Saltwater in plug, huge buzz, small fire...now what?

cyberpanther

Premium Member
So I was trying to get my overflow suction started and accidentally spilled a decent amount of water into the outlet behind the tank (I know bad spot for an outlet). It is not a GFI (I know even worse) and as a result it arched and there are black marks about 8 inches to a foot above the outlet from the fire. Fortunately the breaker flipped, but oddly enough it turned off plugs on that breaker and a seperate breaker.

I the went and tried to clean all the water out of the outlet without removing it, and turned the breaker back on, and it happened again, but again the breaker flipped (this time only for those plugs on that breaker). My wife then asked if I removed the tape from the lower plug from when she painted. Oops...nope, and water got behind the tape and into the socket, and apparently that caused the arc and fire before flipping the breaker.

I am now running an extension cord to a different outlet on a different breaker, but what should I do about this outlet now? Can I use a dehumidifier for a few days then retry, or do I need an electrician. If an electrician is needed of course I will have him make it a GFI plug while he is out. My neighbor does construction and based on previous experience he will check it for a nominal fee but he is not an electrician, but has 30 years of experience in construction and swears he knows what he is doing. He did do the recessed lighting in my basement. I have four kids so safety first.

P.S. My son who is only 5 was there when it happened, heard the huge buzz, saw the flames, and is freaking out.
 
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gbru316

Active member
If you aren't comfortable with the job yourself and don't trust your neighbor, hire an electrician. Better safe than sorry.
 

cyberpanther

Premium Member
I agree and that's what I want to do, but I have limited funds so if I don't have to call an electrician I prefer not too... But I am thinking I may have to anyway. Thanks.

Any other opinions, facts, advice, etc are appreciated.

Any reefer electricians out there?
 

Reefnooblet

New member
Cut the power to the outlet and change it yourself, it's so simple even a caveman can do it!


Sent from my iPhone using morse code.
 

cyberpanther

Premium Member
Reefnooblet I like the answer, but do you happen to know if there is a chance of damage past the outlet from this? Thanks again.
 

Reefnooblet

New member
You mean to pumps from when the plug acred?

You could have, but my guess is it failed at its weakest point, the socket.



Sent from my iPhone using morse code.
 

aquaticartist

New member
The breaker tripping prevented any damage that may have occurred to any other outlets on that circuit, however you won't now how much wire was damaged until you removed the existing outlet and inspect the wires behind it. Get your self a wiring book from either home depot or the library. Do yourself a favor, get some basic tools and install a gfci outlet behind that tank. You might even want to look into a in use weatherproof cover for those accidental splashes! Good luck with everything. If I was closer, I'd ran over and help you, but florida weather is way too appealing right now :)

PS- you can check your local reef club to see if any electricians would be able to lend a hand for a frag or two.
 

Agu

Premium Member
I'd trust your neighbor since after he installed the recessed lighting your house hasn't burned down. Outlets and GFCI's are pretty simple to install if you have reasonable access.

And BTW, any outlet that left
black marks about 8 inches to a foot above the outlet from the fire
is terminally compromised and needs to be replaced.
 

jimmy frag

New member
weather proof outlets are a total waste unless they have nothing plugged in and are sealed closed. turn the breaker off and take a shop vac to the receptacle to dry it out, remove the cover plate then remove the two screws holding the receptacle to the box, pull the receptacle out/away from the wall about 3 inches, inspect the wires to make sure there is no evidence of burnt wire insulation or a wire burnt/broken in two. if all is well put every thing back togeather and wipe the burnt marks off the wall. your good to go. your neibour should be able to do this before the beer is empty.
 

Breadman03

New Old School
Premium Member
If you don't have the tools, you might get it done cheaper by hiring a pro. I have to drive about 40 miles to Lowes or Home Depot after 3 p.m. (when all the locals close), so costs can add up quickly.

Good luck with your choice!
 

cyberpanther

Premium Member
Agu...thank you, that led me to believe my neighbor is good for me to call over at least for a quick check...he can give me an estimate and check if it is serious or not. Thanks everyone. Calling neighbor tomorrow, but may take a week for him to get back to me....we will see. Since it may take awhile please keep other opinions, facts, or responses coming, thanks. You guys / gals are the best.
 

Breadman03

New Old School
Premium Member
Keep in mind that extension cords are compromise current carrying capacity for flexibility. If your cord is too long, voltage can drop enough that your appliances/devices can't work properly, or even get damaged.

Compare it to head for a sump return. There is resistance that reduces the flow of power available.
 

benjc

New member
Clean the wall and replace the socket with a gfci plug; you're looking at total costs of less than 20 bucks.
 

gbru316

Active member
Clean the wall and replace the socket with a gfci plug; you're looking at total costs of less than 20 bucks.

I was originally going to say the same thing, but no one is sure if there is wire damage, and I didn't want to steer him wrong.

Changing outlets is extremely simple, installing a GFCI CAN be, unless he has an older house and his outlets aren't grounded (house I grew up in was built in '51, no outlet grounds).

If there is any kind of uncertainty when dealing with electricity, it's always best to consult a professional, or at least someone who has experience.
 

reefinmo

New member
gbru316 has it right. I'm setting up a new tank in front of an outlet over the next week or so. Last night I switched the outlet out to GFCI. It took me 15 minutes and the only tool I used was a flat headed screwdriver (and a multi-meter, but I could have plugged in a lamp instead of using it) and cost me $16.21 including tax. But I already knew I was dealing with a properly grounded outlet that was properly wired, and there was definitely no damage from saltwater and a fire.

It shouldn't be hard to evaluate the level of damage to the wires. The outlet is definitely toast. Without more information or pics, it's impossible to say much more. A professional electrician will give you the most assurance and be the most expensive. But you have decide what you're comfortable doing.
 
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