Why won't my electrical outlet work?

If your electrical outlet no longer appears to be working and you can't bring it back to life, call in an electrician to help.

If your electrical outlet no longer appears to be working and you can't bring it back to life, call in an electrician to help.

We take electricity for granted, casually plugging in items and just expecting that they’ll work. An outlet that fails to perform is not only frustrating, it can also be an indicator of a more serious problem.

During August 2011, more than 1,400 Angie’s List members logged on to the website and phoned the call center – all in need of a Los Angeles electrician. If your house is in need of electrical attention, here are some tips on why your electrical outlet might not be working.

Check the circuit breaker: It’s common for a single circuit to trip, causing the outlet you want to use to stop working. Check the panel and reset any breakers that are not on. If a circuit continues to shut down, you likely have a problem with overloading it.

See if you can unplug some items or call in an electrician to make the changes that are necessary.

GFCI: Modern building codes require outlets near sinks to be GFCI, which stand for ground fault circuit interrupter. These outlets will shut down by themselves when they detect a short or overheat, rather than causing the breaker to flip off.

If you have an electrical outlet in your bathroom or kitchen stop working reset all GFCI outlets in that room. A GFCI that pops will also cause all outlets further down the line on the same circuit to stop working.

Burned out: Sometimes electrical outlets will literally burn out. A brief flare and fire can cause the outlet to stop working. If an electrical outlet shows any sign of blackening around the outlet plugs, it should not be used. Even if one plug is working, the entire outlet should be replaced immediately to avoid the possibility of starting a fire.

Older homes: Electrical outlets can go bad for no apparent reason. Their contacts can become loose, and the entire unit may simply need to be replaced. Because electrical work can be dangerous, it's recommended that you leave repairs to a professional electrician. Failure to shut down the right outlet at the panel can result in serious injury. Failure to properly install the new outlet can cause a fire down the road. It can also create a situation where people who are trying to use the outlet may get shocked.

Angie’s List member George Umezawa chose to be safe rather than sorry when he hired highly rated Power Up Electric Inc. of Los Angeles to replace six two-prong electrical outlets in his 1957 home.

“The job was not a difficult one, but a little tricky because I have an old house with old wiring,” Umezawa says. “So I was glad to have a real electrician do the work rather than risking a do-it-yourself job.”

There are several reasons for an outlet to fail. To easily determine if the failure is your electrical outlet or the appliance you are using, plug something else into the outlet. Before calling the professionals you should check all GFCI electrical outlets in the room and check the fuse panel. If it’s not one of these simple fixes then you should call a Los Angeles electrician for help.


I live in canada so can I call a local eltricon or do I have to get one from calafornia?

Angie's List does cover some areas in Canada. Click here to see if we're in your city: http://www.angieslist.com/companylist/ca/

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