We’ve all encountered the common problem of a non-functioning outlet. Whether it’s been broken for some time or you just plugged your phone in and discovered that your outlet isn’t working, it is incredibly frustrating to have broken outlets in your home. Especially if you rely on electricity to do remote work, it is important to fix outlets as soon as they break.
Typically, when an outlet is not working, it is because a breaker has tripped. However, if you find that your broken outlet is not related to a tripped breaker, have no fear! There are many common causes of non-functioning outlets that are not related to breakers, such as damaged wires, loose connections, or even simply a dead outlet.
Read on to learn how to solve these problems and more.
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The Outlet Isn’t the Problem
Sometimes, the solution to a broken outlet is that the outlet simply isn’t the problem. Often, it is our appliances that are broken, or perhaps the issue is that a plug has been nudged so that it is not making firm contact with the connections in the outlet.
Always make sure to try unplugging things and plugging them back in before you worry about your outlet.
The surest way to test whether the issue is your appliance or your outlet is to try plugging the appliance into a different outlet and seeing if it works. If it doesn’t, the problem is your appliance, and if it does, the problem is your outlet.
Broken Fuse in Breaker
If the breaker has not tripped, but your outlet is not working, it is possible that you have a blown fuse in your circuit breaker box. You’ll need to make sure that you’re wearing rubber soled shoes and that everything around, including your hands, is completely dry.
It is also important to unplug all expensive appliances, like computers, before working with your circuit breaker box. Then, flip the main breaker to the off position and use a flashlight to inspect the fuses.
Blown fuses look discolored or burnt, and are usually pretty easy to identify. If you find a blown fuse in your circuit breaker box, you’ll need to replace it. Most fuses simply pull out and can be replaced, so pull the old one out and take it to the hardware store. Match it up with a new fuse, purchase the new fuse, and simply insert it where the old one was.
If your fuses look like they need to be unscrewed or rewired in order to replace them, it is best to hire a professional who knows how to work with electricity safely.
It is also possible that there are damaged wires within your outlet that are causing it not to function. If you suspect this is the case, simply remove the outlet cover and inspect the wires. You will be able to see if the wires are damaged, as they will be frayed, burnt, or even completely disconnected.
If this is the case, you may want to hire a professional to replace the wires. Electricity can be tricky to work with. If you know how to replace wires, go ahead and do it, but take proper safety precautions like turning off all your breakers and wearing rubber shoes while working.
Another possibility is simply that you have a loose connection within your outlet. If this is the case, when you remove the outlet cover you will find a wire that is not fully in contact with the surfaces that it is attached to.
There are also often wires that are simply stuck into the back of an outlet housing, rather than screwed on. These are typically the culprit when it comes to loose connections. If one of these wires comes out easily when you tug on it, this is probably your issue.
Simply take the wire and press it more firmly into the hole that it was connected to until it sticks firmly. If this is impossible, hire a professional.
Tripped GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter)
It is also possible that your outlet is a GFCI outlet or is wired to one. If you have any GFCI outlets in your house, identified by the small red “reset” buttons on them, try pressing each of these reset buttons to reset your GFCI circuit.
If this is a problem, the GFCI outlet itself will tend to be out, as well as any outlets that are wired into it in other areas of the house.
Another possibility is that the wiring in your house has been done incorrectly. If you have just had wiring work done on your house and your outlets have stopped working since then, this is probably the reason.
If wiring is done incorrectly, it is best to hire a professional to work on it because wiring can extend far into the house and the problem could be anywhere along a line of wiring.
Another simple problem that you may encounter with your outlets is simply that they are half-hot outlets, meaning that a light switch must be flipped a certain way for them to work.
If your outlet only works when the lights are off, or vice versa, simply leave the light switch flipped to the position at which the outlet works.
If the outlet only works when the light is off and you need the light to work while you are using the outlet, you will likely need to have the outlet rewired. This is best done by a professional.
Outlets have a lifespan like anything else, and if your outlets have not been replaced in a long time it is possible that the outlet has simply died. If none of the other problems on this list seem to appear, you’ll need to replace the outlet or hire a professional to do so.
As you can see, there are many possible problems that may be causing your outlet not to work. It could simply be a tripped GFCI outlet or a half-hot outlet, or even a dead outlet. On the more problematic side of things, it could be a sign of bad wiring in your house or a blown fuse in your circuit breaker box.
However, the issue could simply be that the appliance that you are plugging into the outlet is not working, or that there may be loose wires in the back of the outlet that you need to jam in a little more firmly.
Whatever the issue is, if you don’t feel safe working with electricity, it is always best to hire a professional to do the work that you aren’t comfortable doing yourself. While wiring is fairly simple, it can also be very dangerous work if the proper precautions and understandings are not in place.
Especially in the case in which you are renting a property rather than owning it, it is very important not to take risks when working with electricity. If you decide to mess around with the wiring in a rented apartment, you could be liable for any damage that you cause.