House-wide arcing

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  #1  
Old 04-23-16, 03:55 PM
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House-wide arcing

Our fan wall switches arc, and there's an arc when an appliance plug is inserted into a live electrical outlet socket--throughout the house. The house is 5 years old. Is there a house-wide wiring problem? Any ideas what's going on here? Thanks.
 
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  #2  
Old 04-23-16, 04:15 PM
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Our fan wall switches arc
Can you describe how ? They shoot sparks out ?


Many plugs will arc when plugged in if the device is electronic or turned on before being plugged in.


Any ideas what's going on here?
So far.... I see nothing out of the ordinary.
 
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Old 04-23-16, 04:15 PM
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Do all the appliances and lights and switches work correctly?

When a switch is flipped on or off and something is controlled by the switch (as opposed to an empty receptacle) there will be a tiny spark, the size depends on the amount of power being consumed.
 
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Old 04-24-16, 06:27 AM
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@PJMAX: I can sometimes hear a snap in the fan switches and in the outlet sockets. If the room is dark enough, I can also sometimes see a slight, very small flash in a fan switch or in an outlet socket. I wouldn't call any of this shooting sparks, though. All the switches fine. I have tested all the outlets with a receptable tester, and all are wired correctly and working correctly.

As you can see from the photo, over time, one outlet that I often use has become slightly blackened from the faint sparking.

@AllanJ: Yup, all outlets, switches, and appliances work fine.

By the way, I changed the fan switches to a different brand and style, but the problem persists.

I would like to know if this is normal switch and outlet behavior or if I have a problem, and since it seems to occur throughout the house, I'm wondering if there's a house-wide wiring problem.

Thanks.
 
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Old 04-24-16, 07:04 AM
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drywall issue?

You have residue even in the grounding hole. An chance you have Chinese drywall from the 2005 time frame +/-? Has there been any dusty construction/remodeling in the home?
 
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Old 04-24-16, 07:16 AM
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You have residue even in the grounding hole. An chance you have Chinese drywall from the 2005 time frame +/-? Has there been any dusty construction/remodeling in the home?
The home was built in 2009 (we had it built). No Chinese drywall. The home very dusty, though, even though we dust frequently.
 
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Old 04-24-16, 07:44 AM
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Any circuit that has a load on it will arc when connected. Do you get an arc when you plug in a lamp with that switch on the lamp off?

Was the house wired by an electrical contractor?
Do you have AFCI breakers for the bedrooms (required under 2008 code)

Please take a voltage reading between each hole and post the results here:
Hot to neutral (right slot to left slot)
Hot to ground (right slot to bottom hole)
Neutral to ground (left slot to bottom hole)
 
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Old 04-24-16, 08:03 AM
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I would take a dry Q tip and swap those slots. See if the residue is black (arcing products) or green (copper/brass corrosion product).
 
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Old 04-24-16, 08:24 AM
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That certainly looks to be black and most unusual to see it in the round ground slot where arcing usually never occurs on a plug in.

What do you plug in there that uses three prongs ?

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Old 04-24-16, 11:26 AM
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Our fan wall switches arc
What kind of fans? What kind of switches?

there's an arc when an appliance plug is inserted into a live electrical outlet socket
What appliances cause the arcing?
 
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Old 04-24-16, 01:12 PM
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I'm wondering if that residue on the receptacles is dirt caused by air infiltration? Air being pulled through the receptacle, leaving dirt - and not specifically caused by arcing. I think PJMax is correct, it would be very rare and would likely be tripping breakers.

It's common to see an arc in a switch when a load is powered on or off, similarly with plugging in devices. Sometimes cheaper switches or receptacles will cause more of an arc, but it isn't limited to only cheap devices.
 
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Old 04-24-16, 02:39 PM
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I agree, looks like dust from air infiltration. Was the wall draft stopped?
 
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Old 04-24-16, 03:22 PM
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Could very well be dust. The house is and has always been very dusty--even with our dusting nearly every day and using MERV-9 air filters. Would "canned air" work to clear the receptable dust?

Any circuit that has a load on it will arc when connected. Do you get an arc when you plug in a lamp with that switch on the lamp off?
I'll have to test this. I get that slight arc and occasional flash when I plug in my laptop power source. This also happens with our ceiling fan switches.

Was the house wired by an electrical contractor?
Do you have AFCI breakers for the bedrooms (required under 2008 code)
Yes. The house was built in 2009. How would I check for AFCI breakers?

Thanks!
 
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Old 04-24-16, 05:45 PM
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I get that slight arc and occasional flash when I plug in my laptop power source. This also happens with our ceiling fan switches.
A lap top power source and a ceiling fan is enough of a load to create an arc. Even if the laptop is not connect or off the power supply is a transformer and other electronics that use power. I would not expect a large arc, but there still could be an arc. As with any switch, when it makes or breaks the connection there will be an arc.

How would I check for AFCI breakers?
Look at the electrical panel, the breakers will be marked "AFCI" on them and have a "test" button similar to a GFCI.

One thing to note is that different states, and cities, are on different code cycles of the NEC. My state is on 2014 code while other states are on earlier versions. You do not have your location filled out so we really do not know what code cycle you are on.
 
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Old 04-24-16, 06:45 PM
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Thanks, Tolyn Ironhand.

Look at the electrical panel, the breakers will be marked "AFCI" on them and have a "test" button similar to a GFCI.

One thing to note is that different states, and cities, are on different code cycles of the NEC. My state is on 2014 code while other states are on earlier versions. You do not have your location filled out so we really do not know what code cycle you are on.
The electrical panel has two breakers with test buttons, although I didn't see "AFCI" on them (see photos--the FULL Panel is vertical--only the photo is horizontal). Those two breakers (#1 and #4) are for both bedrooms. I'm in Florida, and I added that location to my profile.

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  #16  
Old 04-25-16, 08:10 PM
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Those are AFCI breakers. If they were GFCI they would have a yellow test button.

You never did take any voltage readings I mentioned.

BTW - what is this in the red circle? Is it a surge protector?

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  #17  
Old 04-26-16, 05:33 AM
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Those are AFCI breakers. If they were GFCI they would have a yellow test button.
Thanks. Good to know.

You never did take any voltage readings I mentioned.
I don't have a meter for that. Can you suggest something please?

BTW - what is this in the red circle? Is it a surge protector?
'
Yes--surge protector. The photo is upside down. The surge protector is at the top right on the panel.
 
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Old 04-26-16, 09:40 AM
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I don't have a meter for that. Can you suggest something please?
A $8-$15 analog multimeter is all you need. A digital would work for this but ones within a reasonable price range for casual DIY can give misleading results due to capacitive and induced voltages.
 
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Old 04-26-16, 12:33 PM
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A $8-$15 analog multimeter is all you need. A digital would work for this but ones within a reasonable price range for casual DIY can give misleading results due to capacitive and induced voltages.
Thank you, ray2047. I will look into this.
 
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