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Why an Outlet May Spark When Plugged Into


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

Why A Spark May Be Seen When a Cord is Plugged In: Electricity and a Load Spark.


Electricity and a Load Spark

Electrical Question: When I plug in my adapter for my laptop computer directly into an outlet in my kitchen I can see a spark at the time I plug it in.

  • I tried other receptacles in the house and I get a spark from them also.
  • I replaced the adapter with a new one but I still get a spark.
  • When I plug in a lamp without a ground plug on it into these same receptacles I do not get a spark.

Help please.

This electrical question came from: Larry, a Homeowner from Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Larry.

A Spark May Be Seen When a Cord is Plugged In

  • The spark that you see when you plug in your laptop adapter or power supply is because the electronic components of the power supply are drawing power immediately.
  • You may not see a spark when you plug in your lamp because either the lamp is turned off so there is no flow of electricity or the light bulb in the lamp is small and draws a smaller amount of electricity.
  • An electrical spark will occur when the electrical load on the circuit is substantial.
  • This principle can be compared to an automotive spark plug where there is a gap between the center electrode and the grounded tip, and because the voltage is high a spark will easily occur between the electrode and the grounded tip.
  • The grounded tip in this example of a spark plug represents no resistance so the high voltage spark will naturally occur.
  • The spark that you were seeing is the result of electrical current flow because the laptop power supply was sending energy to the components right away.
  • This will not harm you as long as you are holding the insulated plug of the cord.

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