – quarterly at a minimum.