How to Diagnose a Dead Electrical Outlet

Scenario: You plug in an electrical device into a standard wall outlet and the device will not power up.

Solution 1. Did you check to see if you plugged into a switched duplex (2 sockets to plug into) outlet? A typical switched outlet can be indentified quickly because in the last twenty years or so switched outlets have been installed upside down. Compare the outlet with other outlets in the room. Also try plugging into the second socket on the same outlet. Typically only one socket on the duplex outlet is switched. If the outlet does not appear to be switched outlet, move the electrical device to a known “live” outlet – one that is in use and you know is working.

Solution 2. Is the outlet your trying to use in the bathroom, kitchen, garage or within six feet of a water source? If this is the case, the outlet may be on a GFCI circuit controlled by a GFCI outlet. Check all the GFCI outlets in the house. The obvious locations are the kitchen, bathroom(s), laundry room, wet bar, and the garage.

Solution 3. You have used the advice above, checked every option as list and still no power. Now it is time to check the main circuit breaker box. This is where all the electrical power comes into the house. NOTE: If you are uncomfortable opening the breaker box call a professional. Open the main cover and inspect the circuit breakers. Do you see an “orange” indicator on any of the breakers? NOTE: Not all breakers have an orange indicator. Look to see if any of the switches on any of the breakers are in the middle or opposite position from all the other breakers. This is the one that has tripped. Also some of the time the breaker switch is hard to tell if it has tripped due to the breakers switch not moving very far. If this is the case apply minimal pressure on the switch towards the “off” position. The offending breaker switch will jump to the “off” position with very little pressure. Push the switch completely “off” then back “on”. If you have tried all the advice above with no luck, it is time to call a professional.