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Old 06-28-2023, 12:01 PM   #1
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house wiring - never seen this light before

hey folks....

not bus related just bad electrical.

i plugged in a window unit AC the other day in my bedroom so my wife can sleep. i got cold and came out to living room and seen this light i've never seen before.

the outlet baked and broke. the AC in the other room is on this circuit and its wired to go through the outlet. i swapped out the outlet yesterday and all seems well again.

knda scary to see it light up like that.
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Old 06-28-2023, 12:11 PM   #2
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I can't tell what I'm looking at from that picture, Turf.

Is the circuit protected by a breaker properly sized for the wiring?
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Old 06-28-2023, 12:27 PM   #3
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Nearly burned the house down. Did the wires appear to be burned-- or the outlet itself? Even with a properly sized breaker, a loose connection can get hot enough to start a fire. That is a very scary sight. Good thing you were at home...

I hope there is no aluminum wire....
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Old 06-28-2023, 12:33 PM   #4
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its the outlet.

the light, is the glow of the copper blades and wire. the outlet melted. it was very hot.

the outlet crumbled apart when i took it off of there.

100 year old house. i think the wiring is from the 50's. its got circuit breakers, not fuses, but very primitive circuit breakers. the wiring is fabric wrapped, pre romex.

i cut a couple inches of burnt wire off and connected fresh. the new outlet did not heat up with the AC load n the other room.
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Old 06-28-2023, 12:44 PM   #5
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Wow

Is your wiring aluminum? If so that might be the source of your issues here, and possibly a danger at every other outlet in your home. It sounds like it's a likely possibility.

Check this out. It shows how to identify aluminum wire, as well as mitigate problems created by it (multiple ways to pigtail explained)...

https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/516.pdf
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Old 06-28-2023, 07:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turf View Post
its the outlet.

the light, is the glow of the copper blades and wire. the outlet melted. it was very hot.

the outlet crumbled apart when i took it off of there.

100 year old house. i think the wiring is from the 50's. its got circuit breakers, not fuses, but very primitive circuit breakers. the wiring is fabric wrapped, pre romex.

i cut a couple inches of burnt wire off and connected fresh. the new outlet did not heat up with the AC load n the other room.
It could be knob & tube. Have you been above the ceiling? Crawl space?
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Old 06-29-2023, 08:43 AM   #7
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What’s the wattage of the AC? What’s the amperage of the circuit? Seems like an over current condition.
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Old 06-29-2023, 10:09 AM   #8
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My in-laws had a similar problem, two bedrooms had outlets and lights that all went in parallel through the first outlet in the "string"...well the push-in wire connector on that outlet got loose. Electricians couldn't figure it out I opened up the outlet and found a copper wire that was BLACK with carbon...no wonder everything flickered! Replaced the outlet, no issues.
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Old 06-29-2023, 10:14 AM   #9
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causes of burnt outlet

you can load this question in your browser. I own a house built within about 5 years of electric wiring of being common across the USA. my hunch is 1) wiring is smaller gauge than would be specified nowadays

2) wiring suffered damage from overload

3) took time and repeated overload to get to this point.

as a result, i would down grade the breaker on this circuit to 10 amp. and pull and inspect all the other outlets on this circuit.

side note --- because of this I would also inspect all outlets that have been subjected. to 15 amp loads. I bet you find more signs of heat damage.

consider replacing breakers with arc fault interrupter breakers. yea I know might have to replace with new service box cause old box might not accept new breakers.

mostly rewired my 1920's home.

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Old 06-29-2023, 12:55 PM   #10
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Series vs Parallel

All good points above. Not alot of data collected, so it's hard to know 100%. I hope you do not have Aluminum wire.

Resistance is clearly the cause of the heat. Maybe wiresize, load, loose connection.... any of which, results in resistance and heat.

Assuming that the breakers & wire are all sized correctly (likely), overcurrent or overload are probaly not the issue, but possible. The breaker would normally sense these & trip. Resistance adds, so overload resistance is greatest at the panel, the source, not the end or middle of the circuit.

The resistance is quite apparent in the receptical, base on its heat.

IF nothing was plugged into the receptical, it's likely the power is wired to pass through the receptacle. Installed in Series form. The receptical therefor becomes a resistor. Better to rewire in Parallel.⤵



Otherwise the connections may not have been torqued enough. Then there are "Backstabbed" recepticals, which may become loose over-time. Or maybe just a loose hot or neutral🤷 at the set screw.


While, not required in residential construction, pigtails⤴ are used to wire recepticals in parallel. By using this meens, only the pigtail joints are wired series, not the receptacle, themselves. Placing the resistance in the joint, not the receptical.


If the old receptical was wired in series and not pigtailed, you may find the same technique elsewhere (throughout) in your home. If it was backstabbed, that is much worse. We are not even allowed to do that anymore.

Statistically speaking, most things age at about the same speed. When one breaks, more will follow. Light bulbs, car window motors, tire rubber & the insulation on electrical parts...

Most of us have 30 or more recepticals in our home. So far, you've only asked the dealer for one card.

Take the safe gamble and peek at the other cards in the deck. Check some of the other recepticals for loose bite in the Jaws (plug falls out) & heat. Open some up, spot check. I look for more of the same brand, as the bad one just I replaced.



(Replying to Turf's next post⤵)
Yes, to the 20A Receptical and well done, choosing to pigtail the replacement.
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Old 06-29-2023, 01:17 PM   #11
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thanks for all the replies

i believe this system is similar to the knob and tube. closer to that than modern wiring.
i also think the wires are copper.

when i cut off a bit of the burn wire, i was thinking a pigtail would make it better and relieve the current going thru the outlet.

the light (heated up portion) was the incoming wire and the copper in between the screws in and out. enough of the outlet had melted away you could see it pretty clearly. nothing was plugged into this outlet, the AC was the culprit in the other room. when the AC was turned off, the light went away.

thanks for the safety tips, i probably need to go thru and check and replace most.

would putting in a 20A outlet help? is there more copper for the series connection?

the connections on the outlet seemed tight. so while i attribute it to a bad connection, i did not find a culprit.

thanks again everyone
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Old 06-29-2023, 07:31 PM   #12
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I don't know if this came up but you had a grounded recep, so was there a ground wire attached?

I'm wondering whether the fuse or breaker would have popped if there were a proper ground wire....
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Old 06-30-2023, 01:18 AM   #13
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there was no ground wire. just hot and neutral
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Old 07-05-2023, 08:41 PM   #14
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He wouldn't have aluminum unless something was remodeled between 1970-1976. That is a common failure through daisy chained receptacles.
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Old 07-06-2023, 08:32 AM   #15
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He wouldn't have aluminum unless something was remodeled between 1970-1976. That is a common failure through daisy chained receptacles.
yea they used copper. also the 14 ga copper was bigger than what we have as 14. knob and tube had no insulation on it. it was a bad connection in a parallel system. use pigtails
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Old 07-06-2023, 02:38 PM   #16
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there was no ground wire. just hot and neutral
Hmmm, then someone did some work to the wiring without paying attention to electrical code. Shouldn't be using grounded receps to retrofit wiring without a ground.

This points to more potential problems elsewhere.
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