Years ago, when my husband ran his own electrical company, we would often receive a call from customers trying to troubleshoot multiple electrical outlets not working. Since this was a common issue face by many homeowners, I thought it would be helpful to shed some light on the subject.
First, let me begin by stating that anything electrical in your home needs to be respected. In other words, this post is meant to educate you and NOT to encourage you to take matters into your own hands.
When electrical outlets are not working, many people feel anxious; for me, it was more of an annoyance than anything else. Most likely, a dead outlet could be an easy fix; however, it depends on several causes.
Really why would your outlets in your bathroom stop functioning when the outlets in your kitchen still work? And did it always have to happen when I wanted to dry my hair? Or perhaps there was a sudden power shutdown in your entire house while your neighborhood was still lite up and enjoying their electric power.
My advice, don’t panic! These glitches can be addressed with the right procedures of checking, planning, and troubleshooting. Some incidents may require professionals, but some can be solved on your own if you got the proper knowledge.
Let’s dive into some possible causes as to why you are experiencing such problems. Understanding and learning about the possible reasons will at least calm your nerves and prepare you before it happens again.
Table of Contents
What Would Cause Multiple Outlets To Stop Working?
There are several possible causes of an outlet power outage. Whichever the case, it is vital to establish the actual reason to properly fix the problem by yourself or any qualified electrical professional.
Several Outlets Not Working - Defective Outlets, Appliance, and Electrical Plug
Before rushing to your circuit breakers, you need to check if the outlet is the real cause of the problem. Take a minute to check if the appliance will work if you plug it into another outlet.
For example, grab your toaster and plug it into another receptacle. You may find it helpful to put masking tape or markings of the multiple outlets that are not working to help you remember them easily.
Keep in mind that receptacles on your kitchen counter are generally fed by two separate circuit breakers (dedicated circuits) unless your house is really ancient.
Those receptacles are then fed off two GFCI receptacles. One for each circuit. If you notice that a receptacle in your kitchen is not working, first check the GFCI receptacle. That’s the one with the little buttons on it. Go straight for that baby and push in the reset button to see if that works.
If not, then check to see if any circuit breakers in your electrical panel are tripped. That’s when the handle on the breaker is not on and not off but somewhere in between in a state of limbo. If so, just switch that breaker to the off position first, then to the on position.
If it does not hold on the on position and continues to trip right before your eyes… you my friend have a short circuit on your hands.
Lets talk more about this…
|Find The Answer To The Following Questions:|
Check if the appliance will work if you plug it into another outlet
Did you plug in too many appliances that overloaded the circuit?
Have you tried to reset the receptacle if it is a GFCI?
Circuit Breaker Tripping
The next step is going to the circuit breaker if it experiences tripping. When your circuit breaker is overloaded, it usually trips and shuts off automatically to prevent any additional electrical flow that can potentially cause fire or any accidents.
Some of us hate to check the panel (my hands are raised for this one) because we are afraid of those electrical switches. However, monitoring and troubleshooting the breaker will significantly help to avoid potential damage and injuries.
Before you locate and check any tipped and blown fuse, you need to unplug all devices and appliances.
To know if the circuit breaker is experiencing power trips, you should flip the switch to the “OFF” position. In most cases, resetting it to the “ON” position can resolve the problem immediately.
Are Multiple Electrical Outlets Not Working Due To A Trip Circuit?
When you intentionally or unconsciously force to let a circuit carry more electric current than it’s capacity, the circuit breaker automatically shutdowns. For example, if you plug in two hairdryers that equal 18 Amperes to a circuit that can only serve a maximum of 15 Amperes; this will lead to an overload and thus tripping the circuit breaker.
Okay, girls, you may be able to use the hairdryer, but you may note that if you also plug in the iron nearby, the circuit will trip.
The only way to fix this is not to overload the circuit. In my case, I have my husband Johnny install receptacles according to my usage. Keep this in mind when you are renovating any space.
Ground fault short circuit happens when a hot or live wire comes in contact with a metal box, metallic wall, or wood framing or ground wire.
When an arc fault or sparking happens, it will lead to more severe circuity breaker tripping. These incidents are highly dangerous. Consequently, the National Electrical Code is pushing residents to use the Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI). The AFCI is designed to sense power fluctuation if sparking happens between contact points before a short circuit will happen.
What Does Burning Electrical Smell Like?
Electrical fires smell like urine or a fish like odor. The temperature conditions and humidity in the air can intensify the smell.
Burning electrical smell like a hot plastic smell. It’s usually caused by an electrical short where insulation has been burned off of a wire. The odor is especially strong when the short is in a plug or cord because that’s where the wiring is closest to your nose.
If you smell burning electrical, unplug whatever is making the smell and call a professional electrician. It could be something as simple as a bad outlet or plug, but it could also be something more serious like an electrical fire. So it’s better to be safe than sorry and have an expert check it out.
True story, a couple we knew were arguing for months over their cat. The husband was blaming their cat for the urine smell in their newly renovated family room and bathroom. The wife insisted it was not the cat and one evening, while we were all hanging out – the agreement came up again as the smell was powerful.
My husband ran to his truck to grab tools and opened the receptacle outlet. The company they hired did not tighten the wires correctly, and it was causing arching. The installation around the copper wire was already burnt, and it was only a matter of time until a fire would have started.
He saved the cat from getting kicked out of the home. The problem was solved.
A short circuit is the most common reason a circuit breaker will trip or shut off. When a hot wire touches the neutral line or of a wiring problem in a device or appliance is eventually happening that draws power, a short circuit will subsequently occur
GFCI Outlet Not Working
The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is an identifiable outlet that has reset and test buttons. If your GFCI is not working, such as not being able to reset because it experiences damage during the power trip, then it can be the possible reason the multiple electrical outlets are not working.
Installation of GFCI is a requirement to areas where there is a potentially huge risk of electrical shocks or hazards like bathroom or kitchen. The outlets have sensors that can determine any electrical current leaks. When the sensor determines that leaking is happening, the outlet immediately trips to shut down the current flow.
So how do I check?
You can quickly check the outlet reset button. If the GFCI reset button will not hold when pushed, then likely power leakage is happening. You must call a qualified person to fix the problem if you are not confident enough about it on your own. If you know how to test the electrical wiring, then you may proceed with high caution.
How To Reset Your GFCI Outlets
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Loose Electrical Connections
It is advised that the next step should be completed by a skilled tradesmen. I will say that when my husband was shorted staff, this was one of my jobs during large commercial projects.
Even if you are confident to do it by yourself, I would advise against it. You need to know how to protect yourself when handling live power (incase you forget to shut off the power) and have the correct tools for working with electrical wiring.
That being said:
Do not overlook to bring with you a flashlight because you need to switch off the electricity supply.
Do not go directly to check the wires without turning off first the main breaker and dropping all the switches in the “OFF” position. Remove the outlets and start looking at the screw terminals of there is loosening or breaking of wires. Maneuver yourself around the box and carefully check if there are loose connections and if there is still current flowing.
When loose connections happen, a slight movement of a wire or wirings can turn the screw by themselves. Use a screwdriver to fasten them and make sure that wires are intact. Also, check if there are corroded portions, broken or burned wires before you close the lid.
When there is a loose connection, it will lead to excess heat that can lead to more problems. It is best to find them and replace them immediately with new ones. Anyone can replace outlets, but if you are not confident and knowledgeable, do not hesitate to call professional help to avoid severe problems and injuries.
Some outlets have stab wires for connection. However, the practice is not a recommendation because it loosens up over time. If you found these stab wires, I advise not to attempt reinserting the wires. Call a professional.
They will reinsert the wire by cutting the ends, stripping them and connecting it to the screw terminals found on the side of the outlet.
Indications For you To Know That You Need To Call For Professional Help
Always remember that dealing with electrical problems in your home is not an easy thing. It is highly risky. If you commit a mistake, it can cause damage (i.e., fire) and injury.
Here are points to ponder that will help you to make the immediate decision that you need to hire a professional:
When Lights Are Flickering
A flickering light will mean that a significant wiring problem is likely happening. Whatever is the cause, the situation can likely cause fire hazards.
Multiple Electrical Outlets Not Working Due To Rust and Corrosion
When rust and corrosion are noticeable around the breaker box, it is high time to call for professional help. It indicates that high moisture is happening inside or near the panel. If you will try to touch anything around the box, it will be dangerous and can lead to an accident.
Repeating Trips Of The Breakers
If you experience your lights and outlets that regularly trips, it can be caused by an underlying faulty wiring issue. You might need to address more than one circuit in your home.
The bathroom, kitchen, and laundry must have GFCI to avoid possible electrocution. These areas have high moisture content, where the outlets can potentially get in contact with water. It is time to upgrade and place GFCI following the compliance of the state and local electrical code.
If you suddenly experience a shock when you touch a switch, outlet, or electrical surface, you need to seek professional help. The warm faceplates and outlets are an indication of overloading or possible internal wiring problems.
You Are Using Too Many Extension Cords
Not only is this a risk hazard, but it’s also tacky. If there are too many users of appliances at home and extension cords are the only solution to accommodate everyone’s needs, it’s time to call for help.
Extension cords can be convenient but only for short-term power usage options. If you are using extension cords for a longer period, it has the potential to overheat and cause an electrical fire.
When electrical outlets are not working, it will be best to call for professional help than taking the risk of burning your hard-earned home.
For more home styling tips and tricks drop by anytime. Hey, we’re always up for company. In the meantime you may enjoy reading How To Drastically Cut Household Expenses or Best Home Improvements To Raise Your Home Value.