My daughter called out to me earlier today to tell me one of the lights in her room shut off suddenly, and that there was a spark.

After checking the circuit board to confirm that one of the breakers tripped, I ran into the room and quickly determined the cause of the problem, please see the images below:

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So this little Pikachu metal cover caused the short circuit which burned the outlet and tripped the breaker, ironic huh?

My question is, is it safe to flip the breaker back on? The outlet will obviously never be used again, but can everything else on that circuit run safely?

  • 4
    You need to replace that outlet first. Reason is to check if any damaged/burned insulation to the wires. Second reason is that code usually states how far outlets can be to each other on walls.
    – crip659
    Jul 1 at 17:20
  • 1
    Yup, change the outlet first. After removing the coverplate and pulling the outlet out, take multiple good pictures from a few angles. If in doubt about anything, return with a new question. If there's 3 wires plus a ground on the outlet, take good pictures of both sides, between the screws. There might be a broken tab between the hot screws, and you'd want to duplicate that. Jul 1 at 17:52
  • What exactly is that metal cover and what was it doing near plug pins? You'll probably want to ensure that doesn't get repeated after the repair.
    – nobody
    Jul 1 at 18:03
  • The question is, what's on the other end of that plug, and how'd it get power?
    – Huesmann
    Jul 1 at 18:06
  • @Huesmann - by the looks of it, it got power because the socket is permanently live, no switch… not helped much by a death-trap plug design that you can reach the terminals of with the contacts still engaged. Imagine if that pikachu cover was being held by someone & only touched one terminal, not both.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 1 at 18:19

2 Answers 2


The receptacle is now suspect and should not be used to flow power to or through. Not least, that soot is partially conductive, and more conductive in high humidity.

Fortunately a quality "spec grade" receptacle is $3 (they come in a little box rather than loose in a bin), and replacing it is "handyman tier" work - a proper electrician is not even required. Simple replacement of switches, receptacles and fixtures is generally exempt from the rule requiring a licensed electrician to do electrical work on rentals and condos.

NEC 2005 added a requirement for AFCI protection in bedrooms. (Not to be confused with GFCI*). AFCI would have brought this event to a very rapid end, saving the outlet, plug and Pokémon collectible.

Since apparently your construction pre-dates Code requirements for AFCI, you are "grandfathered" and not under any particular obligation to install it. When AFCI is required in a retrofit, it is permissible to use an AFCI receptacle at the first receptacle location in the circuit. Food for thought.

Another strategy often seen is to install receptacles "upside down" so that item would fall on the ground pin instead of hot and neutral.

* GFCI is very useful for preventing shocks from an energized item to ground, but not useful in a hot-neutral connection as found here.


Yes it is! make sure to replace the outlet first, perhaps a temper resistant is better, so the plug snap in and stays in securely, then you can turn on the breaker again, and it will be like nothing ever happened.

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