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My electrical outlet is not working. Now what?

Dec 19, 2017

My electrical outlet is not working. Now what?

woman wearing a black and white striped shirt covering her eyes with her hands out of frustration.

You use the electricity in your home a lot. You’re constantly charging devices, adding new toys and juggling what deserves one of those precious spots on your wall outlet or power strip.
If you have an electrical outlet that is not working, it feels like you’re constantly working around the problem. Even if your dead outlet is in an empty room that no one uses, it feels like it could really come in handy sometimes — and if it is in a busy space like your kitchen or living room, well, that’s just unacceptable.
There are a lot of older homes scattered across Northern Virginia. In Alexandria, for example, over 50 percent of the available housing stock was built before 1969. In nearby Fairfax, that number jumps to 59 percent
Head out west a bit to a city like Warrenton, where we established ourselves this past February, and we’re still seeing over 32 percent of homes in that 50-year-or--older range. 
It’s not that uncommon to have electrical issues in these older houses — and even the newest builds can have faulty wiring or contractor missteps that go unnoticed until a few years pass.
Given our dependence on a tech-driven lifestyle, we need every outlet in safe, working order. So what do you do when you realize you have an electrical outlet that is not working? Let’s take a look.


Why is my electrical outlet not working?

There are several reasons why an electrical outlet stops working. Let’s look at the most common issues: 
  • Loose connection. Loose connections are more common with old wiring. If your terminal screws, wire connectors or stab-in connections are loose, excess heat can be generated and a little flare-up can occur, burning out the wiring. It’s possible to fix loose connections on your own, but we recommend contacting a local electrician. It’s easy to make a dangerous mistake.
  • Bad installation. If your outlet has never worked properly, it’s possible that someone improperly installed them. If you’re a seasoned home renovation expert (or know someone who is), you can try turning off the power, pulling the outlet out of the box and securing the connections. Again — this is not a job for amateurs. If you’re not familiar with electrical work, please avoid the danger and leave this task to a trained Warrenton electrician.
  • Your circuit breaker tripped. A dead outlet isn’t always the result of a major electrical problem. Maybe you (or someone in your family) just overload the circuit. Check the panel and reset your breakers — sometimes these stick, so make sure you flip them all the way. If the circuit continues to fail, it’s a sign that your home can’t support your electrical needs. It’s time to talk to a Warrenton electrician, or the electricians in your hometown, and create a game plan for updating your wiring.
  • Check the GFCI breaker. Many buildings require GFCI outlets — ground fault circuit interrupters — near sinks. Instead of causing the circuit breaker to flip off, this device shuts down itself (and the other outlets on the same circuit) when it detects a short or excess heat. Try resetting the GFCI breaker before calling electricians in Warrenton or breaking out your tool belt.

Is a dead outlet dangerous? 

Home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires each year, nearly than 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage. You should take any electrical issue seriously. 
We aren’t trying to frighten you or be overly alarmist — some people live with dead outlets for years. But if your electrical outlet is not working and you see these telltale signs, talk to an electrician as soon as possible:
You have discolored outlets. This may actually mean you’ve already had a small fire. A discolored outlet or switch is a sign that a loose connection or faulty wiring created a spark that started fire, causing the discoloration.
You smell burning. This should be pretty straightforward: if you smell something burning in your home, don’t ignore it! This is not normal. In relation to a dead outlet or an electrical outlet that does not work, the burning smell may mean that you have an electrical short. If you don’t have discolored outlets, the short may be within the walls. Contact your Warrenton electrician right away (and the fire department, too).
Your outlet sparks. Again, this is not normal. When your outlet builds up too much heat, it can melt the insulation that surrounds the wires. When that damaged wire makes an electrical connection, it can cause a short circuit and create a serious spark or even fire.

How much electricity can my outlet handle?

A great way to understand how much electricity your outlet can handle is to figure out the voltage levels of your house. 
To do this, first, you’ll need to find the number of watts of power in use and then divide it by the number of volts your house is rated for (typical homes are rated for 120 volts). If this number is below 80 percent, then you’re in a safe range. If not — you could be putting yourself at risk


Don’t ignore a dead outlet.

Power strips and multi-prong outlets are nice for occasional electrical needs. Relying on them all of the time because you’re ignoring a problem with a dead outlet is just careless — and potentially dangerous.
Professional electricians in Warrenton have years of training and experience to draw from when working on your electrical repairs. With real knowledge of building and safety codes, they can make sure your electrical work is up to standard. 

You’ve got the power.

Don't settle for a wall outlet that just won't work. One of our five-star Warrenton electricians solve the problem for you. Our local electricians are the smart, safe bet to get that wall socket back into action. Call CroppMetcalfe 1-877-740-6657 or schedule service online now.


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