Why Outlets Stop Working

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

What happened to make my outlets stop working? How to Identify and Repair Outlets, The most common reasons why wall outlets stop working and how they are repaired.

Outlets that Lost Power

Electrical Question: What happened tom make my outlets stop working?

The following electrical questions have similar problems where power was lost to outlets. The typical cause for lost power to outlets and and methods of repair are described below.

Why did the outlet stop working?

I usually try to fix stuff before I call a pro, but this electrical outlet has got me stumped.

  • Someone plugged a hairdryer and a space heater into a standard duplex bathroom outlet at the same time, and the outlet stopped working.
  • The breaker didn’t trip.
  • Both the standard outlet and another GFI outlet next to it are not working.
  • These broken outlets share a breaker with 3 lights and a vent, which are still functional.
  • The bathroom also has a functioning GFI outlet, so we’re making due.
  • The broken GFI has 3 sets of wires going to it.
  • One wire pair reads 1.2 volts 60 Hz when the breaker is closed, but 2.4 volts 60 Hz when the breaker is open.
  • The other GFI wire pairs and the wire pair in the standard outlet have a minimal voltage on them.
  • I can’t see much of the wiring, some of it is visible in the attic, but much is concealed in the walls.

Any ideas what happened?

This electrical wiring question came from: Elliot, a Homeowner from Winter Springs, Florida.

What could the problem be with out Outlets?

  • All outlets in room not working but 1/2 of one, breaker not blown in box.
  • My wife turned on lights in morning and turned right back off, left room and returned a few minutes later and turned back on only one lamp was on and it popped and went out.
  • Outlets are fixed where top is controlled by wall switch and bottom is hot all the time.
  • We have checked all outlets and no wires are loose or look burned. What are your suggestions?

This electrical wiring question came from Wayne, in Evansville , Indiana.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your Home Electrical questions Elliot and Wayne.
How to Troubleshoot Outlets that Lost Power

Identify and Repair Outlet Problems

Application: Testing Outlet Circuit Wiring
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best Repaired by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools a Voltage Tester or Plug-In Circuit Analyzer.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools, the extent of the electrical repairs, the number of outlets that are affected and access to each location.
Precaution: Identify the GFCI outlet circuit, turn it OFF and  Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.

How to Troubleshoot Electric Outlet Problems

Problems that May Prevent Electrical Outlets to Stop Working and Where to Look.

  • The most common reason why residential home outlets stop working is due to a break down that occurs within the electrical circuit of the outlet.
  • Most typically it is found that a wire connection that is made in or onto one of the outlets that is a part of the circuit has deteriorated to the point of burning apart from the connection.
  • Some of the connections that are burnt apart were incorrect wiring additions to the existing circuit, or the push-in connections to the back of a receptacle outlet overheat and finally let go.
  • Outlet circuits may be affected when high consuming devices are used such as space heaters and vacuum cleaners which demand high amounts of power which is passed through many of the devices between the outlet and the electric panel.
  • It may also be discovered that the GFI outlet has been affected and may require replacement.
  • In some cases an electrician will discover problems with the outlet circuit in the electrical panel where either the neutral wire or the power wire to the circuit breaker has burnt wire due to a loose or overloaded condition of the circuit.

Repairing Burnt Electrical Wire on an Outlet Circuit

  • Before working with electrical wiring for any reason the circuit must be identified, turned off and tagged with a note indicating that work is being performed.
  • Burnt electrical wire must be trimmed away so a fresh connection may be made with clean wire.
  • If the affected wires become too short then additional wire of the same size and type of insulation may be spliced using UL approved wire connectors.
  • If an outlet device or switch was affected  and has burnt terminal connections then it should be replaced with a new device with the same electrical specifications.

More about Wiring for Electrical Outlets

Bathroom Electrical Wiring

Electrical Outlet Wiring

  • Wiring Electrical Outlet for the Home
  • Home electrical wiring includes 110 volt outlets and 220 volt outlets and receptacles which are common place in every home. See how wiring electrical outlets for the home are done.

Wiring a GFI
Wiring Diagram GFI

  • The features and benefits of GFCI outlets and receptacles will give you a clear understanding of the importance why these safety devices are required by code to help protect you and your family against accidental electrical shock hazards.

Circuit breaker

  • Electrical Wiring Protection using Circuit Breakers
  • A guide to home electrical circuit breakers and how they work to protect your electrical wiring. When properly installed, your home electrical wiring is protected by a circuit protection device.

Electrical Wire for Outlets

  • Electrical Wire for the Home
  • Complete listing of electrical wire types and parts used for home projects with electrical code information serves as selection guidelines.

Learn How to Wire it Right with my
Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring
Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handywomen, and Electricians
Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electrical Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electrical Wiring
Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
Electrical Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
....and much more.

» Click here to learn more about Home Electrical Wiring «
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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

3 Responses to “Why Outlets Stop Working”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Patty,
    The circuit should be turned off and repaired as soon as possible. The electrical wiring inside the outlet boxes and lighting devices that are on the same circuit will need to be inspected for a loose or burnt electrical wire connection, or faulty wire splice. Once identified the appropriate repairs will be required to restore the power to the room. This is best performed by a licensed electrical contractor.
    I hope this helps,

  2. patty gillespie says:

    I plugged a vacuum cleaner into an outlet and it worked fine but then it quit. Now the lights in that room do not work but in the other side of the room the outlets work fine. I checked the breakers and changed the outlet.

  3. Peter says:

    I like electrical wiring and I’ve learned a lot from your website and blog. As an electrician, I think it’s always good to learn more and keep current with the electrical troubleshooting methods that are discussed here.
    Thank you so much.



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