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How to Troubleshoot Home Electrical Power Problems

Bob in Elkhart, Indiana asks: Electrical Power will Go Out and Come Back On, Problems With the Main Electrical Panel, Checking Individual Electrical Circuits. How to Locate Home Electrical Power Problems: Most Common Steps for Electrical Troubleshooting for Power Problems,

Guide to Home Electrical Problems and How to Fix Them

Electrical Question:I have been having some weird electrical problems in 2 different areas of my house.

This home electrical repairs question came from: Bob, from Elkhart, Indiana.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical troubleshooting question Bob.

How to Locate Home Electrical Power Problems


Most Common Steps for Electrical Troubleshooting for Power Problems

  1. Electrical Power will Go Out and Come Back On
    • When a home electrical system experiences intermittent power this usually indicates that there is a loose connection, a deteriorating connection, or a faulty component within the electrical circuit.
    • The goal is to isolate the problem to the specific circuit that is having the problem.
    • Typically there will be a problem with the neutral wire, or the power conductor of the affected circuit.
  2. Problems with More than One Circuit
    • If the problem occurs with two separate locations that are served from two separate circuit breakers then most likely there is a faulty connection or splice with  the neutral wire of   a multiwire circuit.
    • Multiwire circuit connections should be checked starting at the panel, with careful attention focused on the termination of the neutral wire to the terminal strip.
    • Often the unbalanced loads of a multiwire circuit will create an overloaded neutral wire which can cause a deteriorating condition which can lead to arcing and an intermittent connection.
  3. When All of the Home Has a Electrical Power Problem
    • If all of the home electrical circuits are experiencing the same problem then you should call the local electrical service provider and explain the problem.
    • If the electric power company has determined that the service to the home is OK, then the problem is within the home electrical system which will require further evaluations.
  4. Problems With the Main Electrical Panel
    • The home electrical system starts at the watt hour meter and consists of all of the electrical circuit wiring and components throughout the home and other associated panels.
    • Most home electrical services consist of two main circuits of power that is distributed throughout the home electrical system through a number of carefully designed circuits.
    • The home electrical system shares one main neutral conductor wire. If the amperage or power load of the two main power conductors of the main service are not balanced properly this can cause an overloaded condition of the primary neutral which can lead to connection faults of the neutral.
    • NOTE: An unbalanced load of the home electrical system can also cause higher electric bills because the power is not being used efficiently.
  5. Circuit Loads and Expansion and Contraction Problems

    • Due to the electric load that is placed onto a circuit, the circuit components will experience a change in temperature. The higher the circuit amperage load, the higher the temperature, therefore the circuit design is vitally important to prevent an overload and overheated condition.
    • Changes in weather can cause stress of the circuit components, such as hot summer heat and the use of equipment such as air conditioners.
    • Circuit components expand and contract in proportion to the amount of heat produced by the amperage of the circuit, therefore the expansion and contraction within circuit components may produce a loose connection of a wire conductor, terminal lug, wire splice, or even a circuit breaker, all of which can result in a deteriorating connection which can lead to a failure within the circuit.
  6. Checking Individual Electrical Circuits
    • The circuits of the electrical panel should be tested individually for faulty connections of the power wires to the circuit breakers and the neutral wire to the neutral terminal strip.
  7. Checking the Components of an Electrical Circuit
    • Identify the specific circuit that is at fault and begin unplugging or disconnecting any device that is connected to this circuit. Special attention should be given to outlet receptacles where high powered devices are plugged in, such as space heaters and portable air conditioners which often produce faulty connections within the wiring of the outlet as well as a damaged wall outlet which should be replaced.
    • Often the problem may be with a specific device that is connected to the circuit which has a fault and will need to be repaired, however it may be found that the connections of the power cord of the device to the receptacle outlet has become discolored and burnt which will require replacing the power cord and receptacle

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The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

2 Responses to “How to Troubleshoot Home Electrical Power Problems”
  1. Keith Hogan says:

    The breaker in my den will trip with nothing on except the TV and cable box. I have unplugged them and reset the breaker, then plugged them back in and everything is fine for 3 or 4 days, then breaker will trip again. I just replaced the breaker the outlet and the power strip and the breaker has tripped again. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks for your time on this problem that is running me crazy.

    • Dave Rongey says:

      Hi Keith,
      You have verified that the problem with this circuit is not the breaker, or the surge strip, so the next items to focus on would be the devices that are plugged into the circuit. I would suggest that you make sure that the incoming cable service to the home is properly grounded because an ungrounded cable service has been known to cause problems.
      If your cable service is not properly grounded and the cable box is in fact causing the circuit to trip off, then notify your cable service provider and ask them to come out and correct the problem by making sure the service is properly grounded. Be aware that problems with the TV can also cause problems with the cable system as well. Explain the history of the problems to your cable service company and they will perform a few tests to isolate the problem.

      If the TV or cable system is not the problem, then I would identify any other devices that remain on the circuit and examine them to see if there is anything that would contribute to this problem. You could carefully use an extension cord and plug one of the remaining devices into another outlet that is fed from a different circuit. Repeat this process one device at a time until the faulty device has been identified.

      If a device is not the problem, then the circuit wiring will need to be tested and evaluated.

      I hope this helps.


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