May 22nd, 2010

Is it possible to blow up an electrical outlet?

Edit: Problem solved. Its buddy GFCI had tripped, and all I had to do was reset it.

Here's the setup:

There's a standard two-plug outlet over my kitchen counter. It's not a GFCI outlet, just a generic probably-a-buck-at-home-depot thing.

I had an extension cord plugged into it. The extension cord terminates in three plugs, and also has a power switch and a reset button. It was plugged into the kitchen outlet described above.

Last weekend I plugged my laptop charger into the extension cord, and there was a spark and a flash, followed by magic smoke escaping from the extension cord.

Results: the laptop charger is fine. I'm assuming that the extension cord is dead, and just throwing it away. More interestingly, both of the plugs at that outlet are dead. I pulled the plate off, and I see no obvious charrage or destruction.

I suspect that some liquid had gotten into the extension cord.

None of the circuit breakers has blown, and every other outlet in the neighborhood seems just fine.

So it seems likely to me that I managed to blow up something in the outlet. I'm tempted to just go spend a buck at Home Depot and replace the thing myself. Yes, I know how to do this, and I'm smart enough to turn the circuit breaker off first. OK, actually I'm tempted to put in a GFCI outlet, since it's a few feet from the sink.

Does my diagnosis seem sane?