Why Outlets Stop Working


I want to make something very clear from the beginning of this article: WHEN IT COMES TO DIY ELECTRICAL REPAIRS NEVER ATTEMPT SOMETHING YOU ARE NOT ABSOLUTELY COMFORTABLE WITH. Saving a few bucks is not worth your life. When in doubt, call Armstrong Plumbing, Air & Electric to enlist the services of a professional electrician to fix problems in your Lubbock, TX home. That being said, if you have an electrical outlet, or more than one that stops working, there are some things the average homeowner can do to diagnose and perhaps fix the problem. Here are some of the common causes:

Tripped Circuit Breaker

This is usually caused by a temporary overload on the circuit. Most of the time you can simply reset the breaker by first turning it to the off position then turning it back on. If you have an idea of what caused the overload, plugging in a space heater for example, try using an outlet on a different circuit. There are rare cases where a loose wire in the electrical panel causes the problem. This will likely cause the breaker to trip repeatedly. If this happens the best option is to call in an electrician.

A Problematic GFCI Outlet

Recently some family members came to our house for an overnight visit. The next morning, they informed us the outlet in the guest bathroom was dead. We were a little perplexed because there wasn’t a tripped circuit breaker, then we started thinking about how electricians often wire a house during construction. To save a little money, many “downstream” outlets are connected to a single GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet. In this case the outlet in the guest bathroom on the 2nd floor was connected to a GFCI outlet in the first-floor bathroom. At some point it had tripped and shut down the outlets connected to it. We quickly reset the GFCI, and everything was right with the world. Again, if the outlet trips repeatedly we suggest getting professional help.

Loose Wires or Faulty Outlet

If you cannot find a problem with a circuit breaker or GFCI outlet, then suspect a problem with the outlet itself. There could be loose wires causing a bad connection or the outlet is simply worn out or burned out. At this point, please go back and read my beginning disclaimer one more time. If you are still comfortable that you can do so safely then turn off the power, remove the outlet, and examine it closely.

  • Check the screw terminals to make sure they are tight.
  • Examine the wires looking for corrosion.
  • Are there any signs of burning or electrical arcing on the wires or the outlet itself?

If you find problems the best solution is to replace the outlet. You must make sure the replacement is the exact same amperage rating. If the new outlet still doesn’t work when you turn the power back on, it’s time to call an electrician.

An Ounce of Prevention

Whenever electrical problems crop up in your Lubbock, TX home, Armstrong Plumbing, Air & Electric is just a phone call away. Better yet, call now to schedule an inspection by one of our licensed electricians. It is the best way to prevent unexpected problems. To learn more, be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.