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Development and Analysis of Electrical Receptacle Fires

Laboratory testing evaluated the impact of a wide range of variables on the formation of overheating connections in residential duplex receptacles. Two types of receptacle configurations have been evaluated: 1) those focused on terminal connections and 2) those focused on plug connections. Testing included 528 receptacle trials, 408 trials with various terminal connections and 120 trials with various plug connections.

Thirteen pre-fabricated wall assemblies of 36 receptacles were placed in 8 compartment fire tests and 5 furnace fire tests.  The variables evaluated in the fire exposure testing included: the receptacle material, materials of the receptacle faceplate and box, terminal torque, and energized state of the receptacle.  A portion of the receptacles in the fire exposure testing had overheated connections that were created in the laboratory testing.  These receptacles were used to assess whether evidence of overheating would persist after a fire exposure.  All receptacles were documented for damage to the receptacle, faceplate, and outlet box including any arcing, overheating, and/or melting.

The results of laboratory testing indicate that only the loosest connections tend to form significant overheated connections irrespective of other variables, such as receptacle materials and installation. Forensic signatures of overheating have been identified and have been found to persist even after external fire exposure. In addition, locations of arcing within receptacles as a result of fire exposures were identified and characterized. The location of arcing is primarily dependent on the duration and intensity of the fire exposure, as well as the construction and materials of the receptacle, outlet box, and faceplate. The presence of characteristic indicators of arcing and melting were