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A Homeowner's Guide to Troubleshooting Electrical Sockets

Are you relocating to a new home, or renovating your old house or spending a weekend for repairs?

Moving into a new home can be exciting - you get to decorate from scratch and discover new things. However, that can be quite annoying since you're also bound to discover some issues you might have missed in your initial viewings of the house.

Some of the common problems that a new homeowner faces include electrical sockets. You might plug in your phone and then find that it's not charging. That's quite a simple issue because electrical problems can lead to fire with ease.

What happens, then? Does that mean that you the house is a bad deal after all?

Of course, not. Troubleshooting is simple, and the most common issues have simple fixes as well. Follow this guide to find out why an outlet may not be working and how to fix it.

Plug in Another Device or Appliance

First, try if another device or appliance, which you're sure to be 100% after the move, will work on the same outlet. Try a hairdryer or another charger. There may be an off-chance that the problem is with your device and not in the electrical system itself.

If everything you're trying is not working, then you can assume that socket has no power.

Try Other Electrical Sockets

If you find that the outlet doesn't seem to be working, try plugging the device into another outlet. Note that if the outlet doesn't have power, the ones nearby won't usually have power as well. For this reason, try another electrical socket in another room.

If the other electrical wall sockets in your home are working, refer to the next two steps. If not, you'll have to inspect the breaker panel.

Look for a Switch

As you know, there are different types of electrical sockets, one of which is a half-hot outlet. This is where a switch on the wall controls the half of the outlet, which is usually the bottom socket.

We sometimes refer to it as a "lamp outlet" because you're supposed to plug a lamp into the outlet. This then allows you to turn the lamp on and off using the switch.

With that said, this may be the reason why the outlet doesn't have power - the switch may be off. This problem is more common than you think, so flipping some switches is worth trying out.

First, plug a working lamp into the outlet that you think is dead. Then, turn all the switches on and off, especially the ones that don't seem to control anything.

However, note that a switch may be controlling both a lighting fixture and an outlet. You should also try the ones that you think are for something else.

If the lamp turns on while you're flipping switches, make a mental note of it and inform the other household members. You may also contact an electrician to rewire the outlet so that it doesn't have to have a switch.

Reset the GFCI Outlets

The building codes state that houses must have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) in the kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other areas near water. What it does is that it stops the flow of electricity when it detects a ground fault or short circuit.

We know that the risks of electrocuting yourself increase when you're in contact with both water and an electrical appliance. That means that if you're using a hair dryer and you're standing on a puddle in your bathroom, a short circuit from the device might cause a current to pass through you to the ground, electrocuting you.

The GFCI outlet prevents that from happening. It's able to detect the surge of electricity and then stops the current from leaving the hair dryer in the first place. When that happens, you'll have to reset it to get it back to working order.

That's the good news, but the bad news is that this type of outlet sometimes shut off on random. Even if there's no surge, you might find that it doesn't work all of a sudden.

In either case, you have to find a tripped GFCI in your home, especially in the areas we mentioned above. Don't forget to inspect other exterior locations as well, such as your patio.

If you find a GFCI outlet, you'll notice it has a button in the middle. If it has 2, see which one is the reset button. If you have a tripped outlet in your hand, you'll see that the reset button is protruding more.

The fix is pretty simple: you only have to press the reset button. You can then plug in your device again and see if it works.

Keep in mind that even if the dead outlet doesn't have a button, a GCIF button on an outlet somewhere else in your home might be controlling it. That's why it's worth looking around for your home for the reset button. You might have to reset a kitchen outlet from the living room, for example.

Check Out the Breaker Panel

If that still doesn't work, you'll have to check the breaker panel. You'll find that it has different breakers with each one controlling a different part of your home. Each one also has a switch, which should either be on the ON end or the OFF end.

If there's a flipped breaker, however, the switch will be between the ON and OFF labels. This might be what's causing the dead outlet. To fix this, place the switch all the way to OFF and then flip it back to ON.

Why did the breaker flip? It can be because you've overloaded the circuit or there's a short circuit. In the former case, you'll have to unplug some appliances and avoid plugging them in at the same time.

You'll know if it's a short circuit if the breaker flips again. This is a dangerous situation as it can lead to a fire, so you'll have to call an electrician. If all's well but the outlet is still not working, you'll also have to call an electrician.

Call an Electrician

If the troubleshooting tips above for electrical sockets don't help, you'll have to mess with the wiring.

However, it's best if you leave that to a professional. If you need any help with your electrical plugs and sockets, contact us now and let us solve the problem for you in a safe way.


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