Is a warm electrical outlet cause for concern?

Is a warm electrical outlet cause for concern?

 

Dear Mike,
I have a GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter) question about our RV. I have noticed that the GFI outlet in the bathroom was warm when we had an electric heater plugged in to another outlet. The second outlet had a GFI sticker attached to it but was not a GFI outlet. When I tripped the GFI test button on the first outlet the heater also shut off. So obviously this one GFI is protecting more than one outlet, but should it get warm? Thanks. —Tom Toomey

Dear Tom,
Thanks for your question. Anytime you feel an outlet or wiring getting warm, that’s time for concern.

Overheated outlets

I don’t think that the outlet being a GFI has anything to do with it heating up. What you describe suggests that you might be drawing too much continuous current via your space heater. How many watts is it? If it’s rated for 1,800 watts, then that’s 15 amperes of current which will probably cause the wires and outlet to heat up a bit even though it doesn’t trip the circuit breaker. While the outlet is rated for 15 amperes, running a space heater drawing 15 amps for hours at a time will eventually cause the outlet to overheat and eventually discolor. Any sign of discoloration on an outlet is an indication that it could fail and cause a fire, so it should be immediately replaced. Home outlets are not really designed for a 100% duty cycle.

Overheated extension cord

Secondly, it also possible that the screws connecting the wiring to the back of the GFI outlet have loosened up from vibration due to travel or become corroded from moisture infiltration. So it’s a good idea to disconnect your RV from shore power, as well as any generator or inverter power, then pull out the GFI outlet from the wall box and check all the screws for tightness. If you’re not qualified to work on home wiring, I suggest you get this important maintenance performed by a licensed electrician or technician. 

BTW: I think that ALL RV circuit breaker and power outlet screws should be checked for tightness every few years. However, you generally don’t have to do this for your sticks and bricks house since it’s not bouncing down the road at 60 mph. 

Let’s play safe out there. —Mike Sokol, The No~Shock~Zone

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40 years in the industry. Visit NoShockZone.org for more electrical safety tips. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

##RVT780

 

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One thought on “Is a warm electrical outlet cause for concern?

  1. William Terry

    Sometimes the outlets are connected in a daisy chain fashion using the push in wire terminals rather than the screws. This method can be a problem as all the downstream current is being put through the tiny contact clips inside of each outlet.
    The solution may be to rock the wires out of the outlet clips and move them to the screw terminals on the side of each outlet.

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