No outlets in room work

1. Jun 19, 2013

Greg Bernhardt

I have a room where no outlets work. The fuse looks ok. What are some things I can test for or look for before I call an electrician?

2. Jun 19, 2013

turbo

Get an outlet tester from the local hardware store (they are really cheap) and back-track from there. Good luck.

3. Jun 19, 2013

Greg Bernhardt

What information will that give me? I already know they don't work :)

4. Jun 19, 2013

Staff: Mentor

Is there a GFI switch on any of them (ground fault interrupt)? Try to push the button (usually has an 'R') to reset. Could be an outside outlet that is on the room circuit (which is normally a code violation around here) that has the GFI.

5. Jun 19, 2013

turbo

BTW, the most productive (and cheapest) way to test such a failure is to reset any breakers and see if that fixes your issue. Most modern homes don't have fuses, but breakers are ubiquitous. Give it a shot and tell us what happened.

6. Jun 19, 2013

the_emi_guy

Greg,
Receptacles are usually wired in a daisy-chain fashion. Wires enter a receptacle on the line side, feed the socket, then separate wires exit the receptacle on the load side to feed downstream receptacles.

In the old days the line-side and load-side wires were attached to the receptacle using brass screw terminals, very reliable.

At some point some builders decided they could save a few dollars in labor: receptacles became available with a push-in contact. All the electrician had to do was strip the wire and jam it in the hole, no bending the wire, no screwdriver. Problem is these are unreliable and opens are not uncommon after some years.

Try this:
Plug incandescent lights into the dead receptacles.
Look at the layout of the room and try to guess which dead receptacle is at the "head" of the daisy-chain. Bang on the receptacle with your hand/fist and see if any light flashes on.

Next, try to guess which *working* receptacle is just upstream of the chain of dead receptacles. Bang on it. (bad connection is just as likely the load-side feed from a "good" receptacle as it is the line-side wires feeding into the first "dead" receptacle).

If this does not help, are you comfortable removing a receptacle and probing voltages with a multimeter?

Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
7. Jun 20, 2013

Jimbo57

Hi Greg,

I just want to echo what Turbo said. Most of the time it's the fuse/breaker. Even though the fuse looks good, try taking out a fuse that you know works (with similar trip rating) and plug that one into the guilty circuit. Also, sometimes receptacles can be wired to a standard wall switch, check those out to ensure they're on (not to insult your intelligence!). I did electrical work for 6 years and anytime everything in a circuit stopped working, you could bet it was a switch/breaker/fuse.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!
Jim

8. Jun 20, 2013

Staff: Mentor

LOL. It can tell you stuff like you have an open ground, or reversed hot/neutral, stuff like that.

9. Jun 21, 2013

jim hardy

EMI guy's advice is sooooo perfect here....
Try to imagine the room before the walls were covered - what's shortest distance between receptacles?

Last time I had that trouble in one whole room it was an outlet in adjacent room, call it room zero.. Room zero's outlets all worked but all of next room over (room one) was daisy chained from that one outlet, and banging in room one didn't show it. I had to laboriously find it by individual inspection of everything in that whole part of the house..
It was the infamous "Load Side Open" as described by EMI guy. Fortunately in the hot wire.
In hindsight, the two receptacles were only about a foot apart , but in separate rooms on opposite sides of interior wall. Shoulda been obviouser than it was.. I put the wires back under the screws instead of the 'lazyman's push-in terminus.'

The WalMart $5 outlet tester is great because it'll find an open neutral, too, which could be dangerous. http://www.walmart.com/ip/21192894?...1=g&wl2=&wl3=21486607510&wl4=&wl5=pla&veh=sem oops last year they were$5. But there's no inflation, right ?

Anyway - get a tester and bang away at recaptacles on both sides of the walls before placing that call.

old jim

Last edited: Jun 21, 2013
10. Jun 23, 2013

Greg Bernhardt

Bought an outlet tester and no light turned on when I plugged it into the sockets. The rooms next to it work and show hot/neu reverse.

11. Jun 23, 2013

Greg Bernhardt

One outlet down stairs was open ground

12. Jun 23, 2013

Staff: Mentor

Got one word for you, son. Electrician.

13. Jun 23, 2013

jim hardy

Those swapped H-N outlets ought to be fixed. It's a shock hazard when changing bulbs in lamps plugged into them - the tin colored base is "hot" even with switch off.

14. Jun 24, 2013

OmCheeto

The fuse "looks" ok?
Is it a screw in type?
Have you tried unscrewing it and screwing it back in?
If that doesn't fix it, do you have a multimeter to test it with?
Or do as Jimbo57 stated, and simply swap fuses and see if the power goes out somewhere else.

One last thing.
When I bought my house, the electricity was turned off at the meter box.
So I turned off all of the circuit breakers and called the electric company to have them turn it on while I was at work.
When I got home from work, the house was incredibly warm.
So I went into the kitchen and the burners on my stove were on high.
How could that be, with all the breakers open?

It turned out that the kitchen was powered by the original, fused box, hidden inside one of the lower kitchen cabinets. The rest of the house was powered by the breaker box.

My house was built in 1945, and my guess is the breaker box was added during the 70's.

ps. Good luck!

15. Jun 24, 2013

dlgoff

You're lucky. This is what I have to deal with in my parents old house.

16. Jun 25, 2013

Staff: Mentor

At least cables are kept properly distanced from the wood

17. Jun 25, 2013

jim hardy

hmmm - nobody said there's only one thing wrong.

Are there any big loads in that room, say an airconditioner?
I'm suspicious whether that reversed hot/neutral indication is a symptom of second open circuit in a neutral wire.
Carefully check your "dead" room outlets for first zero voltage, then continuity between neutral slot and ground hole. If the wires to panel are intact it should read less than an ohm. You can make that test with breaker or fuse out if you like.

Could be it's time to plug in a radio with volume set loud to a wall outlet in that room,
start opening receptacles and switches for visual inspection of wires.
Radio is to announce when you perturb a loose connection and power briefly flashes on.
You want to see black wire into shorter of the two slots that's the hot
it's always the brass colored screws, or rear push-in holes on that side
longer slot is neutral, white wire to white screws,

18. Jun 25, 2013

dlgoff

If only I could the wood as a safety ground.

19. Jun 25, 2013

Greg Bernhardt

Thanks for all your help! I learned a little bit, but in the end we called an electrician to come out tomorrow :)

20. Jun 25, 2013

jim hardy

Let us know what he finds !

old jim

21. Jun 26, 2013

psparky

Does the light work in the room? Generally they are on the same circuit. If the light works, then I would pull out each receptacle and inspect the wiring connections. More than likely, someone did not use "rat tails" and a wire slipped out along the way.

If it is the panel, simply remove that fuse and check for power. If there is power, inspect the fuse and possibly replace. If there isn't power, a wire came lose in the fuse panel. Reconnect that wire.

Now let's see what your electrician finds....

Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
22. Jun 26, 2013

OmCheeto

Around these parts, the lights are supposed to be on their own circuit, per code.

This is so when you run the toaster, microwave, coffee pot, dishwasher, crockpot, coffee grinder, and blender, all at the same time, and blow the breaker, you aren't left in the dark.
I would have posted the fact that it was possible to check for a loose wire at the fuse panel, but that would have been extremely dangerous for a non-electrician to fix. (Some of us like having Greg around)

Another unlikely scenario happened at my mothers house about 30 years ago. One of the 120 volt hot lines became disconnected somehow, prior to entering the house. I scratched my head for a while with that one. Fortunately, it cost us nothing to fix, as everything prior to the post that sticks out of the roof where the wires enter, is the electric company's problem.

23. Jun 26, 2013

sophiecentaur

You could try the Confucian approach and invite all your friends round. "Many hands make light work".
(Sorry - too good to miss and the old ones are the best.)

24. Jun 26, 2013

psparky

Insteresting consideration about the light, but this sounds like a recent addition to code so most homes are not going to be wired this wire. But certainly a consideration.

And yes, please disconnect or turn off main breaker in panel before re-wiring. Unfortunately we will need the panel on for any voltage checks. Some people don't like them, but the fully insulated test light is probably the safest. Uninsulated voltage meter leads can cause HUGE arcs if shorted!

25. Jun 26, 2013

Integral

Staff Emeritus
A few years ago I was having outlet problems. I finally found a neutral wire broken inside the insulation 2" before the outlet. I found it while doing a outlet to outlet inspection. The wire just bent funny.