Why did your electrical outlet quit working?

Typically, electrical outlets don’t just quit working. When they aren’t working properly, there’s usually an underlying cause. We’ve fielded thousands of service calls for our Edmond and Oklahoma City clients where the primary complaint has been that one or more electrical outlets had stopped working.

If you’ve ever been in that position, you know how frustrating it can be!

Sometimes, there are things you can do as a homeowner without lifting a tool or paying a service fee. You can use whichever of these troubleshooting tips you’re comfortable with to save yourself the time and expense of a service call.

See if other outlets aren’t working either

You can safely test this by using a voltage meter. If you don’t have one, you can also take a small lamp and use it to test the outlets. Voltage meters are less than $15 at most hardware stores. Mark the ones that aren’t working with a piece of colored tape so you can see if there are any locations where multiple outlets aren’t working.

Check your circuit breakers

Any time something electrical stops working in your home, it’s a good idea to check your breaker box for tripped circuit breakers. Make sure to fully turn your breaker all the way to the off position, before turning it back to the on position.

Look for tripped GFCIs

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI, or GFI for short) are put in place to disable a circuit in the event of a ground fault, which could include somebody getting shocked. These safety devices are quite necessary, but can cause a lot of grief when it comes to outlets not working. If you aren’t familiar with these devices or how to reset them, you may want to watch our video on tripped GFI outlets.

Check for bad connections

This step may not be for everyone. Before checking any electrical connections you will first want to turn off the circuit breaker that powers the outlet, then confirm the power is disabled, BEFORE you check the connections.

But if you are comfortable doing so, you can remove the cover plate and check for the following:

  • Loose terminal screws or loose stab-in connections: If this is the problem, we suggest replacing that outlet and securing the connections on the new outlet.
  • Secured wire nuts: Make sure all connections at the wire nut are properly secured. If they have come loose or don’t have a good connection, that can make your outlet stop working correctly.

We find that often simple solutions turn out to be the right ones. If that’s not the case, then involving an electrical contractor you trust is the next best step.

Comments

  1. Very helpful. I know basic electric and connections, but for someone testing for the first time this article would be very helpful. I learned a couple of things like GFCI and GCI that I didn’t know about that.

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