How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes
How can I troubleshoot a dead receptacle outlet?
Saturday, August 31, 2019
It’s often something simple that is easily fixed, and here’s three things to check before calling an electrician. First plug a nightlight or small lamp (that you have already confirmed works at another outlet) into the receptacle, so you know when it’s fixed.
- It may be that the receptacle is controlled by a wall switch in the room. This is common in newer houses, and the switched receptacle is sometimes turned upside-down (ground hole up) or has a small dot or red screw on the faceplate as an indicator. See our blog post How can I figure out what a mystery wall switch does? for more on unusual switch configurations.
- You have probably already tried it, but double-check that the breaker is not tripped at the electric panel. Some breakers trip to the middle position and need to be pushed all the way to the OFF position, then back again, in order to reset. Do you have any subpanels in the house? The breaker that is the culprit may be in a smaller panel elsewehere in the house, which often happens when there has been a major home addition.
- Check to see if any GFCI-outlets (the ones with the two buttons in the center) are tripped, including in other rooms. Electricians put a single GFCI-outlet at the first outlet in a string of a half dozen or more that loop around the house, and it provides shock protection to everything downstream. Ordinarily, GFCI-protected outlets are only in wet areas, but not always. A GFCI-receptacle in the garage, for example, is often part of a circuit to all the exterior receptacles, but a back porch enclosure can turn an exterior receptacle into an interior one. Also, sometimes dining room receptacles are protected by a GFCI in the kitchen, or a GFCI in the laundry protects a receptacle in an adjacent room. For more on this, see our blog post A receptacle outlet is dead and I think I tripped a GFCI, but can't locate it. Where do I find the GFCI reset?
If none of these checks get it done, then it’s time to call an electrician. However, if you know enough about receptacle outlets to pull the receptacle and check the wire connections, you might give that a try before you give up. Just make sure the breaker is off at the panel first.
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To learn more about electrical wiring, devices, and receptacles, see these other blog posts:
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