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What is the average life expectancy of an electrical receptacle outlet?
Saturday, December 21, 2019
How long does an electrical receptacle last?
You can expect a receptacle outlet to last about 50 years or more, but here are five factors that can shorten its life:
1) Frequent usage - Metal strips in the receptacle hold the prongs of an appliance cord under tension and securely in place. After repeatedly inserting and removing the cord, the receptacle loses its “grab” and will not make a good connection. If the cord is effortless to remove or it slides a little downward after insertion, as in the photo below, it’s time to replace the receptacle. Locations where this is mostly likely to occur first are kitchen counter receptacles and the receptacle you use regularly to plug in the vacuum cleaner.
2) High humidity - Humidity in an unconditioned room, such as a garage or porch, speeds up corrosion, which usually makes itself known by difficulty inserting a cord, along with bits of rust grit dropping out when you remove it. Receptacles in an outdoor location will have a shorter life and when the weather-protection cover is missing, like in the bottom quad-receptacle in the photo below, it will be shortened even further. Eventurally, severe corrosion will make impossible to plug in a cord at all.
3) Damage - If any part of the face of the receptacle is broken off or bent, it’s time to replace it.
4) Paint contamination - Painting right over the receptacle is a no-no, and will cause a poor electrical connection and possible arcing.
5) A short circuit - Any dark black marking at the receptacle and cover plate indicate that there was a short circuit and it should be replaced.
The building code now requires that receptacles be tamper-resistant (like in the photo at the top of this page, with “TR” embossed between the slots) and, even if there is no building inspector looking over your shoulder, it’s still a good idea for the safety of young children in the house. Also, receptacles in wet areas like the kitchen, bathrooms, garage, and exterior should be upgraded to GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) for shock protection when replacing old receptacles in those areas.
Here’s a graph that compares the life expectancy of a receptacle outlet to other electrical components in a home.
Go to our blog post What is the average lifespan of the parts of a house? for rating of other house components. To understand the basis, potential use, and limitations of lifespan ratings, see our blog post How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful?
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Field Guide for Home Inspectors, a quick reference for finding the age of 154 brands of HVAC systems, water heaters, and electrical panels, plus 210 code standards for site-built and manufactured homes, and the life expectancy rating of 195 home components. Available at amazon.com for $19.95.
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To learn more about electrical wiring, devices, and receptacles, see these other blog posts:
NOTE: These life expectancies are based on data provided by InterNACHI, NAHB, FannieMae, and our own professional experience. Because of the numerous variables that can affect a lifespan, they should be used as rough guidelines only, and not relied upon as a warranty or guarantee of future performance.
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