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  • outlet question.

    The other day....my MIL was using one of them europro heaters. After a while,she said the cord for the heater was getting hot,along with the outlet and the wall around the outlet. She also had a xmas tree plugged into it. Now to me that seems to many things plugged into it but is there a remedy for that? Could she have the outlet replaved to maybe something that could support that kind of load? or maybe a bigger circuit breaker?

  • #2
    Re: outlet question.

    I'm not an electrician.

    But, having the wall outlet warm, or especially hot is a sure sign of trouble. First thing I would check is requirements of the heater. There should be a label on it somewhere telling you the "Watts" and/or the amps required. Typically a wall outlet allows up to 15 amps. Likewise what kind of bulbs are being used in the Christmas tree lighting. If these are the bigger incandescent bulbs you are most likely overloading the outlet. The light cord should also have a amperage rating. The heat is generated because the cord is trying to draw more amperage than is available and therefore the resistance (in amperes) is causing the heat.

    You should also check the circuit breaker rating for this particular circuit.

    IF YOU IGNORE THIS, YOU COULD VERY WELL BE IN A FIRE HAZARD SITUATION!

    The problem is only easy to fix if you can move the heater or the lights to another circuit, rated well in excess of what the amperage requirements of the plug-in. I would think that your quickest fix is to simply move the heater to another circuit, suitable to whatever amperage rating is for the heater (I have a new 1500-watt heater... it requires 12.5 amps.) But, DO NOT use any extension cord, as it may well add to the problem... extension cords also have an amperage rating, but you must keep them as short as possible. Electric heaters are generally "Cautioned" against any kind of extension cord usage.

    Basically, the breaker, the wire gauge, the outlet, and all the outlets on that particular circuit must match and be in excess of the devices plugged in. A single 15-amp outlet cannot be expected to handle more than 15 amps, and there cannot be more than 15 amps in total on all the devices of a 15-amp circuit (14-gauge wire), protected by a 15-amp breaker. For example, I have a 1500 watt heater which is rated at 12.5 amps. On a normal 15-amp circuit, I would consider it "loaded". To max out that circuit you only need another 2.5 amps, which would be another 280 watts total on the entire circuit. If your Christmas lights are the old style incandescents, and you also have a table lamp or two plugged into the circuit (even on other outlets on the same circuit), you are at or over your limit. Factor in any loose wire, connections, crimps, and you're now a hazard protected only by a properly functioning breaker. Breakers have been known to fail.

    (I have an old house where one circuit might cover several room areas. I'm gradually separating and "making sense" of the circuits, but over many years and owners, it is almost unimaginable how one circuit gets "octopussed" to many different locations. All must be taken into account when trouble shooting. For example, though now fixed, I had one circuit that supplied the outside porch lamp, two lamps and four outlets in the upper master bedroom, AND, the garage circuit with outlets, overhead light, and garage door opener.)

    To increase a particular outlet/circuit, requires an increase in wire size to 12-gauge, which has a 20-amp rating. Likewise, a 20-amp outlet is required for any plug-in device requiring this higher amperage. You CANNOT simply replace the outlet, without knowing the wire feeding it, and the circuit breaker or fuse protecting that circuit. (It's sort of like the old story of some idiot putting a "penny" in the fuse box.... stupid, and a sure way to burn your house down. A breaker or fuse MUST be rated at or below the capacity of the wire feeding the outlet AND should be well within the maximum rating of anything plugged into that circuit, whether it be one outlet or the sum of all the outlets on that circuit.

    CWS
    Last edited by CWSmith; 12-02-2012, 07:13 PM. Reason: Addition in Italics

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    • #3
      Re: outlet question.

      the wiring size is what governs the size the circuit breakers max size. (in most instances DO NOT INCREASE).

      the receptacle may be of low quality a higher quality receptacle may be put in, if it is a stab back (wires poked in holes in the back of the receptacle (outlet) it is normally of low quality and in some situations I think dangerous, IMO the wires should go under screw or clamps on the receptacle. there are also various ratings amp wise on receptacles, and the way the insides are made are heaver and made to make better contact with the plug prongs.

      take a look at this web site, and see the inside of a stab back receptacles,
      Electrical Receptacles
      one picture from the site is posted,

      also loose screws can cause heat,

      (I do not know if your outlet is a stab back or not, or its quality but that is where I would start)
      do not replace with the cheapest thing off the shelf,

      and heaters can just pull allot of amps
      better quality may help, changing out the breaker will most likely only create more of a danger factor, because if the current breaker is providing enough amps to heat to create uncomfortable level, putting a larger breaker in will only keep the breaker from tripping and if a over load is there it will get hotter before it trips,

      it is possible the breaker is to large for the wire that is there,
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      • #4
        Re: outlet question.

        Make sure you dont have a Federal Pacific Electric circuit panel. Those things are known not to trip causing circuit overloads and fires!!! I have seen one NOT trip with a direct short, scary stuff!

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        • #5
          Re: outlet question.

          Originally posted by BHD View Post
          the wiring size is what governs the size the circuit breakers max size.
          No, the load served determines the maximum breaker size. I can put any size wire I want as long as it meets or exceeds the ampacity of the load.

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          • #6
            Re: outlet question.

            BDH; I agree that the backstabs can make a poor connection.

            It does not mean that its poor quality. Even if it is, just pull out the back stab wires (pushed into holes in the back) and land them on the screw for a better connection.

            The heat on the plug or receptacle is because that is the highest resistance in the circuit (next to the actual element) a loose connection causes heat.

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            • #7
              Re: outlet question.

              CWSmith; I agree a good place to start is to check the requirements of the heater. But I disagree with some other things;
              "...the cord is trying to draw more amperage than is available and therefore the resistance (in amperes) is causing the heat." No, the load is trying to draw it normal amperage but the high resistance point from the loose connection is generating heat. Circuit cant handle the ampacity just at that point.

              "You should also check the circuit breaker rating for this particular circuit. IF YOU IGNORE THIS, YOU COULD VERY WELL BE IN A FIRE HAZARD SITUATION!" It's not a bad idea to check but it is a fire hazard already because of the heat. (breaker will not trip because of a loose connection causing heat)

              "I have a new 1500-watt heater... it requires 12.5 amps" True, but the branch circuit must be sized 125% of that or 15.6A, Your heater is already maxed out on a 15amp circuit.

              "(I have an old house where one circuit might cover several room areas. I'm gradually separating and "making sense" of the circuits, but over many years and owners, it is almost unimaginable how one circuit gets "octopussed" to many different locations. All must be taken into account when trouble shooting. For example, though now fixed, I had one circuit that supplied the outside porch lamp, two lamps and four outlets in the upper master bedroom, AND, the garage circuit with outlets, overhead light, and garage door opener.)"

              Nothing technically wrong with doing that, as long as it is not overloaded. There is no maximum number of general purpose outlets in residential. You could put in a hundred on one 15 amp breaker if you. But I admit not a good design.
              Last edited by johncameron; 12-02-2012, 11:11 PM.

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              • #8
                Re: outlet question.

                Originally posted by johncameron View Post
                CWSmith;
                [/SIZE]
                "I have a new 1500-watt heater... it requires 12.5 amps" True, but the branch circuit must be sized 125% of that or 15.6A, Your heater is already maxed out on a 15amp circuit.

                This is not true, a 15 amp circuit has the capacity of 1800 watts, plenty for a 1500 watt heater. The other loads on the circuit are the issue and a possible loose connection. This is a plug in heater and is not considered a continuous load.

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                • #9
                  Re: outlet question.

                  Ah right, I stand corrected. Fixed space heating circuits must be sized 125%.

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