Burning smell from outlet

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Hello,
My wife noticed a "burning plastic" smell coming from an outlet in the house that a cell phone charger was plugged into. I pulled out the charger and it was hot as hell, as was the outlet. There is also discoloration over the outlet from the heat I guess? I shut off the breaker for it, and unscrewed things, and here's a picture of what it looks like:
http://www.mannydog.net/outlet2.jpg
Im going to leave the circuit breaker off until i figure out what to do. Is this a big deal? Should i just replace the outlet? or is my house about to burn down?
Thanks Steve
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

That outlet feeds another outlet downstream, looks like. So, it probably wasn't the charger that overheated it, but rather the other load. What else is not working now that the circuit is off?
Best guess is that the screw terminals weren't tightened properly and that caused the connections to over heat.
Replace the receptacle. BTW, I don't see a grounding wire on this one...
Jim
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Agree with Jim, also the wire leads should be longer and pinched around the threaded part of the screw, whoever did this wiring did a sloppy job.
wrote:

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Jim,
Thanks for the response! The other load on that breaker is the refrigerator. And as far as I can tell that's the only other thing that went out with this breaker off. This kind of sucks cuz I have to turn the breaker back on for the night unless I want all my food to rot. I put the outlet back in and flipped the breaker back on. Think this will be ok until I can swing by the hardware store tomorrow?
Thanks, Steve
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I would take the melted outlet out of the path.
Turn off the breaker.
Clean up or cut off & re-strip the wires.
Wire nut the wires (black to black) (white to white)
Turn the power back on, you should be good to go unitl you have time replace the outlet.
cheers Bob
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I am not an electrician, and I hope someone who knows more than I will comment on this.
But the refrigerator and a 110 room air conditioner are the biggest thigns plugged into a 110 outlet.
I think when you put this together again you should continue to use wire nuts b to b and w to w, and add a short length from the wire nuts to the receptacle in that box. Won't that cut down on the number of connections that the current to the fridge has to go through??????
Now it has two, one at each screw, but then you'll only have one. Is that fair to say guys??? Even though he'll have three wires in each wire nut?
If so, should he use copper wire for the short length, and a copper-designed receptacle?
Does he need special wire nuts for aluminum?
This kind of sucks cuz I have to

After an hour, I would put my hands on the fridge plug where it goes into the wall. AFAIK, it shouldn't be warm at all. (But I guess even if it is bad, it idn't cause the problem at this outlet.)
And on the receptacle. It shouldn'be warm at all.
Plug something in to the problem outlet, even if you don't turn it on. Its plug prongs might conduct the heat from hot connections to the plug better than you can feel it when you touch the receptacle.
If nothing is warm, then you can leave it on all night. If you have a smoke detector. Check in the morning. If nothing is warm, you can out.
Plug in the charger in another outlet. Does it go in or come out very very easy. It's the loose connections that get hot. Leave the charger plugged in for an hour. Check if it is hot in the other outlet. If it is, well, I'd be surprised.

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mm wrote:

putting b-b and w-w with a short tail to the outlet is good practice. Its called a pig tail. I always do it if I have enough room in the box. Then, if an outlet goes bad you will not be in the situation of the OP.
As for Aluminum. I did not notice that in the image. Good catch. There are special considerations for Aluminum. I cant comment on those.
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Yep it is a big deal. No way to tell from the picture if the charger was at fault or the outlet was to blame. Looks like AL wiring, Ace hardware has the best deal on small quanties of AL devices that I have found. My home is AL as well.
Might be time to check your devices and look for the AL-CU rating on them. Properly installed there is nothing wrong with AL. NOTICE I said properly installed. When I moved into my home I checked all of the outlets and replaced all of the switches, SO wanted rocker ones. Found a few that were a tad loose. Gee installed in 1975 I am not surprised.
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Yep its aluminum wiring. Could you please clarify "check your devices and look for the AL-CU rating on them."? and what you mean when you say "AL Devices"? I know next to nothing about this stuff.
Thanks!
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

There is a good explanation here: http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum.htm with links to more.
If indeed you have a home with aluminum wiring you could be sitting on a serious problem. Today's incident may just be a taste of events waiting to happen. (I don't mean to sound alarmist.)
See: http://chrisdhilton.com/newsletters/aluminum_wiring.htm
and GOOGLE: CO/ALR or Aluminum Wiring
Dig up all the info you can before making any rash decisions.
Jim
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Thanks for the info, I will read up on it. FYI, with nothing plugged into this outlet for a few hours now, it is not hot at all, so it only appears to be getting hot when a load is attached to this outlet. Does this tell us anything else?
I know for a fact I've got aluminum wiring... When I moved in, my real estate agent recommended that I replace all switches and outlets with CO/ALR ones. Of course I didn't do it. Would you folks recommend this? Another friend of mine told me to leave well enough alone, and that I could stir up more problems by replacing things.
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Your real estate agent was trying to keep the house from burning down, and gave you a good hint. Your friend told you to just sit tight, since your house is not on fire yet.
AL wiring (as you will or have seen from your googling) is tricky and particular. You DO need special everything: special wire nuts, special outlets, special switches, special installation procedures, special precautions when mixing different metals, etc. And this DOES matter, its not just an obscure code issue, or a marketing ploy, or whatever.
I don't have AL myself, so I don't know all what is involved. If you think you are up for it, do your homework, then replace all the switches, outlets, wire nuts, and everything else necessary, to get everything to be safe. If you don't feel up to it, find an electrician that knows AL to take a look through, make recommendations, then fix eveything needing fixing.
As others have said, you might just have a few of the wrong type of outlets, but otherwise properly-installed AL wiring. Or you might have a real dangerous and extensive mess on your hands.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Why not? That was good advice.

Absolutely. Using devices that are not rated for use with aluminum wire is highly dangerous -- your roasted outlet is a prime example of what can go wrong.

Your friend does not appear to be qualified to dispense electrical advice.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Speedy Jim wrote:

Devices listed for use with aluminum wire are marked CO/ALR. The worst devices have steel screws.

This site has the best information I have seen on aluminum wiring. Last I looked most of it was derived from the Cosumer Product Safety Commission which reportedly tried to force a recall.
The best link in the above site is http://www.inspect-ny.com/aluminum/alreduce.htm This is a paper based on extensive testing of aluminum connections for the CPSC and gives a wide range of fixes for aluminum wiring. Note particularly the advice to apply anti oxide paste to the wire and then abrade it. Very specific on what to do and brands. If I had aluminum wire I would probably wire nut a copper pigtail to devices.

Agree.
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Your wiring seems to be aluminium, check if your receptacle is CU/AL and add a groud if possible.

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bigger than a big deal: immediate dangerous electrical hazard due to one or more of the items you mentioned: the refrigerator, the circuit wiring, each outlet related to this circuit, and the circuit breaker and its panel.
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I got an electrician over here. Here was the problem: That was an outlet rated for 15 amps, on a circuit rated for 20 amps (hence the fridge being on the same circuit). It was getting too much power, so it melted. He pigtailed b to b and w to w like you guys said, with a copper wire coming off each, and put in a 20 amp outlet. Anyway, I'm gonna have a prof. electrician replace all the outlets with CO/ALR outlets.
Thanks for all of your responses here, I really appreciate it.
Steve
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There is no difference between 15 & 20 amp receptacles. They are all 20 amp internally, which is why the Code allows either on a 20 amp circuit. The 20 amp receptacle will accept either a 15 amp or 20 amp plug (with a "T" configuration for the prongs).
From the looks of it, the terminal connections overheated, probably a result of poor installation, aluminum wire and poor clamping pressure from the screws. Did the electrician also confirm that the wire is properly sized for a 20 amp circuit?
Ben MIller
--
Benjamin D. Miller, PE
B. MILLER ENGINEERING
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Typically, aluminum wire requires one gauge increase, i.e. 12 gauge for 15 amp circuit. So, if this was a 20 amp circuit, the size would have to be larger than the normal 12 gauge .... like 10 gauge. I doubt, from the picture, if it was 10 gauge. I'll guess that many "newer" electricians never heard of aluminum house wiring and don't know how to handle it properly.
Ben Miller wrote:

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posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

--
My boss said I was dumb and apathetic.
I said I don\'t know and I don\'t care...
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