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Determine Simple Electrical Outlet Problems


Don't call an electrician. Most problems with electrical outlets can easily be solved by the homeowner. Learn what is causing loose outlets, warm faceplates, tripping breakers, and more!

While it should go without saying that the relevant circuit breaker should be shut off prior to working on any electrical device - let us state this here as a safety precaution.

Outlet is Warm or Gives Off Sparks

Not good. Unplug all cords. Get inside and make sure that wire ends are all firmly connected. If there is any doubt about the condition of the receptacle, simply replace it. It's easy enough to replace an outlet by yourself, and cheap, too.

Problem: Circuit Breaker Tripping or Fuse Burning Out

The most common reason for circuit breaker tripping is an overloaded system. Turn off appliances that consume a lot of electricity, flip the breaker, and try again. Another, less common reason is that the light or appliance cord is worn and needs to be replaced. Far less common are loose wire connections or soiled wire ends.

Light or Appliance Doesn't Turn On

Here you find the "sister" to the first problem. If the circuit breaker trips or fuse burns out, then lights and applicances will not work. But this usually affects a series of lights or series of applicances. If it is an isolated problem, perhaps the light or appliance became unplugged accidentally. Damaged cords, loose wires, soiled wire ends, and poor receptacles are sometimes to blame.

Cord Falls Out of Outlet

You probably already know how to bend out prongs to make the wire stay in the outlet. If not that, you will find hardware stores sell replacement wires for lamps that are easy to replace. Be careful about appliance cords, though - these are not always so easy to deal with, given the high power draws. Finally, the outlet may simply need to be replaced if it is old enough.
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