Troubleshooting A Defective Electrical Outlet

28 July 2016
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Outlets are an important part of your home electrical system, providing spaces where you can plug in anything from electrical appliances to lamps. If you have a problem with an electrical outlet, you may be able to fix it without having to replace the entire outlet. In this article, you will learn simple ways to troubleshoot and fix a defective electrical outlet. 

Check the simple things

If you notice an outlet is not working, there are several things you should check before attempting any serious repairs or replacements. First, ensure that the prongs on the plug aren't loose in the outlet. You can use your finger to press the prongs so they fit properly inside the plug. Next, check whether the electrical device works in another outlet, as the device itself, and not the outlet, could be the problem. You can also use a tester to check if you have power in the outlet. 

If the plug and device are in good working order, check if you have a tripped breaker. If you have one, you may be overloading the defective outlet and could get it to work well by simply moving some electrical devices to different outlets. Finally, check if the ground fault circuit interrupter has tripped and reset it to see if the outlet will work. 

Check the wiring and polarity

If the tester indicates you have no power in the outlet even after resetting any tripped breakers, you should open the outlet casing and inspect the wiring. With power turned off at your home's main switch, remove the cover plate and unscrew the outlet from the box. Turn the power back on and use your tester to check if you have power in the wires.

If power is reaching the outlet, check to see if they are loose or corroded and tighten or clean them up to remove rust. If you have no power at all in the outlet box, you may need to call in an electrician to inspect your home wiring for any short circuits or damaged wires. 

Another culprit for an outlet that doesn't work properly is polarity. If the black and white wires are hooked backwards, then the plug might fail to work completely or even damage electrical devices. To inspect if the outlet is wired correctly, use a polarity tester to check the polarity on the outlet.

If the outlet is wired backwards, remove the switch plate and unscrew the outlet from the box so the wiring is visible. Next, unscrew the black wire and hook it up to the brass side and connect the white wire to the silver screws. 

For more information, contact an electrician in your area.