Repairs for Outlets That Do Not Work

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

The Cause and Solution for Non Working Electric Wall Outlets: This is one of the most typical problems which occur with 110 volt electrical outlets in the home.

Electric Wall Outlets that Do Not Work

Electrical Question: I’m having a problem with the hot outlets in my bedroom.

  • I have 5 sets of outlets in my master bedroom. The bottom outlet in each set works off the light switch. The top outlet in each set is always hot.
  • They were all working fine until we plugged in our portable a/c unit for the first time this season. It was plugged into the top or hot portion of one of the outlets.
  • It worked fine for about 6 hours and then in the middle of the night it stopped working. Now, none of the hot outlets work. All the outlets working off of the light switch work. And all of the hot outlets test OK with a tester.
  • They test hot by putting one end of the tester in the short side and one into the horseshoe hole or ground slot. The air conditioning unit works by plugging it into the switched outlets. And nothing works plugged into a hot outlet.


This electrical question came from: Robert, from Enfield, New Hampshire.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Robert.

Application: Troubleshooting an Outlet Circuit.
Skill Level: Advanced – Best performed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Voltage Tester or Volt Ohm Meter.
Estimated Time: Depends on the type and age of the electrical wiring and the access to the circuits and wiring to be evaluated.
Precaution: This is a project that should be performed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor and typically requires specific tests of the electrical circuits.
Notice: Repairs to Home Electrical Wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes and installing new or replacement electrical parts or equipment may require a permit and inspections.

The Cause and Solution for Non-Working Electric Wall Outlets

  • The information that has been provided describes one of the most typical problems which occur with 110 volt electrical outlets in the home.
  • The cause of this condition is typically due to plugging large  equipment into a shared circuit.
    • A dedicated circuit may be required for large equipment such as space heaters and air conditioners to ensure that the shared circuit will not become overloaded.
  • The shared circuit with a large appliance may develop a burnt connection where the electrical wires attach to one of the outlets on the outlet circuit.
  • When an outlet becomes burnt or damaged the outlet will need to be replaced and any damaged wire must be repaired.
  • Another typical problem is with a burnt or deteriorated splice which is found in one of the outlet boxes.
  • The affected electrical wiring and splice will need to be inspected and repaired as needed.
  • This condition is best performed by a experienced qualified electrician.

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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all projects.


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