It’s easy to take electricity for granted—until the outlets stop working. To test whether an outlet or appliance is to blame, try plugging in something else. If it still doesn’t work, you know it’s the outlet that’s at fault.
Malfunctioning outlets aren’t just a nuisance; they can also indicate a more serious underlying problem. Identify the different reasons for electrical outlets not working to help you pinpoint what’s wrong.
Tripped Circuit Breaker
This is a common reason for an outlet to stop working. Go to your circuit breaker box and reset any tripped circuits before trying the outlet again.
If you continue to have trouble with the circuits tripping, you could be overloading your outlet. This can happen if you run too many high-power appliances (vacuums, window air conditioners, hair dryers, etc.) on the same circuit. Try relocating one of the devices to a different circuit to see if it solves the problem of electrical outlets not working.
Tripped GFCI Outlet
Modern homes come with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) near kitchen and bathroom sinks, in the garage, in unfinished basements, and outdoors. These special outlets shut down automatically if they detect water or overheating, preventing electrocution and damage to the appliances.
To get the GFCI working again, simply press the “reset” button on the front of the outlet. If power is not restored, call an electrician because there could be an underlying problem.
Over time, electrical outlets can go bad if their contacts come loose. This means that the entire unit to be replaced before it will work again.
Replacing an outlet may seem fairly straightforward, but mistakes could result in serious injury during the installation, increase the risk of fire, or shock people who try to use the outlet. This is why it’s best to leave the job to an experienced electrician.
Burned Out Outlet
It’s also possible for outlets to burn out if they are exposed to a brief flare or fire. If you notice sparks coming from the outlet, blackening around the sockets or warm spots on the outlet cover, stop using the outlet immediately. Even if the appliance or light plugged into the socket is working, the underlying problem could start a fire.