no power --external outlets

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  #1  
Old 02-05-07, 08:18 AM
rig4red
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no power --external outlets

hello,

I need some help. my external outlets do not work, and I just realized another internal outlet has one of two not working.

would someone please explain why part of internal outlet has no power and why both external have no power, or at least do not work?

I am nost suggesting a correlation, but just discovered this and know next to nothing about electrical outlets.

NOTE: I have reset every gfci outlet I can find and have checked the breaker box for any off buttons.

thanks.

joe
 
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  #2  
Old 02-05-07, 08:33 AM
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The proper term is receptacle. Outlet is an ambiguous term and can confuse people.

Duplex receptacles have two receptacles. The devices are built in such a way that the individual receptacles can be isolated from each other. This isolation can put the receptacles on completely separate circuits (separate hot and neutral wires), or on a multi-wire circuit (separate hot, same neutral), or can simply separate the hot wires on the same circuit (to make half the receptacle switched, for example).

Some circuit breakers do not always appear tripped when they are tripped. In order to reset them you need to turn the breaker completely off and then on.

First you have to determine if other devices on the circuit are working. Other devices can include receptacles, lights or even built in appliances, depending on the age of the house. This is done by knowing in advance what is on each and every circuit and by checking those devices. You should figure out what is on each and every circuit shortly after moving in to a new house, condominium or apartment. It sounds like you did not do this, which is a shame, because the information would be extremely helpful now. In other situations it could save your life, so I suggest that you determine this ASAP.

In general when an outside receptacle does not work it is usually caused by a tripped GFCI. Resetting every GFCI is not important. Resetting the GFCI that protects these receptacles is important. Have you completely checked the outside of the house, the garage and the basement for GFCI receptacles? You need to do this if you have not.

The fact that half a duplex receptacle works and half does not suggests either a switched receptacle or a multi-wire circuit. You may have a switched receptacle and this issue may be completely unrelated to the outside receptacles. You need to open this receptacle (with the power off) and determine how this receptacle is wired. I am thinking that this receptacle has nothing to do with the outside ones, although I could be wrong.

Once you rule out (or in) the inside receptacle, you need to figure out what circuit controls the receptacles and start from there. I do suggest that you go to the store and buy a two wire circuit tester to help you conduct the necessary tests.
 
  #3  
Old 02-05-07, 08:43 AM
rig4red
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this is a house (built 2001). we checked the recpetecles during the walkthrough; however, we did not check the external--goes on a growing list of first house lessons learned.

I have yet to distinguish the receptecles for the given circuits but am not aware of any other, than mentioned, electrical issues.

I read about switchable receptecles--could these external be controlled by a switch, besides the breaker box?


you answer is a great place to start.

thanks.
 
  #4  
Old 02-05-07, 09:04 AM
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Unfortunately houses do not come with owner's manuals. It would be great if every house had a complete history of changes made and, in this case, a complete detail of the original wiring so that these things can be determined. Unfortunately they do not.

Yes, outdoor receptacles can be switched. This is sometimes done so that Christmas lights (and now other holiday lights and decorations) can be turned on/off all at once.

I would double your search for a GFCI receptacle that needs to be reset. Check thoroughly. Often receptacles get hidden behind boxes or other items, especially in garages and basements. My preference is to place the GFCI receptacle in a place that can't easily get blocked. In my garage, for example, it is right next to the door. Anything blocking the receptacle would be in the way of the door, so it doesn't happen. The other receptacles in the garage are not so lucky, but at least they are not GFCI.

You can sometimes follow wiring by looking in the basement. Check just below the outside receptacles. Sometimes the wires will run down into the basement where you cn follow them.

Remember, as you are doing this, that electrical runs are generally as short as possible. This is for several reasons. It's less work to run the wires the shorter way rather than the longer way, it costs less as wire (especially now) is expensive, and the less wire used the less voltage drop. So expect the recetpacles to be wired more or less in order starting with the closest to the panel and ending with the furthest from the panel.

I would also investigate the inside receptacle, to see how it is wired.

Finally, I would map out the house electrical. You can start that now, although some of it will need to wait until you have the problem(s) figured out. However, starting the mapping may hekp with the problem(s).
 
  #5  
Old 02-05-07, 09:50 AM
rig4red
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you sound like you know what you doing and for that I am greatly appreciative you provide guidance.

is it common, likely, that external receptecles fail due to exposure? I have a weatherproof switch in the breaker box, but off/on did nothing. I assume weatherproof refers the my troubled pair and maybe more.

still looking for a possible gfci cause, but running out of time for today.


thanks again for the help.
 
  #6  
Old 02-05-07, 10:11 AM
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The receptacles outside are for sure on a GFCI somewhere. A house built in 2001 would have required that. Also the receptacles in your garage will be on GFCI. Have you tested any of the garage receptacles? If they also don't work that is another clue that it is a GFCI in the garage somewhere.
In the past these receptacles could have been on the bathroom circuits. But the year of your house should not have allowed this.
 
  #7  
Old 02-05-07, 10:12 AM
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Code today requires that outdoor receptacles have an in-use cover. That means that there must be a cover that remains closed even when something is plugged in. However, that is a new requirement. In 2001 code did not call for an in-use cover for general purpose outdoor receptacles, so your outdoor receptacles may just have flat covers that fold up or over or whatever so you can access the receptacles.

Water will damage receptacles. It can also cause a GFCI to trip. Sometimes a tripped outdoor GFCI can be reset by allowing the receptacle time to dry (or even by helping it dry with a hair dryer).

While I know you might prefer not to do this, as resetting clocks is a pain in the neck, I do suggest that you turn each circuit breaker off for a few seconds and then back on. I especially urge you to do this if the breakers are not marked at all or if the outside receptacles are not indicated. You can't tell that some breakers are tripped by their position.

If you absolutely cannot find a tripped GFCI or a tripped breaker, and since the house has been like this (for you), you will (most likely) have to resort to opening boxes to investigate. You may want to consider hiring an electrician. While it does cost money, an electrician will be able to trouble shoot quicker than you can and it may be money well spent.

If you can afford to wait, you might want to see if there are any other electrical problems, so you bring an electrician out once.

Finally, if this house is in a development and if there are other houses of the same design (or a mirror image design), you might want to go meet those neighbors. Houses built all at the same time to the same plans usually have the same original electrical layout, often all done by the same contractor. A neighbor may be able to help you by answering some questions.

Another possibility is to contact the previous owner, possibly through the realtor. As long as you do so politely, they will probably tell you if they made any changes to the electrical system. They may even tell if they had been having problems with the outdoor receptacles, although they may not, so don't put a lot of faith in a negative answer.

If you do get to opening boxes yourself, make sure that the power is off before you start. Electricity can and does kill people. Don't go disconnecting wires unless you are certain of what you are looking at, and make detailed notes or take digital pictures before you do.

Finally, before getting to that point it might be a good idea to review some portions of the book "Wiring Simplified", or any book on home wiring. It helps if you know what you are looking at.
 
  #8  
Old 02-05-07, 11:49 AM
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Totally agree with the posts here.

It took me a call to the POCO to find out why my outside recpetacles were not working.

He discovered the problem with 3 minutes of being at my house.

There was a GFCI receptable behind boxes in my garage (like racraft mentioned) that tripped. I never even knew that receptacle was there.
 
  #9  
Old 02-05-07, 01:02 PM
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I had the same problem and we finally found the GFCI in the closet behind all my wife's dresses. Iím still not sure how we found it.

Just to give you a little food for thought on finding your GFCI, this particular GFCI is connected to our Jacuzzi tub, master bath receptacles and the outside receptacle on the other side of the bathroom wall. Our other back yard receptacle is sharing the GFCI in the garage, which is on the other side of the house.

Beary
 
  #10  
Old 02-07-07, 12:07 PM
rig4red
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the support on this forum is as good as I have seen. thank you!!

I have scoured my house for the responsible gfci receptecale, even found one under the tub, behind a wall, did nothing. opened up the receptecales for a look--they are wired the same from my limited experience.

the only place I have yet to look is the attic which has a pull down step? surely not!

assuming the attic a big zero, I will heed the advice and get the professionals on it.

again, thank you for you tolerance and help!

great site!!
 
  #11  
Old 02-07-07, 03:49 PM
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There's a tripped GFCI somewhere, that's almost certain. It could be in your attic, but I doubt it. The usual location is behind something big and heavy. If you've just moved in, you probably still have a lot of boxes stacked against the wall in the garage or basement. It's probably behind all of them, or behind that canoe, or behind the big TV or stereo cabinet.

If you reach the end of your rope, an electrician will probably be willing to come push that button for you for $50 or so. A lot of people have this done.
 
  #12  
Old 02-07-07, 04:20 PM
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I have heard of GFCI being hidden in an attic. Really dumb but did hear of it once.
Here's another dumb thought. Do you have a deck that has been added to the house. Maybe there is an outdoor receptacle hiding under it that is the GFCI.
 
  #13  
Old 02-08-07, 02:09 PM
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I just recently replaced a failed GFCI. I'm electrican told me they fail a lot.
 
  #14  
Old 02-08-07, 04:02 PM
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If you have one, check the crawl space...sometimes electrcians like to put them under the house if you have a large crawl space.
 
  #15  
Old 02-09-07, 02:30 PM
rig4red
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you people are spectacular whereas I am NOT!! the darned gfci receptacle was hidden just under a wall mounted shelf about 3 feet to the right of the breaker box. it was out of sight, but embarrassingly I checked that wall 3Xs.

oh, I did not find it, the electrician did in about, no kidding, <1 minute.

again, I have never seen such a helpful bunch and it is greatly appreciated.

thanks and success to all of you!

great site!
 
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