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Question DetailsAsked on 9/8/2013

how to fix electrical outlet where plug and cord get hot

kitchen outlet in 70 year old home, where toaster oven is plugged in. Plug and cord get very hot, even the plastic cover on outlet

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4 Answers


My guess - device has an undersized cord. The underwriter Labs allow way undersized cords on appliances if they are short (that is why many only come with 2-3 foot cords now). My recommendation is to go to an appliance repair shop and get a heavier duty cord put on it, or if a cheap one find one with a heavier cord, and preferably not made in China.

One alternative - file a safety complaint with the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission and maybe the manufacturer will send you a new model with a heavier cord (no guarantee it will be heavier, even if newer model). You can also check on the site for prior complaints about your model.

We have had a portable countertop grill and a waffle iron and a hot pot do the same thing over the years - all because the wiring was minimally sized. One actually melted right through !

Answered 7 years ago by LCD


I failed to finish my thought stream - if only the part of the cord and plug by the outlet is hot, not the entire length of the cord, then try it in another outlet. If does not get hot there, then your outlet is overheating and should be looked at or replaced by an electrician, unless you are home electrical handy - probably minimum charge plus about $5 parts - could run from $50-125 probably, depending on local electrician rates.

If it gets hot in another outlet also, if entire cord gets hot enough that your first tendency is to let go, then it is undersized per my first thought. If only the outlet end gets hot, then it has probably been bent (just by hanging out of the plug will do it over time) enough that some of the multi-strand wires are broken inside, so the remaining wires are overheating with the load. The end can be cut off and replaced with an appropriately rated replacement plug - 2 or 3 wire according to what the current wire is. If you are not home handy, an appliance store can do this (or replace entire cord) for you for probably their minimum charge plus about $5-8 for the parts - maybe about $20-40. Don't know what your toaster oven is worth - cross check as would not be worth paying to have it fixed on a $40 toaster oven.

In any event do not continue to use it until it is fixed - ditto for the outlet if that is the source of the overheating.

Answered 7 years ago by LCD


I'm wondering if I could plug my space heater (the plugs get VERY hot) into a surge protector instead of the wall.

Answered 3 years ago by rhoteris64


NOTE: obviously when checking things out, at least make sure you are not grounded anywhere when handling the cord - and assume that any specific hot point may have broken wiring exposed at that point.

rhoteris64 - if the cord is getting too hot to lay it in your hand for a few seconds it is too hot, and ideally you should be able to wrap your hand tight around it and hold it indefinitely without needing to let go. Outlet cover should not be too hot to hold your fingers against, and the area on the wall around the outlet should not be more than luke warm - should not be definite "hot" areas on the wall.

Unfortunately, way too many appliances are allowed out there with undersized cords that do get too hot, even when brand new, and that is dangerous not only from a safety standpoint, but it also promotes deterioration of the insulation, leading to cracking and greater safety hazards down the road.

If only the cord is getting hot (like along its length or at one location), but not the outlet - then the cord is undersized or has been damaged so some of the internal wires (commonly stranded wire on countertop and portable appliances) are broken inside the cord.

If only the outlet is getting hot, time for an electrician to check it out - and if getting "hot" rather than just warm, I would replace the outlet regardless of what else is found in there because it might have been damaged by the heat.

If the plug and outlet both get hot could be outlet or plug problem - lots of those type small appliance cords, especially if they do not have a strain relief (a tubular protective rubber sleeve coming off the plug and integral with it to prevent sharp cord bending at the plug), gradually wire strands break at the plug and that causes heating as the wire current-carrying capacity goes down as each strand breaks.

Plugging your appliance into a plug strip which has an amperage rating at least as high as the appliance would tell you which is the problem - if outlet was still hot after doing that, problem is in there or your device is more amperage than the outlet is rated for. If the cord/plug gets hot at the plug strip, problem is the plug/cord.

However - just plugging it into a plug strip will not help, and because of the longer cord will waste more electricity in cord heating and you will get even less heat out of the portable heater. Also - a surge protector strip will make no difference here - surge protectors protect against voltage surges coming through the utility lines - so generally used to protect electronic or medical equipment and such. Surge protection does NOT protect against overloading - though many surge protector (as well as most plug strips) do have a built-in circuit breaker to protect against overloading them, which might trip out or "pop" if your device pulls more power than the strip is rated for.

Also - generally portable appliances like that are provided with short cords BECAUSE they are small-gage to make them cheap - so using an extension cord, at least one not rated for full circuit rating (like 15 or 20A say) if a bad idea because it results in a lot of voltage drop, which can hurt motors and fans and such. For a pure resistance device like a toaster or portable heater, the result of using an extension cord would just be some heat loss in the cord and less heat from the heater itself - but the cord should be rated for 25% higher amperage than the heater - so for a 1200W heater say the extension cord should be rated for not less than 1500W (12.5A), and a 1400W heater (maximum for a 15A circuit) should have an extension cord rated for 1750W, or 15A - and always be as short as will work for the job.

One possibility if the outlet is getting hot is your outlet is not rated for the amperage being drawn - ordinary 120V wall outlets commonly come in 15A and 20A configurations - almost exclusively 15 amp in pre-1990 or so construction, some 20A in newer homes through an awful lot of the duplex outlets sold ande installed today are still 15A rated. So for an electric portable heater that would mean a maximum 1450W heater because circuits/outlets should not be loaded with sustained loads exceeding 80% of rated capacity, which would be 1800W max rated capacity for a 15A outlet. And that assumes there is no other electrical load on that circuit.

If you are on a circuit pulling more power than the rating for the wiring, especially if that wiring goes "through" the outlet (using the outlet as the connection point) rather than the outlet being wired with pigtail wiring to the circuit, so the load from other devices on the circuit goes through it, then an overheating outlet could be an indication that the circuit itself is being overloaded. For instance, a normal 15A circuit breaker might handle about 20A for quite a time (potentially several hours) before it tripped out - and might take 30-40A for a few seconds to maybe as much as a minute before it trips and still be considered to be properly functioning.

Generally speaking - portable heaters should not be used on a regular basis - fine for putting heat in an area for temporary use (like blowing in under a car while working on it or in an unheated room while working there for a short time now and then), but basically speaking they are not a "safe" appliance for long-term or repeated use. Way too many fires are caused by them failing and catching fire, fires from damaged cords or excessive / undersized extension cord use, things falling on them or them tipping over and causing fires, pet/child injuries, etc. For a location with a routine or frequently recurring heat need, and especially for general room or home heating, you should have a permanently installed heating unit (which could be straight electric, electric-heated fluid radiator (works like a baseboard heating system and provides more "gentle" heat), or any normal type of home heating system.

One other thing on hot cords from portable/countertop appliances - if at all "hot" rather than just luke warm, lay out the cords so they do not cross oer each other and are not coiled up - that can create hot spots where the cord touches itself and damage the insulation. "Fake" it instead - lay excess cord out in back and forth loops like a sidewinder rattlesnake to avoid it lying on itself. The short cords they come with (especially for high-wattage appliances like toasters, microwaves, countertop rottiseries, hot pots, waffle irons, coffee makers, etc) are short partly for that reason - to reduce the chance of cord-to-cord spot overheating.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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