We’ve all been there. You plug in your electric shaver or curling iron to get ready for a night out – and you get nothing. All it takes is one conveniently placed outlet to stop working for us to remember how important electricity is to us and how much we need the expert electricians who keep the lights on in our world. Though many electrical issues require an electrician, some are quick fixes. Here are a few troubleshooting tips from your friends at Jeremy Electrical that you can try before you call an electrician.
1. Check the Circuit Breaker
A tripped circuit breaker is one of the most common reasons for a malfunctioning outlet. If this is your issue, you will likely notice that one of the switches in your breaker box is either entirely off or stuck somewhere in the middle.
To fix this, try simply flip the switch to the ‘on’ position. If you cannot readily identify the offending switch, firmly move all switches to the off position and switch them all back on.
When these tips do not work, or if your circuit breaker trips frequently, overloading it could be the culprit. In this case, it is best to call an electrician.
2. It Could Be Your GFCI Outlets
In areas with high shock risks such as bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and exterior surfaces; ground fault circuit interrupter outlets (GFCIs) are necessary. These outlets automatically terminate current when they detect a short or overheat. You will know if your outlet is a GFCI outlet because it will have a reset button (usually red) in the center.
If your malfunctioning outlet is a GFCI outlet, push the test button to reset the circuitry. If your malfunctioning outlet is not a GFCI outlet, check other outlets in the room. When a GFCI outlet trips, current stops flowing to all the outlets connected downline from it. In some cases, this could even affect an outlet in another room.
If pushing reset on all GFCI outlets doesn’t solve your problem, an electrician will know what to do next.
3. You Probably Have a Faulty Outlet
Sometimes a brief flare and fire can cause an outlet to burn out. If you notice charring around a non-functioning outlet, it is best to replace the entire outlet to negate the risk of fire. Before doing any work on an electrical outlet, make sure the power is turned off at the circuit breaker for safety.
Loose wiring may also cause an outlet to malfunction. Check for loose wires around terminal screws and wire connectors. Wires placed directly into the back of outlets are sometimes used as a cost-effective alternative to wires at terminals. These “stab-in” connections can also become loose and cause problems.
The best course of action with loose stab-in connections or wires around terminal screws is to replace the outlet. If you have loose wires at a wire connector, re-strip the wires and twist on a new wire connector.
Note: Do not attempt to work with aluminum wiring. These wires appear dull gray instead of the orange characteristic of copper wiring. If you find this type of wiring in your house, call your electrician.