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Why do my outlets have 120 volts and nothing works?

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

In my house a series of outlets are reading 120V on the meter but when I plug something into any of them the device does not…

Electrical Question from Dominick about outlets that do not work

Question: In my house a series of outlets are reading 120V on the meter but when I plug something into any of them the device does not work. I thought it was the breaker so I turned it off then back on again, still, devices do not work. I went ahead and replaced the breaker with one that is 30amp. I am getting the same result. It is really beginning to frustrate me! I have used other voltmeters to test the plugs and all are reading 120V, but when I plug ANY device into ANY of these outlets I get nothing. What is happening?


Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Dominick.
First I must state this: NEVER replace a circuit breaker with a larger size. This creates the potential to overheat the circuit wiring and which could cause a house fire!
Here are a few questions I have about this:
How are you testing for voltage at the outlets?
If your testing hot to ground then make sure to also test hot to neutral.
There could be a problem where the neutral wire is open.
Did this just occur by itself, or has the wiring been altered or new wiring installed recently?

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2 Responses to “Why do my outlets have 120 volts and nothing works?”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Thanks Tom,
    Yes – the amperage ratings for wire gauges and circuit breakers that you have stated are correct, and the insulation type and the application should be considered as well.

  2. Tom says:

    A 30 Amp breaker should only be used with a 10 gauge wire, not a 12 gauge or 14 gauge. A #10 wire can handle 30 amp, a #12 wire can handle 20 amp and a #14 wire can handle 15 amp.


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