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RammsteinNicCage 05-01-2009 08:22 PM

Outlets stopped working
 
I have at least three outlets that have suddenly stopped working a couple of days ago. I have very little knowledge of electrical things, but I would say that they are all connected together in some way - two are on the same wall and one is on the perpindicular wall. Meanwhile, the overhead light and the light in the closet still work. No fuses are tripped in the panel.

My brother, who is an electrician and unfortunately not available for consultation now, did some poking around in the condo and said that there were a lot of things that would not pass code, switches being jumped off of outlets, etc. I know he did some changes (months ago) to make them right, but I don't know if he actually made things worse or not.

Any idea why these three outlets would become inoperable and how to fix them?

Leah Frances 05-01-2009 08:48 PM

OK, we were all newbies at some point, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt before the old timers have at you. Here are somethings you are going to have to address if you really want some help.
Quote:

Originally Posted by RammsteinNicCage (Post 268179)
I have at least three outlets that have suddenly stopped working a couple of days ago. "At least Three" is not helpful. Is it one, or two, or three, or how many exactly? I have very little knowledge of electrical things, but I would say that they are all connected together in some way - two are on the same wall and one is on the perpindicular wall. Sorry to say, but geographic proximity is not conclusive on this point - are they on the same circuit or not? Meanwhile, the overhead light and the light in the closet still work. Are the overhead light and closet on the same circuit as these outlets? No fuses are tripped in the panel. Are they fuses or breakers? Fuses 'Blow'. Breakers 'Trip'

My brother, who is an electrician and unfortunately not available for consultation now, did some poking around in the condo and said that there were a lot of things that would not pass code, switches being jumped off of outlets, etc. I know he did some changes (months ago) to make them right, but I don't know if he actually made things worse or not. This is the most true statement you have made

Any idea why these three outlets would become inoperable and how to fix them?

"Short answer Yes-with-an-if. Long answer No-with-a-but"

- Probably you have a loose connection somewhere (don't ask me where). Please don't go poking around until you get a non contact voltage tester and can conclusively turn off the power to the affected circuit. Get some data and ask some more questions.

Pictures are always helpful.

RammsteinNicCage 05-01-2009 09:04 PM

Well, it's at least three (I didn't test every single outlet in the house). ;) In my grandfather's room, there is an outlet on the west wall and an outlet on the south wall and the closet is on the west wall - those are all working. The outlets that don't work are on the east and north walls (the north wall is actually a hallway - a previous owner built up [poorly built] fourth wall to complete the bedroom). I have appliances plugged into various other outlets in the house and nothing else seems to be astray, so it would seem like it's just these three particular outlets.

I really don't know if they're on the same circuit or not - normally I'd test that out by tripping the breaker :) but I can't test it that way if the outlets already aren't working. When my brother was replacing the outlets in the house, we tried to figure out what breaker went to what and some of the things seemed pretty weird to me (but maybe they're normal) - like a breaker controlled the majority of outlets and / or switches in the master bedroom and the main bathroom (diagonal across), the kitchen and another room that weren't that near each other....

If it is a loose wire, I wouldn't even know where to look... these things aren't in series where if one goes, everything down the line goes, right?

Leah Frances 05-01-2009 09:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RammsteinNicCage (Post 268187)
If it is a loose wire, I wouldn't even know where to look... these things aren't in series where if one goes, everything down the line goes, right?

House wiring isn't series/parallel like high school physics.

- I'd recommend living without the outlets for the time being and start doing some homework. Go to the library and get a book about home wiring. Read it.

- Get a non contact voltage tester - one with an audible alert is very useful. Always test your tester and Test before you touch anything.

If you insist on monkeying around with this before you do either or both of the above: turn off the power to all circuits before you start opening things up. Seriously, be careful.

RammsteinNicCage 05-01-2009 09:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Leah Frances (Post 268192)
House wiring isn't series/parallel like high school physics.

College physics, thanks.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Leah Frances (Post 268192)
- I'd recommend living without the outlets for the time being and start doing some homework.

Easier said than done. Because of the crap job a previous owner did, the switch for the overhead light is OUTSIDE of the room (on the north wall with one of the outlets that doesn't work), there's no other safe place to put the lamp where he can reach it and it can be plugged in, and I don't need my grandfather stumbling around with a flashlight.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Leah Frances (Post 268192)
- Get a non contact voltage tester - one with an audible alert is very useful. Always test your tester and Test before you touch anything.

Already have one. Obviously nothing would be done until I'm sure the juice isn't flowing, but it's what to do AFTER that and hopefully prevent it from happening again that I'm trying to figure out by posting here. :)

Leah Frances 05-01-2009 10:14 PM

Ok, college boy :wink:. Here's how I'd approach it. Fellas - chime in here, cause all I am is a DIYer. Note the theme.
- Check and make sure you HOers/Renters insurance is up to date.
- Test your tester - put it in a slot of an outlet you know works - make sure it indicates voltage. [REPEAT before testing any unknown]. The small slot should be the one that is 'HOT'.
- Do the same for the malfunctioning outlets.
- Pick an outlet.
- Unscrew the outlet cover.
- Test.
- Unscrew screws holding outlet in the box.
- Test.
- Gently, pull the outlet from the box.

- Note the color of the wires connected to the outlet and their location. Take pictures and make notes label wires as needed- nothing sucks worse than trying to remember where that black wire was connected. Plus, if you can describe the setup or take a pic then you are likely to get help from some of the guys on the forum who actually know what they are talking about.

- There is NO guarantee about what you might find in an rec box. bootleg grounds, non-standard wires, or any other crazy thing. Write down what you find.
- Test. The black should be hot. Is it? If yes, start throwing breakers till you kill the power. Note what breaker controls the outlet. If no, check the next outlet.
- If none of the wires into any of the outlets are hot, I don't have a clue about what to do next. Neither do you, unless you start opening walls and tracing wires.
- If you find some hots - first identify the breaker that controls the outlets - don't assume they are all on the same circuit. Throw the breakers and Test again.
- Once the power is dead. Look for loose connections. Is the outlet 'back stabbed'? Are the wires connected with screws? Are they loose? Is there anything singed/burnt/charred? You'll have to describe what you find before anyone can help troubleshoot it.

You could have a real fire hazard on your hands - ever seen a news report: "house fire: caused by faulty wiring". Be careful, let us know what you find.

220/221 05-01-2009 10:59 PM

Your wiring goes from the panel to point A to B to C in a somewhat logical manner thru the recep, switch and light jboxes.

Take the non working receps and the last working one out and check for loose connections. There is a good chance you will find a wire that has come out or burned loose in the back of a recep especially if it is a recep that gets used a lot (ironing?)

RammsteinNicCage 05-03-2009 07:59 PM

College girl. ;)

After taking a few outlets off and looking at them and not seeing anything that I'd be able to tell is "off," I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet on this one and get a professional in here, namely because, like you said, I could have a fire hazard on my hands. The electric in this place has bothered me since day one and since the association is already suing the original builders and the town for a sinking building, I wouldn't be surprised if the electric work was just as shoddy.

Any ideas on general costs to have someone basically inspect my entire electrical setup?

Scuba_Dave 05-03-2009 08:14 PM

Do you have a GFCI anywhere that may have kicked off?

RammsteinNicCage 05-03-2009 08:22 PM

Checked the three GFCI's I have and the outlets still aren't working.

Scuba_Dave 05-03-2009 08:26 PM

Have you tried flipping the breaker on & off
In some cases the the breaker looks like it is on, but it is tripped

RammsteinNicCage 05-03-2009 08:29 PM

I did trip two of the breakers that I thought could control those outlets and nothing happened. I might try tripping most of them when grandpa isn't watching TV in case I had the wrong one.

frenchelectrican 05-03-2009 09:47 PM

Most case you will have burnted connection or loose connection one of the receptales as one of the guy mention look at between the last working and nonworking receptale that where you start troubleshooting it.

Non concat voltage tester will be wise investment for ya and it only cost few Euros{ Dollars to your area }

And make sure you turn off the breaker first before you mess around with the receptale.

Merci,Marc


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