You may think, “this outlet doesn’t work, huh.” Then you go to the next outlet. “Okay, this one works. I’m good for now. Maybe I’ll get that other one checked later some time.” This can actually be one of the most dangerous scenarios in your home. You see, most convenience outlets in homes are wired in a circuit that loops through the receptacle then to the next one. You may have as many as 10 receptacles looped together in a circuit. So, if one receptacle doesn’t put out electricity to the appliance you just plugged in it doesn’t mean that electricity is not passing through that outlet box to the next receptacle. Many times when an outlet does not work it is because there is a loose connection somewhere and a loose connection means heat build up from arcing. That is where the fire hazard is created.
You can see the heat damage on this receptacle I removed from a Tulsa home. The initial call was for some receptacles that were not working. While troubleshooting I found that some of the receptacles on the circuit were working and some were not. The home owner reported that they noticed the problem 3 months ago, but decided they would deal with it later. Now they know to get this kind of thing checked out right away. Outside of the danger involved, sometimes waiting to get an electrical problem fixed will also cause it to cost more.
When we repair a problem like this we make sure to only use the portion of existing wires that are not damaged. Reconnecting wires that have been compromised by heat damage will only lead to more heat damage and hazardous situations. Notice when I rewire the new outlet that I connected the wires with wire connectors so the circuit does not rely on the receptacle to pass through to the next. This is a much better way to loop the circuit. Most electricians don’t do this. They just simply attach both sets of wires to the receptacle. This is also commercial grade receptacle much better than the old one.