I have several portable oil filled heaters in my house. They have a low
and high setting which I believe equates to 900 and 1500 watts
respectively. I usually run them all on high. At night, I notice a
flash of light whenever the thermostat in the heaters cuts on and off.
I think it's coming from a spark within the wall outlet.
Someone told me that the high current load was causing the spark, and I
could resolve the problem by installing 20 amp wall outlets wherever I
plug in the heaters. Is this true? If not, is there something else I
can do to resolve the sparking issue?
FYI: The breakers for the circuits are all 15 amp, and all existing
outlets are 15 amp.
Is it possible this is not caused by loose connections in the outlets?
The reason I ask is because this happens with all the heaters, on 3
different outlets, and I replaced at least one of those plugs recently
while remodeling a room.
I would look carefully to see if the spark is coming from the thermostat.
When switches make and break contacts, there is a spark, usually you can't
see it as its inside the body of the device, but if you are seeing it at the
outlet, there is a problem at the outlet. Another heater in a different
outlet that's on the same circuit as an outlet with loose wires, can also
cause the loose outlet to spark
You could get a spark with much lower current if something were loose.
I agree with RBM, but want to add that it's not the difference between
15 and 20 amps that makes the spark. It's because the the connection
is looose or something loose inside, as RBM said. This could happen
iwth a 20 amp socket too. (Although it would seem to solve the
problem because it will be a new socket and not likely to be bad, and
even if it weren't new, it will be a different one, and most sockets
don't have this problem.)
In fact you shouldn't use a 20 amp socket because its presence will
encourage someone someday to plug a 20 amp appliance into it, and if
the breakers are 15 amps, then the wire is probably 14 gauge, and if
the breaker doesn't trip for some reason, he'll be running 20 amps on
14 gauge wire, which isn't safe.
Story: I was living in a 1930 building in 1980, 49 apartments, and my
bedroom was the maid's room, and the sockets were 50 years old, and
because the landlord thought he was a plumber, he kept trying to
repair the furnace himself, and kept failing. So I had a heater
plugged in, and had used it for at least 10 or 20 days or nights. The
outle was at the foot of my bed, the same height as the top of the
mattress. This time I woke up to find flames coming from the outlet.
About 1 inch high or a bit more. I was reaching for the cord to pull
out the plug, but I actually had a girl with me, and just like in the
movies, she kept pulling my arm back for some reason (panic?) each
time I reached for the cord. It was like a slapstick comedy. I kept
trying using the normal amount of force needed to move one's arm, but
on the fourth try I upped the force to overcome her, got the cord, and
pulled out the plug. And the flame disappeared within a second or
There was no damage and little soot, so it didn't seem it had been
burning for long before I woke, but it was morning, and I don't know
if I would have awakened that soon if it had been the middle of the
I think I got a new plug with open spring prongs and used that, and I
checked if the receptacle or the plug was hot after that, and it
wasn't. And it worked fine again. Although about that time, he
finally hired someone to fix the furnace.
I don't really understnad the solid prongs that have no springiness.
It seems to me they should have springiness too, in case the
receptacle doesn't have it anymore.
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