Save $100 repair bill by checking these 3 things before calling a pro;
1) Reset all circuit breakers
2) Reset all GFI outlets
3) Flip on all wall switches
4) One more test for those with experience in electricity.
1) Reset ALL circuit breakers
Your outlet, or receptacle, might be dead because the fuse blew or the breaker tripped. You may have looked right at the blown fuse or tripped breaker and NOT noticed that it is off. You may have looked in the wrong panel box.
Go to the electrical panel and find the blown fuse or tripped breaker.
Keep in mind your house might have more than one electrical panel. Some old farm homes have breakers in a panel inside the house and more breakers outside in the meter box. If there are breakers at your meter they will be inside an easy to open door. (Don’t unscrew any panels) The meter might have only one breaker; the main breaker. You are looking for an individual circuit fuse or breaker, but not the main.
If you have circuit breakers;
|This 20 amp circuit breaker has a
small window below the handle that
turns orange when it trips. This makes
it easy to find. Most breakers do not
have this feature. You might not
notice that they are tripped. Try to
“feel” for the loose, tripped handle.
➳ A tripped breaker can be hard to spot because the handle moves to the center position, not the off position,
and can appear to be in the on position.
Sometimes you can feel a tripped breaker better than see it. The handle of a breaker that is on or off is somewhat hard to move compared to the handle of a tripped breaker which will wiggle easily.
The handle of a tripped breaker will be positioned somewhere in the middle between the off position and the on position.
➳ A tripped breaker will not go from the tripped position to the on position, you have to turn it off first.
If you find the tripped breaker, turn it off to reset it, then turn it back on.
➳ Because it can be hard to spot a tripped breaker it is best to turn off ALL the circuit breakers and then turn them back on.
- If you find a breaker that trips again, you may have a defective item plugged into an outlet. Unplug everything that is plugged into any dead outlets on the tripped circuit.
- Turn the breaker back on, if it holds then there is something defective in one of the items you unplugged. Throw that item away or have it repaired by a professional.
- If it trips again, with nothing plugged in, you may have a defective ceiling light that is on the same breaker with your dead outlet. Find all the lights that don’t work because the breaker is off, and make sure to leave the switches for those lights in the off position.
- Turn the breaker back on, if it holds then there is something defective in one of those lights you turned off. Turn those wall switches back on, one at a time. The light that trips the breaker when you turn it on is the problem.
- Sometimes a light bulb is defective and can trip a breaker. Remove the light bulbs from the problem light and turn the breaker back on. If the breaker holds, throw all those light bulbs away and install new ones.
- If it trips again, have a professional replace or repair the light. Or, turn off all the circuit breakers and check the light’s wiring connections in the light box, make sure no copper is exposed and the wires are not pinched between metal parts.
2) Reset all GFI outlets
Weather you call it a GFI; Ground Fault Interrupter or a GFCI; Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, your outlet might be dead because of a tripped GFI outlet that is located in another part of the house.
☚ Find all the GFI outlets in your house and press the “TEST” button to trip it off. You should hear a “Pop” sound when you trip
the GFI off.
Next, press the “RESET” button to turn it back on.
Look for GFI outlets’s in; Bathrooms, basements, garages, laundry rooms, kitchens and outside.
GFI outlets can turn off power to other outlets just like a circuit breaker.
Circuit breakers protect the circuit from an overload. GFI’s protect people
from getting shocked. GFI’s are designed to ‘interrupt’ or turn off a circuit (a collection of outlets) if a fault or electrical shock hazard is happening. GFI’s have a “TEST” and “RESET” button on the receptacle. When a GFI trips or when you press the “TEST” button it will turn off power to the GFI and to other standard receptacles that are connected to it. For example;
- One tripped GFI at a hall bathroom sink can turn off power to itself and to another standard receptacle at the master bathroom sink.
- One GFI outlet in a garage can turn off all the outlets on the garage walls and outside outlets.
- A master bathroom hot tub is often controlled by a GFI outlet hiding in the nearby master closet or under the tub where the motor is plugged in.
If you reset the GFI and it trips again, it may be the fault of something you plugged in. Something like a defective hair dryer or an extension cord outside in a puddle of water.
Unplug everything that is plugged into the GFI and to the other dead outlets that the GFI controls.
Try to reset the GFI again.
3) Flip on all wall switches
Find a radio or lamp and plug it in to a working outlet. Turn it on, make sure it works, leave it on and then plug it into the dead outlet.
➳ Flip all nearby wall switches up, one at a time to see if your lamp or radio comes on.
Some receptacles are controlled by a wall switch. The most common is the receptacle under the sink for the garbage disposal. When the switch is off the whole receptacle, top and bottom, is dead. Flip the switch on and the whole receptacle is hot.
A wall switch can also control half of a receptacle. It is common to wire a wall switch to control the top half of all the receptacles in a bedroom or living room. Flip the switch off and the top half of 6 receptacles in a room turn off while the 6 bottom halves remain on. The idea is to plug a lamp into the switched half and a clock or TV into the half that remains on. The switched half can be the top half or the bottom half.
Here is some advanced information on how a 1/2 switched receptacle is wired
Here is one more thing you can check but you may need help with this one;
4) A difficult check for those who are more experienced
|The left side of this photo with 2 silver
screws and tall slots is the neutral, white
wire side. The green ground screw is
below the 2 silver screws. At the right
side of the photo with the short slots and
black screws is the hot, black wire side.
- Turn off all your breakers in all your electrical panels.
- Test the receptacle to be sure it is dead.
- Unscrew the plate screw and remove the plate.
- Unscrew the top and bottom receptacle mounting screws from the wall box.
- Pull the receptacle out of the box and check to see if all the wires are attached tightly to the receptacle. If a wire is hanging loose, wrap the stripped end around the appropriate terminal screw
- If wires inside the box, are connected with a wire nut, unscrew the nut to see if the stripped copper connections under the nut are twisted together tightly. Replace the wire nuts.
- Before you remount the receptacle to the box being sure of the following;
- - Make sure you replaced the wire nuts and they are screwed on tightly.
- - The black wires are on the gold terminal screws at the short slot side of the receptacle and the white neutral wires are on the silver terminal screws at the long slot side and the bare copper ground is on the green ground screw.
- - As you move the receptacle into position, keep the bare ground wire from touching the 2 hot and 2 neutral terminal screws on the receptacle.
- Screw the top and bottom mounting screws into the box.
- Replace the plate and turn all the breakers back on.
If the outlet is still dead, there may be a loose wire at a nearby hot working receptacle.
This loose wire needs to be reconnected to the hot receptacle in order to send power to your dead one.
Repeat the 9 step check list above for any of the following working receptacles;
- The receptacle to the left of your dead receptacle.
- The receptacle to the right of the dead one.
- The nearby receptacle on the other side of the same wall in another room, at the left of your dead one.
- The nearby receptacle on the other side of the same wall in another room, at the right of the dead one.
If you enjoy working with electricity you might want to become an electrician;