Whether it’s for work, entertainment, or exercise, people use technology in every part of their lives. Overusing electrical devices doesn’t come without risk, though. The most prominent one is having a broken power outlet.
Unfortunately, trying to identify the issue with these outlets can be frustrating. That’s why I’m here, though. In this post, I’ll show you why your electrical outlets aren’t working and what you can do about it.
1. Your Outlets Have Burnt Out
This is probably the most common reason behind electrical outlets malfunctioning. With people using various electrical devices in their houses today, the electrical demand on these outlets can be overwhelming.
When they carry overwhelmingly powerful currents, outlets tend to overheat and burn. While the ignition usually occurs from the inside, you can identify a burnt-out outlet from the scorch marks around the face plate.
When you notice these marks, you need to replace the entire outlet. Fortunately, you don’t need a professional electrician.
First, turn off the breaker to avoid potential accidents. You can use a voltage sensor to confirm it’s not transferring any electricity. Unscrew the face plate and outlet mountain screws.
When you pull the outlet, you’ll notice it has several wires connected to it on both sides. Undo the screws holding these wires, memorizing how the wires connected to them.
It’s worth noting that the new outlet should have the same amperage as the old one. Screw the wires to the new outlet the same way they were screwed to the old one.
Put the new outlet back into the box, then retighten the mountain screws and wall plate. Restore the power and voila!
2. Your Wire Connection Is Loose
We know wires as the roads that electricity uses to travel. If one wire gets loose, the road will get blocked, and electricity won’t reach your house. You can identify a loose wire connection from the unusual crackling sounds and flickering lights.
When that happens, it’s time for a wire examination. Before you do anything, turn the breaker off to avoid potential electrical accidents. Then, unscrew the face plate and pull it out of the wall.
Look for any loose wires and try to reposition them, tightening the screw that’s holding them.
3. Your GFCI Outlet Has Tripped
Sometimes, we can’t avoid an electric shock. That’s why we have GFCI outlets.
When the internal current transformer senses a powerful current that can cause potential damage, it shuts off all the outlets it’s feeding.
Unlike the previous two methods, you might be able to fix this problem without needing an electrician.
All you have to do is unplug all the appliances attached to the CGFI and push the reset button. In most cases, that can fix the problem. To be safe, though, plug all the appliances one at a time and turn them on.
If your GFCI trips after plugging your dishwasher for example, then the overwhelming current is coming from that machine. Now you’ve identified the source of the problem.
4. You’re Working With Half-Hot Outlets
Half-hot outlets are the same as regular outlets but with a simple twist. They include two plugs: one is permanently on and the other is controlled by a switch.
Some people don’t know their outlets are half-hot. So if one of the plugs in your outlet is working and the other is not, search for any switches nearby.
Then, plug a lamp or a fan into the faulty plug and turn any of the random switches on. If it works, then all is right with the world. If not, then it’s time for a professional consultation.
5. Your Circuit Breaker Has Tripped
A circuit breaker controls the flow of electricity in your house to prevent electrical fires. When a circuit becomes overloaded, the circuit breaker cuts off all the power from that circuit and the connected outlets.
You can identify a circuit trip when the power in only one room has been cut off. You can also check if the lights are working when the outlets are not. Lights are usually in a different circuit, so if they’re working, the problem is within that outlet’s circuit.
Fortunately, fixing this issue is simple. Just head to the electrical panel and turn on the switches that aren’t supposed to be off.
If your circuit breaker is tripping on a regular basis, you’re probably overloading a particular circuit with too many devices. You might also be dealing with a broken circuit breaker.
6. Your Fuse Has Blown
The idea behind the fuse box is the same as a circuit breaker:
Stopping the flow of electricity to a circuit when it’s overloaded. However, instead of a simple switch turning off, a thin metal strip inside the fuse melts.
If a fuse is blown, cutting power from a circuit, the outlet attached to it won’t work until you replace it. So start by turning off the electrical devices in the room of the broken outlet and disconnecting power from the fuse box.
Blown fuses are usually cloudy and discolored. You can also look for a melted piece of metal inside the box.
Undo the fuse and replace it with a new one of the same type. Tighten the new fuse and restore the power.
7. The Contact Points Have Worn Out
The contact points refer to the holes in which you plug your devices. Have you ever plugged your charger or lamp into the outlet only to have it dangle a bit? That means these contact points have worn out.
While some might think it’s not a big deal, worn-out contact points can cause wiring issues. Eventually, the outlet won’t transfer electricity to your devices. In the worst-case scenario, it can cause a fire hazard.
8. You’re Dealing With a Faulty Outlet
This is the last cause on this list because it’s the least possible scenario. If none of the previous fixes worked, then you might be dealing with a faulty outlet. It’s not a wiring issue. It’s not an electrical burn or overload either.
Sometimes, the outlet itself wears out. In that case, all you have to do is replace it—which we already covered.
How dangerous is a faulty outlet?
There isn’t one answer to that question, as a faulty outlet can cause several types of damage. We’ve already mentioned that they can cause potential fires. That’s not the end of it, though.
Nowadays, most electric appliances have several plastic parts. So, if any of your devices burn, the plastic will melt, producing toxic fumes.
How to avoid overloading your circuits?
You already know that overloading your circuits can force your outlet to stop transferring electricity. As such, learning how to avoid that scenario can save you a lot of trouble.
The most obvious way to avoid overloading circuits is to know how much electricity your devices consume. You can get that information from the cords’ tags and compare it to the wattage limit of your circuits.
That should help you identify how long you can keep your devices working without overloading your circuits.
If your electrical outlets aren’t working, you can approach the problem from several angles. Some of the fixes are beginner-friendly. Others require the help of a professional.
So, take your time examining the issue to identify the most efficient solution.