In general, there are two types of commonly used electric outlets: grounded and ungrounded. Ungrounded outlets feature two prongs, while their grounded counterparts have three. The third prong in a grounded outlet provides a safe path for electricity to flow in the event of a short-circuit. It’s a safety feature intended to prevent shocks and damage to connected devices. If you have ungrounded outlets, they’re likely to be old and in need of replacement.
The most common sign that an electric outlet has reached the end of its useful life is when plugs no longer remain secure when plugged in. This common sign of wear and tear is a result of the plastic housing and internal metal parts of the outlet beginning to loosen from repeated use. Outlets left in that condition are a serious potential fire hazard. Loose plugs may cause an arc-fault (electricity jumping between the connectors), leading to fires and injury.
Cracks or Scorch Marks
If you see an outlet that has visible cracks or scorch marks, stop using it immediately and have it inspected and replaced. These are signs that the outlet could be overheating or operating abnormally. Of all of the signs of wear and tear an electric outlet can exhibit, this is by far the most serious. If you have an outlet that is showing these visible signs, it should be serviced by a qualified electrician, as it is not a safe task, even for an experienced do-it-yourselfer.
A Smart Decision
Replacing outlets that display any of the signs mentioned above is the right thing to do, from both a safety and a financial standpoint. Outlets are inexpensive compared to the cost of the damage they can do when not maintained properly. Taking the time to inspect your outlets and replace those that need it is an easy and painless way to prevent far bigger headaches later. It’s the least you can do to maintain the old-school tech that makes our modern world possible.