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Old 12-23-2008, 08:06 PM   #1
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Electrical receptacle problem


I have an electrical receptacle that does not work when you plug something into it. BUt when I test it with a voltage tester the light comes on like it is getting power. Could it be a bad receptacle that needs replacing?
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Old 12-23-2008, 09:28 PM   #2
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Electrical receptacle problem


PLUG in a lamp with a working light bulb, and THEN try your tester in the other half of that outlet. Betcha it don't indicate power now ...

Those type of testers can give false positive readings from things like induction, or bad connections, broken wires, etc.

Is that outlet supposed to be controlled by a wall switch?

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Old 12-23-2008, 09:31 PM   #3
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Electrical receptacle problem


Are you plugging the same item into the receptacle such as a lamp or have you tried different items? Or does the item you're plugging into the problem receptacle work at another location?
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Old 12-23-2008, 10:58 PM   #4
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Electrical receptacle problem


It is not controlled by a switch. It is in a workshop and I have tried plugging in a work light. It works in the receptacle on the other side of the room. Could just the receptacle be bad? Should I just try a new one?
Thanks for the responses.
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Old 12-24-2008, 12:09 AM   #5
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Electrical receptacle problem


Yes it is possible the receptacle is bad. Do you have a multimeter or voltage tester that will tell you a specific voltage? Like was mentioned before there are a lot of things that can produce false voltage detections if you are using a non-contact voltage detector. Have you checked to see if any fuses are blown or breakers tripped in the panel? If there is nothing wrong in the electrical panel and you can measure a voltage (120 volts or so) at the receptacle then you should replace the receptacle. Even if you can't get an actual voltage reading you might want to replace the receptacle anyway. They don't cost much to replace so if you feel comfortable replacing it that is probably your best bet.
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Old 12-24-2008, 09:09 AM   #6
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Electrical receptacle problem


Have you looked for a tripped GFCI receptacle? Tripped circuit breaker?

In my experience the chances of it just being a bad receptacle is pretty low.
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Old 12-24-2008, 02:51 PM   #7
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Electrical receptacle problem


Workshop recepts. are prone to wear due to the continual plugging and unplugging in that environment! I would advise replacing it with the best quality recept. that you can find! It possible that the power is on, OK! but, the neutral may be open! Also, you never mentioned if its a duplex recept or not! if its a duplex are both outlets dead? If so I would expect a neutral problem.
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Old 12-24-2008, 06:37 PM   #8
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Electrical receptacle problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildie View Post
Workshop recepts. are prone to wear due to the continual plugging and unplugging in that environment! I would advise replacing it with the best quality recept. that you can find!
And when that doesn't work, look for the real problem.
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Old 12-24-2008, 07:39 PM   #9
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Electrical receptacle problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by jrclen View Post
And when that doesn't work, look for the real problem.
How come you split my post? There are various possibilities! As I tried to point out! What would you suggest is the real problem, then?
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Old 12-24-2008, 11:06 PM   #10
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Electrical receptacle problem


Quote:
And when that doesn't work, look for the real problem.
Perfect.

99% of the time it's not the recep.

Same with breakers.

If it was that easy, I'd be out of a job.


Quote:
if its a duplex are both outlets dead? If so I would expect a neutral problem.
That makes no sense. Voltage only to ground or high/low voltage are the indicators of neutral problems.

Last edited by 220/221; 12-24-2008 at 11:11 PM.
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Old 12-25-2008, 07:35 AM   #11
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Electrical receptacle problem


I agree that the odds of it being the recepticl are low, especially if its a douplex and both are dead, if you are having voltage readings I would start by looking at the neutral, you should have continueity to ground (no voltage) if you get full voltage to ground from the hot than you more than likely have an open nuetral, however open the receptical and check the connections, then trace back to panel, at some point you will find the problem.
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Old 12-25-2008, 10:02 AM   #12
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Electrical receptacle problem


Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildie View Post
How come you split my post? There are various possibilities! As I tried to point out! What would you suggest is the real problem, then?
Wildie, I meant no offense to you, but I've been an electrician for a long time. I'm saying from experience that the chances of this being a bad receptacle outlet is just about zero. Possible, but not likely.

A voltmeter and a little time will find the actual problem. If it is a bad receptacle, the voltmeter will tell you.

What do I think it is:
Tripped GFCI upstream or a bad connection.
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Old 12-27-2008, 04:24 AM   #13
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Electrical receptacle problem


For me the three most common cuprits bad GFCI , Bad connectons , yeah backstabbed receptales will show up from time to time.,


Merci,Marc
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Old 12-27-2008, 02:45 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrclen View Post
Wildie, I meant no offense to you, but I've been an electrician for a long time. I'm saying from experience that the chances of this being a bad receptacle outlet is just about zero. Possible, but not likely.

A voltmeter and a little time will find the actual problem. If it is a bad receptacle, the voltmeter will tell you.

What do I think it is:
Tripped GFCI upstream or a bad connection.
I wasn't really offended with yourself! I was just having a bad day (family med prob) and responded inappropriately!

Going back to the original post, I'm given the impression that the OP was using a neon tester!
On occasion, I have encounter recepts that have carbon deposits on the blade contacts. In this case, voltage can be seen with a neon lamp, but current is limited by the carbon resistance!
As the 'french electrician' has mentioned, back stabbed recepts. are prone to a similar failure.
Another possibility is that the recept may not be compatible with aluminum wire!
It could all be as simple, as a loose wire nut!
What we all failed to question, was what type of tester the OP was using?
Would it be a neon pig tail tester? Or perhaps a neon pole tester? Was the test made from the neutral slot to the 'hot' slot? Was the test made from the terminal screws?
Bill (electrician since 1957)

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