Pat Feist
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One of life’s little annoyances is when you find an electrical outlet that is not working. But, annoying as it may be, a non-functioning electrical outlet is actually fairly simple to deal with. Troubleshoot your electrical receptacle with the help of the following suggestions.

For your safety: do-it-yourself electrical repair is extremely hazardous. If you are not 100 percent sure of what you’re doing, call a licensed electrician. If you do attempt to do the electrical work, first turn off the main power and use an accurate non-contact voltage tester to double-check that your electrical wiring is not “hot.”

1. Test the appliance.

Although your problem may initially seem to be the electrical outlet not working, the appliance (or lamp, tool, electronic device, etc.) you’re trying to use could actually be the source of the problem. Inspect the appliance’s plug and cord to verify that they are in good shape, and make sure the plug is firmly inserted in the socket. Next, try connecting to another outlet in a different room if possible. If your device switches on successfully, you’ve confirmed that the first electrical outlet is not working.

2. Check the breaker.

Go to your electrical service panel, which may be located in your basement, garage or hallway. If a breaker has tripped or a fuse has blown, reset the breaker by flipping it completely to the "off" position and then back to the "on" position or replace the fuse. If it looks like nothing is wrong, or one or more breakers is only partially-tripped, try flipping each questionable breaker off and then on again, to make sure they all snap properly back into place.

3. Checking a GFCI outlet.

Building code requires installation of a GFCI outlet (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) in any area of your home where there is a faucet or other water source, in a garage or outdoors. These outlets are designed to protect users against potentially fatal electrical shock. This type of outlet is super sensitive and will trip in response to a power surge or even excessive humidity. It may then also affect other outlets that are on the same circuit. These outlets have a reset button on them. Make sure that there is no water in contact with the GFCI outlet and try pressing the reset button. Occasionally, a GFCI outlet will not reset. This is a serious problem that needs the attention of a licensed electrician, as there could be other problems as well as a bad outlet.

4. Inspect the electrical outlet.

Any electrical outlet that is suspected of not working should be inspected for scorch marks, excessive heat or buzzing and sizzling sounds. If any of these are present they could indicate a loose wire connection or a loose socket. With any of these indications, the outlet should be replaced. Again, if you are not 100 percent sure of what you are doing, or  if you are not comfortable working with electrical equipment, you should call a licensed electrician.


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