Getting to the Basics: Remodeling Projects

3 Reasons Why Your Electrical Outlet Isn't Working

by Jill Jenkins

Do you have an electrical outlet that has stopped working? That's a frustrating experience, especially if you need the outlet to run something important like your refrigerator or some other major appliance. Before you call an electrician, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot the problem yourself. First, try plugging a different device into the outlet. If that device works, then you know the outlet isn't the cause of the problem. If the device doesn't work, then you have some more investigating to do. Here are three steps to troubleshoot your broken outlet:

Look for smoke or black marks. One common cause of outlet failure is burning behind the outlet. The wires can get overloaded with power and ignite a small spark. Or the outlet may simply be old and burn out on its own. Either way, the fire should result in some black burn marks on the outside of the outlet. If you see signs of burning, do not attempt to fix the outlet yourself and don't plug anything else into it. Instead, call an electrician. They can safely remove the  outlet and resolve the problem.

Check the circuit breaker. Another easy step is to make sure the circuit didn't trip. Go to your circuit breaker box and look for the breaker that controls that particular outlet. Usually, a tripped breaker will either be in the off position or will be stuck halfway between on and off. If so, try flipping it back to on and see if that gets the outlet working. Also, it's possible that the breaker may still be in the on position. Sometimes a breaker will trip, but barely budge. If it's still on, flip it to off and back to on to see if the outlet becomes functional.

Reset the GFCI. Many outlets near sinks have GFCI switches. These switches pop when an outlet gets too much power or overheats. This protects that outlet without tripping the entire circuit. In some homes, though, the GFCI may actually control several surrounding outlets. If this particular outlet has a GFCI button in the middle, look to see if it's popped out. If it is, push it back into position. If there isn't a GFCI button, look at nearby outlets and see if they have a button popped out. If so, try pushing it back in to see if that restarts your outlet.

If none of these steps work, then you may want to call an electrician. Your outlet could need rewiring or there may be a more serious electrical problem. The electrician can help you get your outlet working in no time. For more information, contact a professional like Narducci Electric.