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Ask an Electrician: Why Isn't My Outlet Working?


Did one of your outlets stop working? We've all been there. Maybe you decided to bring a TV into the guest bedroom before your friends arrive for a brief stay. Or, you plugged a hair dryer into the bathroom and you were left with wet hair and a glum expression on your face. Unfortunately, the device doesn't seem to be functioning now, even though it does operate just fine when you plug it into another outlet.

These kinds of frustrating situations will have you wondering why your outlet isn't working. Surely, the wiring and outlets were all installed professionally-so what is the problem?

There are many possible reasons your outlet isn't working. We'll cover a few of the most common causes of why an electrical outlet isn't working right and what you can do to fix it.

First, check that the circuit breaker on your service panel doesn't need to be reset-that could solve the problem instantly!

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Problem

A ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI serves as a safety measure. It will turn off the outlet when it detects that the current is not at the normal, safe level. The GFCI is important because it protects your devices from being destroyed during a power surge and safeguards individuals from death by electrocution. This type of power outlet failure often occurs in bathrooms and kitchens, where GFCIs are particularly beneficial since they need to be installed in areas where moisture is in abundance (as in steam from the shower or from cooking).

In addition to locations in the bathroom and kitchen, residences often have GFCIs installed in outlets outside the home (such as to deliver power to appliances in a shed, under your gazebo or in the outdoor cooking and dining area). You can find GVCIs protecting circuits in your attic, basement and garage too.

When a GVCI-protected outlet isn't working, chances are you can sort it out with a quick reset. Just find the rectangular outlet and press the reset button. If no reset button is evident, look for a GFCI breaker (labeled "15" or "20") on your home's service panel.

Bad Connection

When the GVCI is not the problem, it's worth considering the second most prevalent cause of a malfunctioning outlet-a bad connection. Notice the two screws that are used on standard electrical outlets to fasten them to the wall. Ordinarily the screws have wires wrapped around them, but there is an option to shove the wired via a slot in the back of the outlet. When set up this way, a small spring that holds the connections in place will tend to wear out. This issue with the spring will cause the outlet to stop working.

The solution is to tie the wires together pigtail style and wrap each end around their corresponding screws instead of pushing wires through the back. If this can't be achieved, you'll want to hire a professional to install a new outlet.

Fixing A Bad Electrical Outlet

If you don't feel up to the task of sorting out the problem with your electrical outlet no longer working, you can rely on the team at David Gray Electrical Services to come to your house for diagnosis and treatment of the problem. We know how frustrating it can be when your home's electrical system isn't working at 100%, which is why we will be happy to make an appointment with you that works with your busy schedule.

For details about our approach to solving electrical problems or to book an appointment for service, please contact David Gray Electrical Services or call (904) 605-8190.

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