When the simple task of plugging your cell phone charger or hair dryer into the wall leaves you scratching your head and wondering why your electrical outlet is not working, you may find yourself ready to take action. In some cases, it’s not a bad idea to take a few safe troubleshooting steps to see if you can solve the problem yourself first. However, there are other times when it’s best to call a professional electrician.
Safety must always be the first and foremost consideration when dealing with electricity, which is why the expert team at Mr. Electric® is available to help any time you are concerned, or if DIY efforts aren’t solving the issue.
How to Tell If Your Electrical Outlet Isn’t Working
Is it working, or not? The best way to find out on your own is to troubleshoot before jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst. Oftentimes, the fix is simple, and you can avoid a service call.
Before you get started, here are the safety tips to keep in mind:
- Do not overload electrical outlets with multiple power strips or adaptors.
- Don’t place any object other than the right-sized plug into the outlet.
- Ensure all outlets have plates covering them securely, keeping all wiring safely tucked inside.
There’s also one important tool you will want to keep in your toolbox: the electrical outlet tester. This device, also known as a socket tester or receptacle tester, works to verify that your electrical outlet is connected correctly. While it cannot verify electrical safety, it can help you determine if the outlet is connected to the right wire in your home’s electrical wiring. The electrical outlet tester can also help you to identify potential wiring errors so you can know what kind of problem you have on your hands.
How to Troubleshoot Your Electrical Outlet
The tips for troubleshooting below might help you solve your problem even if you don’t have an electrical outlet tester handy.
Here’s what you can try:
- Make sure the outlet is the problem by plugging your device into an outlet in a different area of the home.
- Check to see if other outlets, lights or appliances are dead; note the location of any other non-working outlets.
- If you have a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet, press the reset button. If the button will not reset or continues to trip, you need to contact a professional electrician.
- Unplug all devices and appliances from dead outlets; it’s also a good idea to shut down and unplug any desktop computers at this time.
- Check for a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker—these are located in the main electrical panel, which you can typically find where the electrical wiring enters the home in basements, garages, or laundry rooms. You will be able to identify any tripped breakers because they will have handles that do not line up with the rest.
- If you find a tripped breaker, reset it by pushing the handle to “off” until you hear a click. Then push it back to “on” until the handle lines up with the other switches.
- If the breaker reverts back to the tripped position, this is a sign you have a problem with the wiring or a potentially dangerous situation such as a ground fault condition or short circuit. In this case, do not use the outlet and call a professional right away for help.
How to Use Your Electrical Outlet Tester
If you have an electrical outlet tester, diagnosing your outlet’s issue becomes easier. Simply plug the device into the outlet and note the light pattern. The tester device will have a legend to show you what the light means. If the device shows you that the outlet is mis-wired or doesn’t have proper grounding, do not use the outlet until you have a solution—either by following one of the troubleshooting steps above or by calling on a professional electrician.
If you are unable to figure out why your electrical outlet is not working, it’s time to get help from your local experts at Mr. Electric. Call us right away for 24/7 electrical emergency services or to schedule an appointment today.