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    Crock Pot Sparks

    First let me state that all receptacles in our kitchen will be replaced by an electrical contractor during a complete kitchen remodel that starts in about 3 weeks. So this is not a DIY situation.

    Two days ago, my wife plugged in a crock pot (in the lower half of a duplex receptacle), turned it on, and saw sparks flying. The breaker tripped, there is black discoloration on the receptacle itself (I haven’t tried to clean it yet – it might just be on the surface), there is damage to the plug, and the wire entering the pot is almost completely burnt through. She is fine. The crock pot has been discarded. The light that is plugged into the upper half of the same duplex is still working.

    Question: Is there likely to be a safety hazard? Should we avoid plugging anything into the lower half of this duplex? Should we unplug the light, and avoid using the duplex entirely? Three weeks from now it will no longer matter. But if the receptacle is still functional and safe, then I will clean the outside and let things be plugged into it.
    Charles E. Beck, P.E., Seattle
    Comments based on 2017 NEC unless otherwise noted.

    #2
    Originally posted by charlie b View Post
    First let me state that all receptacles in our kitchen will be replaced by an electrical contractor during a complete kitchen remodel that starts in about 3 weeks. So this is not a DIY situation.

    Two days ago, my wife plugged in a crock pot (in the lower half of a duplex receptacle), turned it on, and saw sparks flying. The breaker tripped, there is black discoloration on the receptacle itself (I haven’t tried to clean it yet – it might just be on the surface), there is damage to the plug, and the wire entering the pot is almost completely burnt through. She is fine. The crock pot has been discarded. The light that is plugged into the upper half of the same duplex is still working.

    Question: Is there likely to be a safety hazard? Should we avoid plugging anything into the lower half of this duplex? Should we unplug the light, and avoid using the duplex entirely? Three weeks from now it will no longer matter. But if the receptacle is still functional and safe, then I will clean the outside and let things be plugged into it.
    My thoughts from here, it's fine, just don't use that receptacle. Guessing the crock pot cord end was the culprit?
    Tom
    TBLO

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by ptonsparky View Post
      Guessing the crock pot cord end was the culprit?
      That's what I think. But I didn't do an autopsy. I am calling it a natural ending due to old age. We've had that crock pot for at least 15 years.
      Charles E. Beck, P.E., Seattle
      Comments based on 2017 NEC unless otherwise noted.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by charlie b View Post
        That's what I think. But I didn't do an autopsy. I am calling it a natural ending due to old age. We've had that crock pot for at least 15 years.
        You are aware that old age hasn't been an accepted explanation for end of life since the late 50s?
        Tom
        TBLO

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          #5
          Too bad you didn't have AFCI protection it would have been nice to see if things tripped. Pull that crock pot back out of the trash and hold onto it for a few weeks.
          Tom
          TBLO

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by ptonsparky View Post
            Too bad you didn't have AFCI protection it would have been nice to see if things tripped. Pull that crock pot back out of the trash and hold onto it for a few weeks.
            He said breaker tripped though. Probably on magnetic trip function. Presumably AFCI breakers have thermal magnetic function also.
            I live for today, I'm just a day behind.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by charlie b View Post
              That's what I think. But I didn't do an autopsy. I am calling it a natural ending due to old age. We've had that crock pot for at least 15 years.
              15 years? That's adolescence for a crock pot. Our wedding gift crock pot is still going strong after 37 years.
              Gregg

              I'm just here for the pictures!

              Comment


                #8
                I would have done and autopsy.
                Cheers and Stay Safe,

                Marky the Sparky

                Comment


                  #9
                  Based upon your description, Charlie, it sounds like the cord, at the side of the crock pot, was a line to neutral short.

                  The activity at the receptacle was probably a "series" event of a small point of contact between male and female that "fused", i.e., melted like a fuse element at the higher current in the short, giving rise to a plasma that would boil the metal to gas which would redeposit itself as the black mark.
                  Another Al in Minnesota

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Since the cord was almost burned through entering the crock pot, that is likely the failure point, due to fatigue from being wiggled going from place to place. That's my wild guess.
                    Gregg

                    I'm just here for the pictures!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by al hildenbrand View Post
                      Based upon your description, Charlie, it sounds like the cord, at the side of the crock pot, was a line to neutral short.

                      The activity at the receptacle was probably a "series" event of a small point of contact between male and female that "fused", i.e., melted like a fuse element at the higher current in the short, giving rise to a plasma that would boil the metal to gas which would redeposit itself as the black mark.
                      Dang...you're faster typing them I am.
                      Gregg

                      I'm just here for the pictures!

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Thanks everyone. I agree that the wire shorted out at the point it enters the pot. The waste disposal company took it away yesterday, so it is too late for an autopsy. The damage to the prongs of the power cord is what led me to be concerned over the receptacle. We are just going to avoid using that outlet. It will be removed in about three weeks anyway.

                        As an aside, the GC suggested, and my wife loved the idea, that no outlets be installed in the countertop wall space (i.e., in the wall itself). Instead, they will run something akin to Wiremold across the back of the underside of the upper cabinets, and put the receptacles there. That way the receptacles are not visible and will not interfere with anything she wants to store on the countertop. It recently occurred to me that the 20" limit would come into play. I need to look at the cabinetry plans to make sure this idea is workable.

                        Edited to add: The plans show 19.5 inches from countertop surface to underside of upper cabinets.
                        Last edited by charlie b; 12-21-18, 10:38 AM.
                        Charles E. Beck, P.E., Seattle
                        Comments based on 2017 NEC unless otherwise noted.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          If I could find that stuff in Jamaica I would run it myself but it is one of those things that one would b=need to import in a suitcase as no suppliers think the undercabinet lighting or outlets worth selling.
                          Student of electrical codes. Please Take others advice first.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            When plugmold is used up at the cabinet it is usually because of fancy tile "backsplash" that the "decorator" doesn't want interrupted with receptacles.

                            One can also put the receptacles horizontally and as high as possible under the cabinets (as long as still no more than 20" above counter) and it still might be acceptable to the decorator
                            I live for today, I'm just a day behind.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by charlie b View Post
                              As an aside, the GC suggested, and my wife loved the idea, that no outlets be installed in the countertop wall space (i.e., in the wall itself). Instead, they will run something akin to Wiremold across the back of the underside of the upper cabinets, and put the receptacles there.
                              The key to effecting the end result lies with the depth of the under-cupboard valence in relationship to the sight line of a person seated at the lowest seat in the kitchen. The same goes for the under-cupboard lighting.

                              Depending upon the arrangement of amenities in your new kitchen design, the lower lip of the cupboard (the valence) should hang down enough to break the sight line, of the lowest seated person, of the receptacles and under-cupboard lights.
                              Another Al in Minnesota

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