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Top Reasons Your Electrical Outlet Is Not Working

Feb 4, 2022

Is your outlet not working again? Are you stuck without power in the room where you need it most? When your outlets do not work, it can get in the way of your entire day. If you want to fix your troublesome outlets, it is important to know what could be causing the issue. Here are some of the top reasons your outlet do not work:

You Have Half-Hot Outlets

Half-hot outlets (or switched outlets) are just like normal outlets, but with one key difference. One plug is always hot or powered, while a switch controls the other plug. Typically, the lower plug is the one controlled by a switch. It is pretty easy to mistake a half-hot outlet for a faulty one if you do not already know a switch is involved.

You might have found that the top outlet is not working, but the bottom one is. If this sounds like what you are seeing, do not panic. Instead, look to see if there is a switch nearby that controls the power. A simple test for this is to plug a lamp into the plug you are having issues with and flip some switches. 

If the lamp turns on, you are in luck, and everything is working as it should. If the lamp does not work, try with another light or device that you know works. If that does not work, consider getting a professional inspection if your switched outlet is not working.

Your Outlets Have Burnt Out

A burnt-out outlet is exactly what it sounds like. These are outlets that have carried electrical currents more powerful than they can carry safely. When an outlet experiences a powerful current like this, the outlet can ignite. Usually, this happens on a small scale, but it is nonetheless something to be concerned about.

Wires will burn on the inside of the outlet and usually leave scorch marks on the outside as well. If you notice blackened areas around your outlet, it is time to call a professional to get the outlet replaced entirely. Do not wait on something like this because ignoring the problem could lead to further damage and potential fires.

Connecting Wires are Loose

A loose wire connection might be causing your outlet to fail. If the wires connecting to your outlet are loose, power is not successfully making connections. 

The only way to find out for sure is to have an electrician turn off your circuit breaker and remove the front plate of your outlet. Then they can pull out the outlet and see if the wires connecting to it are loose.

Confirming that loose connections are causing your outlet troubles is an involved and dangerous process for anyone who is not a professional electrician. If all of your troubleshooting has left you thinking loose wires might be the root issue, call a professional before doing anything else.

The GFCI Outlet Tripped

If your GFCI outlet is not working and you do not know what to do with the test reset buttons, here is how to fix it:

First, unplug whatever you have plugged in. You do not always have to do this, but it is a safe start. Then, press the reset button on your GFCI outlet. The need for this intervention is especially common when your dishwasher outlet is not working or your outside outlet is not working.

Before plugging your device back in and moving on with your day, keep in mind that GFCI outlets are designed to protect you from shocks. 

Make sure the outlet is safe to use before using it again. If your GFCI keeps tripping, there might be moisture present in the receptacle, the circuit could be overloaded, or there is an electrical fault in your wiring. 

Lastly, keep in mind that GFCI outlets can affect other outlets further down the circuit. If your GFCI outlet has tripped and there are other outlets downstream from it, those outlets will not work. 

The GFCI outlet acts as a gate or blocker. If multiple outlets are not working, it might be because a GFCI outlet tripped somewhere else on the same circuit. If your outlets are not working after a power outage, there is a good chance there is a tripped GFCI that needs resetting.

The Circuit Breaker Tripped

Your circuit breakers control the flow of power throughout your entire home. When a circuit trips, it is usually because that circuit is overloaded. When this happens, all power is cut from the circuit in question, including all of the outlets connected to that circuit. 

The most obvious sign that a circuit has tripped is when all of the power in a particular room has shut off. Another sign is if your outlets are not working, but the lights are, since lights tend to be on separate circuits.

To fix this, all you need to do is locate your electrical panel and see if any circuits are set to “OFF.” Simply switch the tripped circuit(s) to “ON,” and power should be restored. 

If your circuit breaker is constantly tripping, you should be concerned. You might be overloading that particular circuit with too many appliances or devices working at the same time. 

Or, there could be a problem with your wiring or circuit breaker itself. If your outlet is not working, but the breaker is not tripped either, there might be an issue with your circuit breaker. 

A Fuse Has Blown

If you live in an older home, you might have a fuse box instead of a circuit breaker. Like modern circuit breakers, when a circuit is overloaded, a fuse can melt to stop the flow of electricity to a particular circuit. If a fuse blows for the circuit your problem outlet is on, you will not get power to that outlet until the fuse is replaced. 

Once you replace the blown fuse, power should be restored to the circuit. Just keep in mind that if the circuit is overloaded, you might want to consider unplugging some things to prevent it from happening again. 

Also, it is strongly recommended that you upgrade your fuse box to a circuit breaker box sooner rather than later. Circuit breakers are safer and easier to use and are designed to handle the demand of modern appliances and devices.

If your outlet is not working and the fuse is not blown, you might have a deeper issue. At this point, you should consult with a professional to troubleshoot the problem and identify the root cause.

Your Outlets Are Faulty

At the end of the day, if no obvious issues present themselves, you may be dealing with a faulty outlet. If your outlet is not working but has power, you might simply have a defective outlet. While rare, manufacturer defects happen. If your outlet is faulty, your only option is to replace it entirely. 

Is a Dead Outlet Dangerous?

Yes. If any of your outlets seem to be dead or non-functional, you need to be concerned. Outlets wear out over time. As this happens, outlets are more vulnerable to overheating. Eventually, an electrical fire will result. If your outlet is dead, make sure to get it replaced. 

Call Safe and Sound Electric to Fix Your Troublesome Outlets

If you are having trouble with your outlets and you do not feel comfortable troubleshooting on your own, call Safe and Sound Electric. Our electricians will quickly identify the cause of your dead outlets and provide you with the solutions you need.


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