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If you plug a cord into an outlet and sparks fly while plugging it in

  1. Jun 26, 2010 #1

    Simfish

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    Can you get electrocuted if you accidentally touch the sparks? Especially if the sparks are long? (i've had some disturbingly long sparks before)

    And is it a fire hazard if the sparks hit something such as paper?
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2010
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  3. Jun 26, 2010 #2

    vanesch

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    Sparks while you plug IN or while you UNplug ?
     
  4. Jun 26, 2010 #3

    russ_watters

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    .... if an outlet sparks when you plug something into it, you should have an electrician replace it immediately. Yes, it is a fire and electrocution hazard.
     
  5. Jun 26, 2010 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    russ_watters,

    Can you elaborate? Often, when I plug in a charger, there is a small spark. But since the primary coil of the charger transformer is always drawing current, I would expect a spark when the gap between outlet and plug gets below a certain distance (call it 0.1 mm), corresponding to the breakdown voltage.

    Or is that not what you mean?
     
  6. Jun 26, 2010 #5
    This is what I was thinking the OP meant. When all of the lights are off in my house and there is only a tiny bit of ambient moonlight coming through my window and I plug in my computer, I can see a smal flash of blue light in the vicinity of the outlet. It's awesome.
     
  7. Jun 26, 2010 #6

    DaveC426913

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    These sparks, are they:
    - lines of arc from plug to outlet?
    or are they
    - shooting off the plug like little arcs into open air (like a sparkler)?

    If the former: yes, you could get electrocuted. That arc is a circuit of electricity.

    If the latter, no, you will not get electrocuted. Those sparks are vapourizing microscopic bits of metal. They are mostly harmless. Yes they are hot enough to glow, but they are so tiny that they simply have a negligible amount of heat to transfer - usually not enough to heat up a piece of paper to ignite. They could even land on you and you might not feel it.

    That being said, it is possible to have sparks big enough and often enough to actually "sting" you or set something on fire.
     
  8. Jun 26, 2010 #7

    russ_watters

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    I've never seen that, but the OP used the words "disturbingly long".....what you describe doesn't sound "disturbingly long" to me.
     
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