Electrical outlets are easy to take for granted—until you go to turn on your hair dryer and…nothing. Most of the time, there’s a simple fix to a broken outlet. Sometimes, however, it can be an indicator of something more serious. We’ll walk you through step-by-step how to diagnose why your electrical outlet is not working.
Check other outlets to determine how widespread the problem is. Switch lights on and off and turn on electrical devices to check for power.
Unplug all electrical cords from dead outlets. This will prevent them from shorting out or overloading when you get the electricity flowing again. Mark the dead outlets with tape or some other indicator that will help you remember which outlets are acting up.
Check the circuit breaker. A tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse is a simple answer to your dilemma of why your outlets are not working. When a circuit trips or a fuse blows—usually caused by a temporary circuit overload or a short circuit in a device plugged in to one of the outlets—power is cut off to the connected outlets. If that is the case, reset the circuit.
Check any GSFIs. A GSFI (ground fault circuit interrupter) is a common type of home electrical outlet installed in areas of the house where damp conditions may easily create shock hazards, such as kitchens and bathrooms. When a GSFI outlet senses a disturbance in the electrical current it trips and shuts off power to that outlet and all others on the same circuit.
GSFI outlets have test and reset buttons right on the face of the outlet. Test and reset every GSFI you can find. Pressing the test button should cause the reset button to pop out. If it doesn’t, there may be no power flowing to the outlet. If it pops out but immediately trips again, there’s an active leak or disturbance elsewhere in the circuit. In either case, you will need to call a professional electrician.
If you’ve tried resetting the circuit breaker and your GSFI outlets and power still isn’t restored to your inactive outlets, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Your next step is to check the offending outlet for loose connections. This involves pulling the outlet from its box.
Turn off the breaker before you inspect the wires. There are three types of loose connections you should look for: loose terminal screws, loose stab-in connections, and loose wires at wire connectors. Also look for wires that are broken, burned or corroded. If you find any signs of loose or damaged wires, replace the broken outlet.
If you worked through the five steps above and none of these easy fixes for your broken outlet did the trick, there is a more serious issue affecting your electrical system. It’s time to schedule a service visit from your trusted electrical service provider.
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