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Old 08-23-2011, 04:12 PM   #1
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One by one all outlets in house go dead


I apologize if the same question has been asked and answered in the past. I'm new to the site and in desperate need of help!

My husband and I just bought our first home in April. It was built in 83 so it is almost 30 years old.

When we moved in, almost all the electrical outlets in the house worked fine with the exception of the upstairs bathrooms. They do NOT have the correct GFCI outlets which I now know is necessary to comply with code standards.

However, since we moved in, slowly outlets all around the house are going completely dead! It started upstairs and continued downstairs until probably about 75% of the outlets in the whole house do not work. We bought an electricty outlet tester that has the different colored lights that will show if it's hot, cold, normal, or dead, etc...

The ones that DO work all show the normal response. The ones that do NOT work do not light up at all.

It doesn't seem to be certain rooms since in multiple rooms we have outlets that do work and outlets that do not work.

We tried pulling all the circuit breakers hoping that was the issue, but absolutely no change resulted.

We're afraid if we don't figure out the issue soon, we'll be living in the dark and have no means of electricity!

I'm asking hoping someone can help us before we drop the money we don't have (being new homeowners) on having an electrician come out and look at it.

I appreciate any response!

Thank you!

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Old 08-23-2011, 06:36 PM   #2
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One by one all outlets in house go dead


That's odd. I know it's tight for money right after you buy a house but I'd be getting an electrician in there asap...

Or you can turn off the power and check some of the outlets that are dead to make sure they are connected properly. Maybe the previous homeowner went around and changed all the outlets to spruce them up but didn't connect them properly, plugging/unplugging might have caused loose connections. since you can't tell by testing the outlet what circuit you're turning off, check the wires diectly with a volt meter.

Other than that, maybe you have ghosts

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Old 08-23-2011, 08:00 PM   #3
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One by one all outlets in house go dead


If they all stopped at once I'd say you lost one leg of the power line---You have two different 110 lines coming into the house---

-to check that without opening the box----turn off every other breaker----and see if any thing changes.

I second the 'call an electrician' but if it's the incoming power the power company usually takes care of that.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:32 PM   #4
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One by one all outlets in house go dead


I would start to look for loose connections either at the last working or first non-working receptacle. Move the wires to the screw terminals. Make a clockwise loop and secure under the screw heads.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:34 PM   #5
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One by one all outlets in house go dead


If there is no discernable pattern to the failure,
And its random failures every where,
1 - Check for use of back stab recepticules,
if they are, get rid of them.
2 - Check for loose connections,
check each recepticule, and any know junction boxs.
3 - Check the quality of the recepticules,
if they are cheap crappy ones, replace them.

This is about as much as you can do with out an electricain.
So if you do all this and still cant find the problems,
call an electricain, as loose connections can cause fires.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:22 PM   #6
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One by one all outlets in house go dead


Don't take anything apart without labeling the individual wires so you can put it back together the same way.

I suggest measuring voltage quantitatively (using a voltmeter) as opposed to qualitatively (using a tester with tiny lights).

One thing worth doing little by little if not all at once is changing over all the backstab connections (push the wire in and it sort of sticks; very common in post-1970 construction) to screw connections. If the receptacle or switch itself looks to be in good condition you can re-use it. Of course the power needs to be off while you are working but you can turn on the power for a moment while you see if that switch or receptacle has live power, prior to disconnecting any wires. You can work on one receptacle or switch unit at a time. If a wire is poked into the back of the receptacle but is clamped firmly in place using a screw on the side (and slides right out when you loosen the screw), you can keep it in that way but retighten the screw firmly (not with tremendous force).

Another project you can start on is retorquing all the small and medium sized screws and setscrews holding wires in place in the breaker panel. Flip off each breaker before touching the screw on it. Turn each screw moderately tight, loosen a quarter turn then tighten firmly. Do not use tremendous force. With the breaker handle still flipped off, tilt the breaker so it unsnaps from the panel, inspect the underside and also the fin in its panel slot for discoloration, and snap the breaker back in place. Should there be discoloration, do not turn that breaker back on for now. The big set sccrews holding the fat wires should be left for an experienced person to tighten up.

Make a note of receptacles where the top half works and the bottom half does not. If this is not switch controlled, the simplest thing for now is to replace that receptacle.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 08-23-2011 at 10:40 PM.
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