Why Did My Outlet Stop Working?
Ever go to plug something in or turn on an appliance and find that it is not working? This can be a frustrating situation leaving you asking, “why did my outlet stop working?” There could be several reasons an outlet stops working and often depend on the age of the home, the type of wiring in the house, and where the outlets are located in the home.
The team of local licensed electricians at Skyline Electric specializes in residential electrical and takes pride in providing exceptional service while efficiently adding or repairing electrical wiring in your home.
When your outlets stop working, your electrical panel is an excellent place to start. Your home’s circuit breakers are designed to trip when unintended currents are detected. If the outlet has been overloaded, then your circuit breaker may have shut off power to it. If nearby outlets and/or lights are also off, check your circuit breaker panel.
Often when a circuit breaker trips, the handle will flip to the middle position making it stand out from the rest of your breakers. Some brands will even have an indicator window showing a red box if the breaker has tripped. Before attempting to reset the breaker, make sure to unplug all devices and appliances from any outlets on that dead circuit.
Check the appliances and their cords for signs of damage, as well as the outlets for signs of overheating (darkening around the plugs). To reset the circuit breaker flip the handle to the off position and then fully to the on position.
GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets are designed to reduce the severity of electrical shock. These devices are often found near water sources (kitchen outlets, bathroom outlets, laundry outlets, garage outlets, and outdoor outlets). When electrical current follows an unintended path, the GFCI outlet will quickly shut off the power.
A GFCI outlet is easily identified by the test and reset buttons located on the face of the receptacle. If your dead outlet happens to be a GFCI protected, the solution may be to press the reset button. Before you try to reset the GFCI, make sure to unplug all appliances and devices from the outlets and check the condition of the cords for cracks or cuts; also check the device or appliances for moisture.
Newer technology allows for GFCI protection at the breaker, making it much easier to identify the issue. When dealing with larger rooms or areas like the kitchen, garage, or outside, it is common that there is one GFCI outlet that protects multiple standard outlets. So, make sure to check all the outlets in the area for a GFCI receptacle.
If your kitchen outlet stopped working, make sure to check behind appliances and items for a GFCI receptacle you may not have known or forgot was there. For garage outlets that stop working and outside outlets that are not working, check both in the garage, around the home’s exterior, and for some homes built in the eastern suburbs, the bathroom GFCI protects the exterior outlets.
The Twin Cities and surrounding area has the full range of wiring styles still being used, and each poses potential risks for your electrical system and can cause your outlets to stop working suddenly.
Some homes built in the 60’s and 70’s still have aluminum wiring throughout the house. Aluminum wiring can deteriorate over time and cause connections to loosen up. The loose connections start an arcing that creates heat and ultimately speeds up the deterioration process until there is power loss to the circuit. If you know your home has aluminum wiring, it is essential to have safety and performance assessments to ensure minor issues are addressed before they become a bigger problem.
For homes built before the 1940s, there is a good chance there is still active Knob & Tube wiring in your home. This outdated style of wiring was never designed to power the technological advances we enjoy every day and can put a lot of stress on wires that may be, in some cases 100 years old, making them brittle. Unsafe modifications to the knob and tube wiring when replacing light fixtures, switches, or outlets can loosen connections or even snap the wire enough that it breaks down over time.
Poorly installed devices are the most common issue for newer homes. Most devices have the ability to push the wires into the back of the device instead of tightening them around the screw terminals. While it may be legal to do this, it is highly recommended that it not be done. “Backstabbing” devices rely on a very small surface area to create a pressure connection to hold it in place. Excessive use or worse yet, overuse causes the wires to become warm and expand, wearing down that connection point and causing a loose connection and ultimately power loss to the device or devices connected down the circuit.
When lights and outlets stop working, but the breaker didn’t trip, it is often a sign that the wiring may be faulty. Other symptoms of faulty wiring may be:
Often people ask, “is it dangerous when my electrical outlets stop working.” Depending on the cause of power loss, the answer could be yes. When dealing with old ungrounded, aluminum or knob and tube wiring, the reason could be a loose connection on the circuit that could create a dangerous situation if not addressed.
Even when the circuit breaker trips, always assume that it is because it was doing its job, and caution should be exercised before resetting the handle. When it comes down to how to fix an electrical outlet that stopped working, the most crucial step is identifying the root cause of the issue to ensure it is not only repaired safely but prevented from happening again.
Symptoms of a bad connection and bad wiring are similar and difficult to diagnose without the experience of a licensed electrical professional. Skyline Electric is ready to help troubleshoot any electrical issue your home has with your best interests and peace of mind as our priority. Our team of professionals believes that higher standards equal better service.
For electrical solutions, you can trust call your local electricians at Skyline Electric today at 651-528-4975.
Our team wants to make sure you and your family stays safe and comfortable.
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