Friday, December 24, 2010

strange odor from outlet

Questioner:joseph federico
Category:Electrical Wiring in the Home

Subject:strange odor from outlet
Question:I have a "fishy" odor coming from my downstairs bathroom. It stumped me at first since it only happens after sunset. I finally narrowed it down. The stink is coming from my electrical outlet in the bathroom.The reason that it happens only after sunset? That is when I turn on my outside Christmas decorations! Apparently, the bathroom outlet is on the same circuit as the outdoor outlets that the decorations are plugged into. The bathroom outlet gets very warm to the touch even though nothing is plugged into it. Can you explain why this is happening? We have had the same decorations outside for many years. This has never happened before. Is it a fire hazard? I though a breaker would trip before a real problem arose. Most of the decorations are miniature lights. There are a couple of items with 60 watt bulbs and 1 100 watt spotlight.

Answer:Hi Joseph,

Yes!!! This is dangerous!!!! The Fish smell that you are smelling is probably the plastic in your outlet melting. This is not a good situation but I'm glade to hear that you located early. Don't plug you decorations in until this is repaired.

The connections on outlet can go bad after time. Temperature changes loosen up the metal parts on your electrical system and occasionally they loosen. A loose connection in your bathroom is probably sparking in your wall every time you turn on your outside lights.

Older style circuit breakers can not detect this problem. Newer arch-fault breaker would sense this problem.

Good luck and have a safe and happy holiday

Bill Lutz
Generation 3 Electric, Inc.


  1. Bill was right on with his advice. I did find all the terminals on the outlet were very loose which was definitely a big part of the problem.

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