There comes a time in every homeowner’s life when you realise that everything is expensive, and life is cruel. This time usually first comes about 5-10 years before being able to save up your deposit, and then comes again when everything breaks, which it does all the time. I got to come to this realisation again recently when the power points in both the bathrooms in my apartment died within days of each other. It was then I remembered something an electrician mentioned to me a while back “power points usually expire after around 20 years”.
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That got me wondering, is that a real thing? Do power points really have expiration dates like chicken? Or is it more of an expiration date like cheese? And what can you do about it? I spoke to Guillaume Gimaret, product marketing manager (wiring devices and home systems) at Legrand Australia to find out how it all works.
The good news is that there is no date stamped on your power point when you install it, it’s not like chicken, it’s more in the ‘cheese’ category of amorphous best befores, but when it’s on its last legs you can’t just put it in a risotto and call it a win.
“The lifespan of a power point varies depending on several factors. This includes the quality of the product, how heavily the power point is used, and environmental influences. The average lifespan of a power point can also vary between brands, so my recommendation would be to ensure you are aware of the warranty period when purchasing a new power point,” Gimaret told Gizmodo Australia
Electricians I’ve spoken to have said most power points will have around 20 years, but the power points at my dad’s place have been going for 35, I’ve used 80-year-old points, and the ones at my place are around 20-25 years old. Much like 100-year-old sewing machines vs modern ones, most current power points have a lot of plastic and aren’t as easily repairable.
There are a few things that determine how long a power point will survive for – if it’s indoor or outdoor, if it’s used consistently, how often things are plugged and unplugged, etc.
“Other factors which can determine the socket’s lifespan are the types of power loads and appliances used. For example, appliances which require a ‘inrush current’ (a large supply of power at start-up, such as heaters) can affect the power point’s lifespan,” Gimaret said.
“Another tip is to ensure that you are not being rough when plugging or unplugging any devices/appliances from your power point, and its good practice to turn it off at the wall if the socket is not being used.”
This made a lot of sense as to why just half of the two power points died at my place. In both bathrooms the right socket had a Sonos speaker plugged in all the time, low load, not a lot of movement. While in my bathroom the left socket was always switching between high load heaters and hair dryers, and in my wife’s bathroom she was using hair straighteners, hair dryers and other similar things most days. That’s a lot of wear and high currents.
Apparently, there isn’t just one part of the power point that can die, because every day is an exciting new adventure. Sometimes the wiring behind it might go, it could be a dodgy connection, there could be electrical surges, or someone might have played cricket in the house and had a direct hit on the outside of the point and snapped it.