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Deco 09-11-2017 04:45 PM

No power to light switches and outlet
Bear with me while I describe my situation as best as I can and what I've done so far. I'm new here so forgive me in advance if the information is excessive. I'm trying to be thorough without knowing exactly what might be relevant.


A few weeks ago, we had a brief power outage in the whole house during a storm. Power was restored quickly, but the only 2 electrical outlets in my bathroom never came back. Both dead. One outlet is a standalone on the right end of the sink. The other outlet is on the left end of the sink housed together with 3 switches. 2 of the switches operate two different lights in the bathroom, and the 3rd operates the fan/vent. Despite the 2 outlets being dead, the 3 switches worked perfectly. Until I could deal with the dead outlets or get an electrician, I simply moved my toothbrush charger to the bedroom and tolerated the small inconvenience.

Until a few days ago when this happened.


While I had the TV on in my bedroom, I went to the bathroom in the morning and turned on the 2 light switches. The moment I flipped the switches, the TV in the bedroom died and the bathroom lights never came on. The fan switch, which I never use, also died.

The TV in the bedroom was plugged into an outlet in the wall that's on the flip side of the wall where the dead bathroom light switches and outlets are. That bedroom outlet is now also dead. Now I had 2 dead outlets in the bathroom, 3 dead switches in the bathroom, and 1 dead outlet in the bedroom on the flip side of the wall where all the bathroom electric carcasses lay.

I decided to tackle the problem this weekend. I'm not an expert or particularly handy, but I want to try to fix this myself first. After first doing the breaker box tango and not solving the problem, I decided to replace all 3 outlets and 3 switches. That did not do the trick. I turned to online advice and learned that a GFCI in a completely remote place could have been tripped, impacting my bathroom. This was news to me. There is no GFCI outlet in my bathroom, which I thought was odd, but didn't realize they could still be protected under a GFCI elsewhere.

I went on a hunt throughout my house. I found that the GFCI in a secondary bathroom down the hall had been tripped. I assume this happened during the power outage, since resetting it restored the 2 dead outlets in my bathroom. But it did not restore the light switches or the outlet in the bedroom.

I went back to trying to diagnose the problem with the 3 bathroom switches and the bedroom outlet. I may be wrong, but since they both went out simultaneously, I'm assuming the two are connected. I also discovered with a shudder that not only were the 2 outlets in my bathroom not connected to the 3 switches in the bathroom, but those 2 outlets are not even connected to the breakers labeled "Master bedroom" and "master bedroom and master bathroom" in the breaker box. The entire time that I thought I'd cut off juice to the 2 dead outlets while I was replacing them, I had in fact done no such thing, and they just happened to have been taken offline not by the breaker box, but by a tripped GFCI a few doors down. *chills*

I don't know if the outlet in the bedroom feeds the bathroom switches or the way around. If I had to take a guess, I'd say the bedroom outlet feeds the switches since it has wire pairs coming in, and wire pairs going out, and there's nothing else down downstream from it (or anywhere else for that matter) that is dead except for the 3 switches. But I can't be sure because there are 3 sets of lines coming into the switches and 3 going out to each of the bathroom fixtures. I don't know where those 3 sets are coming from.

I don't have very sophisticated tools, but use one of those voltage detectors that tell you whether a line is hot or not. All lines in the dead outlet and switches, including when all breaker switches are turned on, are dead dead dead.

In the bedroom on the same wall where the dead outlet is there is a live and well outlet. It has 2 hot wires screwed in, and the 2 neutral ones have been pigtailed and connected to just one screw. There is nothing between the live outlet and the dead one.

I have checked the dead outlet and switches, as well as the live one in the bedroom, for loose wires, signs of failure, but have not found anything obvious to me. I have searched the entire house high and low, including all closets, cabinets, garage, outdoors, you name it, and have not found another tripped GFCI. There are two GFCI stations hidden low on the wall in the walk-in closet next to the bathroom. I call them stations because they don't have "outlets", just the test/rest buttons. They are both live and have not been tripped.

I'm out of ideas. I welcome your advice, anything thoughts on what I'm overlooking.

CodeMatters 09-11-2017 06:32 PM

Re: No power to light switches and outlet
Problem 1. Those 2 outlets are likely protected by a GFI which has tripped.
The GFI is likely in another bathroom in the house. Find and reset all GFI's.

Problem 2. I was too lazy to read this now. Maybe later.

jeffmattero76 09-12-2017 07:21 AM

Re: No power to light switches and outlet
I dont have time to read and digest all of the detail with the 2nd problem, but i would strongly suggest turning everey circuit breaker all the way off and then back on. Many times you cannot tell a breaker has tripped by looking since the handle doesn't always move to the OFF side. Start there and report back the results.

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Daninevin 09-12-2017 10:16 AM

Re: No power to light switches and outlet
long stories

MTN REMODEL LLC 09-12-2017 11:36 AM

Re: No power to light switches and outlet
Deco.... Yes it's a long story, but we often complain about incomplete info. You have been very complete with what you know to date.

However, we are still with pretty general info.

What is your testor... is it a non-contact testor, or a multimeter.... tracing circuits will likely be easier with a decent multimeter. (For instance, if it is a non-contact testor, it will still buzz if you have a faulty GFI.. and your actual feed and load wires will have to be tested.

Was the storm that started this an electical (lightening) storm.

In general, I'd follow the above Jeff's and Codes suggestions. (I'm actually unfamiliar with GFI non-recepticals in your lower closet... sounds like you have some previous homeowner improvised wiring here.... not sure why you would not just have normal GFI receps.)

I know you have searched to date, but it does sound GFI related at first analysis (assuming it was not a bad electrical storm that has harmed your circuit wiring).

Does your panel have any GFI breakers... do you have any subpanels, have you moved boxes and maybe krap in the garage and looked for more GFI's... and outside behind bushes etc. What year was your home built.

With old building. or possible previous owner improvisation, those GFI's can be pretty well hidden. Do you understand that a GFI can be wired to control all downstream recepticals.

That's alot of questions, but it will help our / your electrical understanding.


rjniles 09-12-2017 12:25 PM

Re: No power to light switches and outlet
MTN, he is describing a dead front GFCI.


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MTN REMODEL LLC 09-12-2017 02:13 PM

Re: No power to light switches and outlet

Originally Posted by rjniles (Post 4616978)
MTN, he is describing a dead front GFCI.


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Thanks RJ...

Guess I've never used one...... (learn something new everday:smile:)

I see where they can be usefull for GFI protection where you don't want a plug (bathroom Jacuzzis) or maybe where protected circuit is not readily accesable and you don't need a plug)

Still ... seems a little strange in the OP's circumstance... maybe he has something else in play that we don't know.


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