Outlets That Don’t Work
If outlets fail to work properly or don’t work at all, this can be a sign of many different issues such as flipped or faulty breakers, a faulty outlet, overloaded circuits, aged or damaged wiring, or improper wire attachments to the back of the outlet. In any of these situations, it’s important to flip the breaker to the off position and check the outlet with a wire tester to ensure that there is no electrical current before performing any work. Never ignore a faulty outlet, which can prove dangerous if left unrepaired.
A common reason that outlets fail to function is simply a tripped breaker. Check the breaker panel to see if this is the case. If the breaker continues to trip after you’ve reset it, the outlet may be overloaded or faulty. In most cases, a tripped circuit breaker is caused by a temporary overload on the circuit or a short circuit in a device that’s plugged into it. In rare cases, however, a loose wire in an electrical box could be the source of the problem.
Your home may be wired in a way that causes multiple outlets to shut off at the same time, even when the circuit breaker isn’t the cause. Check whether other outlets are dead. If all the outlets in the room or along an entire wall aren’t working, the problem will probably require an electrician. If you see sparks, charring, or smoke, take the problem seriously. Stop using the outlet immediately and contact an electrician.
A socket can be overloaded by too much voltage passing through it. Any single appliance or electrical device is not likely to do this. When you imagine an overloaded socket, you probably imagine dozens of wires stacked into one socket like in the popular Christmas Vacation scene. While this presents an obvious problem, overloaded sockets can look much more mundane. Anyone who’s lived in an older home has seen the need for stacking outlet splitters. As few as three or four high-voltage appliances can easily overload a single socket.
To prevent this, use only single power strips to power multiple devices from a single outlet instead of stacking splitters. Outlets that have multiple accessories plugged into them should be checked at full power for heat, charring, and proper appliance performance. Issues in any of these areas could be symptoms of an overloaded outlet. You can prevent overloading sockets by knowing how much power is required to run the items you plug into them.
An electrical outlet should never be hot. Certain devices and even prolonged use of an outlet can cause it to be warm, but never hot. If it is, you should take it as a sign of a larger problem and call an electrician to address it immediately.
The causes of a hot outlet could be an overloaded circuit or damaged or old wiring. The first thing you should do is to turn the circuit breaker off for that outlet and unplug everything from it. Call an electrician as soon as possible if the outlet is truly hot. If you think that the outlet may just be warm from a certain device, wait to see if it will cool down, and if it doesn’t, then call an electrician. If the outlet is too hot to touch, you could be at high risk for a fire.
Ungrounded outlets essentially have no protection against possible arcing and fire hazard. Electricity is always seeking to find its way back to the ground, which is why it’s important for outlets to be grounded. If you have a short circuit, a grounding wire provides a safe path for electricity to travel to the ground, while an ungrounded circuit could cause electrical shock.
Typically, three-prong outlets are grounded. However, the only way you can be sure the ground is functioning properly is by testing it. If your home was built before the 1960s, you may have two-prong outlets that are not grounded. In this case, it’s best to have an electrician rewire your home with modern grounded outlets. While this can be costly, the safety of your family and your home are worth the expense.
Cracked or Broken Outlet Plate
Cracked and broken outlet plates are common, especially in older homes. A cracked outlet plate will eventually fall off, which can expose the wires and present the risk of both shock and fire. The plates are important because they cover all the things, such as electrical terminal screws, that can give you a powerful shock. In addition, the plates stabilize the outlet. When a plate is damaged or missing, the outlet wears down faster and the wires may be loosened. Plates should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent damage or harm.
If your outlet has inconsistent power, which can cause problems like flickering lights, the outlets may be old and unable to keep up with modern demand. If this is the case, have your outlets inspected by an electrician. Old outlets can lead to hazards such as fire, short circuits, and shock.