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The wall outlet is burned out after using a 120v heater. I was able to pull the orange cord out of it. The outlet is blackened, and the smell of burned odor has stopped . What is required to get this fixed?

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    If this is a full accounting of the details as far as you understand it, the solution is to call an electrician.
    – J...
    Nov 10 '17 at 20:19
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    What good would this site be if every answer was call an electrician? Or plumber? This is an easy fix from a somewhat common problem.
    – Ed Beal
    Nov 10 '17 at 23:32
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    @EdBeal: It's an easy fix if you can reliably diagnose the cause of the fault, and know how to safely repair it. (And if your local electrical code and your home insurance policy allow you to do it, in any case.) An essential part of do-it-yourself skills is being aware of your own limits, and knowing when you're in over your head and need to call in a professional. Based on the OP's description, I'd say there's a decent chance that they may lack the skills needed to fix this safely, particularly if the fault isn't as simple as it seems. Nov 10 '17 at 23:57
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    @EdBeal Because OP has not, as yet, demonstrated any sort of competence or awareness that gives confidence to their ability to successfully carry out the work. This is not difficult work, but the risk of doing it wrong, or missing an important detail in diagnosing the underlying problem while carrying out a repair with both us and OP lacking any more specific information is significant.
    – J...
    Nov 10 '17 at 23:59
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    Folks let's keep in mind that barking "hire a professional" is not our format here. Nor do I hear any fire in OP to charge in over hir head, and we certainly do see that in other posts where such cautions would be less misplaced. With so many electricians in Puerto Rico, Florida and Houston, and a strain on the rest, a handyman would suffice most likely. Nov 11 '17 at 3:11
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First, let's address the cause of the problem for safety. Something was drawing too much power for the wiring, but not enough to trip the breaker. This means that there was a weak link somewhere. I suspect either a bad cord end or a faulty outlet. If the outlet was old, it probably had a weak grasp on the cord prongs.

The outlet must be replaced. It has been damaged and is a further safety risk. It's an inexpensive fix, but one that requires a basic understanding of house wiring and connection techniques. Many tutorials can be had online, but the details of your repair depend on some things you haven't shared, such as the age of the home and the outlet type.

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    Just note that incorrectly installed electrical outlets, if they are determined to have caused a fire, can completely invalidate your home insurance. You do NOT want to burn your house down with unlicensed electrical work.
    – Nelson
    Nov 10 '17 at 22:03
  • @Nelson: Having your house burn down tends to be a rather unpleasant experience in any case. Not having a valid insurance claim just makes it even more so. Nov 10 '17 at 23:44
  • I don't see how this answers the question what is required to fix this.
    – Ed Beal
    Nov 10 '17 at 23:49
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    @EdBeal "The outlet must be replaced." Most likely, that is the correct fix. However, making sure that is the correct fix and doing it safely are non-trivial. Nov 11 '17 at 0:11
  • "Something was drawing too much power". Actually it is entirely possible the burning is cause by plugging/unplugging while the high power device is powered up resulting in arcing. The components my have originally been appropriately suited to the application. Of course that doesn't change the basic conclusion to replace the outlet and make sure it is correctly fused. If it was improperly fused for some reason then you need to be concerned about all the wiring.
    – agentp
    Nov 11 '17 at 16:28
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Most likely this was caused by a bad connection somewhere. That bad connection may have been between the fixed wiring and the outlet, between the outlet and the plug or between the plug and the flexible cord, or a wirenut where wires are pigtailed.

Anything that is heat-damaged needs to be removed/replaced. How difficult this is depends on what exactly was heat-damaged. If there is significant heat damage to the fixed wiring then it may be necessary to relocate the outlet box or even add a second box to allow cutting back to good wire.

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We have used a 120-V 1500-W heater (so 12.5 A draw) in our garage with no problems. Overheating of your receptacle was almost certainly due to a fault in the receptacle--loose wire or equivalent.

What is the listed power consumption of your heater in W? What is the size of the breaker on this circuit? Is the conductor serving this receptacle copper or aluminum and what gauge-- #14 or #12?

It is possible, but not likely, that the heater malfunctioned (short circuited), that the breaker failed to trip, and this was the highest resistance in the circuit so it overheated. To rule out this possibility, put a new plug on the heater and test it in another receptacle on a different breaker. If you have a VOM (volt-ohm meter, usually also can be used to measure current), you could test the resistance of the heater before you go to the trouble of putting on a new plug. If the resistance would be much less than 8 Ohm, you would have a problem using this heater on a wall receptacle.

At the very least the receptacle will have to be changed. Check the ends of the wires where they connect to the receptacle to see if they were overheated. Look for burned insulation and scorched wire. If you see this, the damaged wire would have to be cut off. If you do not have enough wire to cut off any then say so and we can discuss what to do in that case.

It could be that the heat damage is limited to the receptacle, but it is possible that severe overheating could damage a plastic electrical box. Is the box badly scorched?

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Outlets are easy to replace and cheap builders grade outlets do have problems with being fully loaded. First get a spec grade outlet these cost a few more dollars than the less than 2 dollar builders grade outlets but are made to much higher quality standards. Next turn off the breaker and verify the line is the correct one that was turned off. Remove the cover, remove the 2 screws holding the outlet in place and pull out of wall. Inspect the wiring if all is good move the wires from the existing outlet to the new outlet. The blacks wire goes to the brass colored screw(s) , the white wires go to the silver colored screws and the bare goes to the green screw. If back stabs were used a small screwdriver or a piece of 14 gauge wire can be pressed into the slot next to the hole the wire is in to release it (don't cut off unless damaged) if the outlet is wired differently take a photo so you can make the same connections. Push the outlet and wire back in attach the 2 screws then the cover. Now turn the breaker on and it should be good. I like using an outlet tester to verify wiring is correct they can be purchased where you get the outlet. Testers cost from 5-15$ depending on the brand and features like a GFCI test button and are a good tool to have I have several and so does the inspector that signs my jobs.

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    Why not just cut off the back-stabbed wire? Just to save some wire length? I can't be bothered to release the wire, so I just cut them off and strip some fresh copper for the new outlet.
    – JPhi1618
    Nov 10 '17 at 19:45
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    If you have more than 6" it would be fine but it is easy to remove the wires from stabs without shortening them.
    – Ed Beal
    Nov 10 '17 at 19:51
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    Ok, thanks. I agree that keeping length is good, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything.
    – JPhi1618
    Nov 10 '17 at 19:58
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    See that large button on the right edge of your keyboard, about halfway down? Consider using it from time to time.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 10 '17 at 21:03
  • @HotLicks You mean this one? ++++++++
    – Tristan
    Nov 10 '17 at 23:24
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First off that receptacle and wiring that it is on is not designed to handle a portable electric space heater. These situations regularly cause fires. Sounds like you came perilously close to one yourself. If you need to run a portable space heater from this location you need a dedicated 20-Amp circuit on a spec-grade receptacle just for that heater alone. Also please don't use any extension cords. Plug the heater directly into the receptacle. Then replace this heater. It is clearly damaged. My wife says that I tend to come off as heavy handed (I don't mean to) I just believe that hard truth is often the best truth. P.

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    You're assuming the heater requires 20A, but the fact is that at least in the US, it would be difficult to find a consumer-grade heater that needed more that 15A at a typical home store. Any new space heater that requires 20A should also have a special plug so it can't be used on a 15A outlet. This was most likely a bad outlet or a bad extension cord plug.
    – JPhi1618
    Nov 10 '17 at 19:43
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    You're drawing a lot of conclusions from very little data or evidence. Your wife is probably right. Being heavy handed is fine, just make sure you look before you leap.
    – J...
    Nov 10 '17 at 20:34
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    The almost universal size for any consumer heat-making machine in the US is ”1500W" (at 125V) and realistically 1400-ish at 120V. Just shy of the 1440W maximum continuous load permitted on a 15A circuit. It certainly should not cook any US receptacle or circuit, which start at 120V/1800W. Nov 11 '17 at 0:10
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Most likely what happened was a defective receptacle, particularly a problem where the wire attaches to the receptacle (and I bet a backstab is involved). All the parts should have been able to handle the power.

Call an electrician or handyman. It's hard to guess an asker's skill level from a question, especially a short one, but I get the impression you've never taken a cover plate off before, let alone located a breaker. These skills are learnable, but the urgency of finishing will tend to get in the way of learning.

Other than that, if you have the necessary kit (wire stripper, screwdrivers, electrical tape, wire nuts, scraps of wire), changing a receptacle is a pretty easy job and you can upgrade to a better quality receptacle for about $3.

There's a possibility you'll run into something complicated, eg aluminum wiring that needs a much more complex approach; that's where all the learning really needs to come into play, and why it's not necessarily the best thing for a newbie to do unassisted.

I just had a similar one that I caught early, I went to unplug a dehumidifier and the plug was warm and the receptacle was hotter. Turned off the breaker, popped the cover, someone had crammed a #12 stranded wire into a backstab (which are made for #14 solid), causing 2/3 of the strands to fold back. Fixed it in 10 minutes, plus another 20 to pop off all the other receptacles in that remodel and make sure the same thing hadn't been done anywhere else. (It hadn't).

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  • How can you know that (backstab failure?) The wiring could be aluminum badly screwed onto Cu-only lugs. What then? OP is going to follow the helpful directions here, go out and buy a new outlet (almost certainly also Cu-only), and repeat the very same error that (might) have been the cause in the first place. It's irresponsible to suggest a solution when you don't have all the details of the problem.
    – J...
    Nov 11 '17 at 0:06
  • I don't share your disdain of aluminum wire, but I see your point. Edited. Nov 11 '17 at 0:16
  • It's not disdain - it just needs to be treated properly. The point is that we don't know what's behind the wall. It could be knob and tube rotting away for all we know.
    – J...
    Nov 11 '17 at 0:44
  • @j in the first place I 100% agree with Harper the outlet is toast no matter what type of connections or grade it is. The outlet may work but any time an outlet is burned or blackened it should be replaced peroid. The damage shows the connections in the outlet have failed to some level, there outlet strength testers that I use on commercial jobs because they wear out with out being over heated once overheated they no longer have the required tension to maintain proper contact they tend to overheat so the #1 thing in my opinion would be to purchase a new spec grade outlet.
    – Ed Beal
    Nov 12 '17 at 21:02

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