low voltage in receptacles

Old 12-01-02, 02:53 PM
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Question low voltage in receptacles

We lived in our house about two years. When we moved in, we noticed that an outlet or two didn't work; however, we didn't need the outlets at the time so we didn't worry about it. Now we'd like to use those outlets, so we did some trouble shooting today (we have 3 non-working outlets) and think we know what is wrong.

We have six overhead lights and three receptacles that are on the same circuit. When on, the lights work fine; however, the outlets don't. First we tested the connections, which according to the tester was fine. Then using a multi-tester, we tested that each of the receptacles is only producing 99 Volts. We were hoping to plug in a TV and a lamp into one of the outlets, but as they are now, the lamp doesn't even work.

Do we need to connect the receptacles into their own breaker? If so, is something that someone with little electrical knowledge should do themselves or should we bite the bullet and hire an electrician?

Thanks for your help.
Old 12-01-02, 03:03 PM
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You are probably not correct about what is wrong. You are using a digital multimeter, and are measuring phantom voltage. On a receptacle that won't even power a lamp, it is misleading to use a digital voltmeter.

So forget those voltage readings. They are completely meaningless.

First, make sure that the receptacles are not just controlled by a wall switch. I heard a funny story recently about somebody calling an electrician to fix a non-working receptacle. The electrician turned on the wall switch and then the receptacle worked. The homeowner said, "that wall switch never worked either."

Did you use an $8 plug-in receptacle tester? Did the lights come on indicating that the receptacle was properly wired?

The most likely causes of this problem are: (1) tripped GFCI (only likely if this is in a room requiring GFCI), and (2) loose backstabbed connection in some receptacle on this circuit.

If none of the above does the trick, post back for more suggestions.

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