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When an electric range or oven element erupts(?), what is going on?


While trying to boil water today, there was a bit of flame briefly visible under the stainless steel kettle. Picking it up, it looked like a wet squished bug on the burner (actually bubbled metal or ceramic) ... and a slow leak in the kettle from a small burned spot.  This seemed very contained. Many years ago when the oven element blew  out it spewed white powder and tiny silver blobs all over the oven.  So what is happening in the element  when this occurs? (I don't really know what 'calrod' is made of.)

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Vyger6 years ago
When the element inside the heating coil gets a crack in it the power arcs between the gap. It is extremely hot, much like an arc welder, and will burn through anything around it. I had an upper element in my oven do this but rather than just arcing a little it kept going. The inside of the oven lit up, the sound was like a welder and molten beads of metal flew all over. Once its turned off the arcing stops and will not restart if its turned back on because the gap is now to big. The power actually travels through the plasma gasses as the arcing process gets started.
Movie theater projectors used to use this process to create the extremely bright light for projection. Its called a carbon arc light. Carbon rods are touched together, then a current is run through them and then they are slowly pulled apart. The power jumps the gap and the arcing process begins and makes an extremely bright light. The rods are kept at the correct distance by a feed mechanism as the rods are slowly consumed by the process.
mole1 (author)  Vyger6 years ago
Thanks, Vyger! That makes sense. We were fortunate that the burner went out with nothing more than a flame and holed kettle. I've never been close enough to an arc welder to hear it. What do they sound like?
CürstinL1 year ago

this just happened to me and we had food in the oven is the food still good to eat

mole1 (author)  CürstinL1 year ago

I don't know for sure, so I wouldn't eat it. It may be a waste of food... but I'm happier safe than sorry. My general motto has been not to breath anything I wouldn't drink... in this case I wouldn't want to eat whatever the burner is made of. I'd toss it all and make PB & J sandwiches.

Vyger6 years ago
Sometimes Google is just amazing.

http://www.partnersinrhyme.com/soundfx/electric_sounds/electric_e-arcing_wav.shtml
mole1 (author)  Vyger6 years ago
I am amazed!! Thank you!
caarntedd6 years ago
Corrosion.