Some outlets don't work on a circuit ...

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Old 08-31-08, 09:43 AM
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Some outlets don't work on a circuit ...

I have a problem where several outlets on a 20A breaker suddenly stopped working. With the breaker on some of the outlets have power and some don't.

I have started pulling out the various "suspect" outlets and have not found any loose or damaged connections. The house is 20 yrs old but all of the outlets and switches were replaced 2-3 years ago when we changed the color scheme from "ivory" to "white".

Before I call an electrician, I want to finish checking and identifying all of the outlets on the circuit and exhaust all possibilities before I call a pro. How do you identify which is the first outlet on the circuit after the breaker. I have an analog volt-ohm-meter for testing purposes.

It never fails when problems like this occur it is a weekend / holiday, in this case Sunday before Labor day.

Any help/suggestions will be appreciated.

thanks
Mike
 
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Old 08-31-08, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by NCMikeyG View Post
How do you identify which is the first outlet on the circuit after the breaker. I have an analog volt-ohm-meter for testing purposes.
The easiest way to do this is to turn off the breaker. Then remove each outlet, making sure to write down exactly how each wire from each cable is attached in each box. Make sure no kids, pets etc are around, then energize the breaker. The cable supplying the power will be the only one with voltage on it (black to white ~120VAC, if grounded black to ground ~120VAC as well).

You will probably find the problem when removing the outlets because there's a good chance the outlets are using the back-stab connections which are known to break off or come out.

It is possible the broken connection is on one of the "good" outlets. The current method for wiring outlets is to join the wires in the box using wirenuts and run a pigtail to serve the outlet instead of using the outlet to receive the power supply and continue the power through the other terminals to the next box on the circuit.

(The exception to this is a circuit with a GFCI for the first outlet. For GFCI protection of the other outlets on the circuit the "LOAD" terminals of the GFCI must be used to continue the circuit).


willis
 
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Old 08-31-08, 11:02 AM
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Location of these receptacles could give us a clue. Especially n a basement, bathroom, or garage there may be a hidden GFCI receptacle that has been forgotten. The GFCI could even be outside on the opposite side from where the receptacles are or behind a box or cabinet you never move.

When checking the problem may be at the last good receptacle. Move any backstabs to the screws. Redo all wirenuts with new ones. Receptacle closes to the panel is first but is a reasonable guess but only a guess. Sometimes splices are made in light fixture Jboxes or in boxes in the attic. There is even the outside possibility of a splice in a light fixture that is on a different circuit. A remote chance but can't be totally ignored.
 
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Old 08-31-08, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by williswires View Post
The easiest way to do this is to turn off the breaker. Then remove each outlet, making sure to write down exactly how each wire from each cable is attached in each box. Make sure no kids, pets etc are around, then energize the breaker. The cable supplying the power will be the only one with voltage on it (black to white ~120VAC, if grounded black to ground ~120VAC as well).

...

willis
Thanks Willis .... I was able to determine the first outlet on the circuit using your method. I then checked all the other outlets on the circuit and could not find a loose or bad connection. I then realized that the outlets which were not working were not on this circuit after all. I had assumed that all of the outlets around the kitchen countertop would be on the same circuit but I was wrong. When I isolated the circuit which fed the non-working outlets, I followed your advice again but couldn't find any bad connections so I went back to the main panel for another look.

I have a small Generac Transfer Switch which I wired into my main panel several years ago and I noticed that the circuit with the non-working outlets was one of those I had wired through the transfer switch. It hadn't registered to check that first!! So I traced this wiring from the new suspect breaker and found a loose wire nut (not obvious) where the transfer switch connected to this circuit. I tightened it up and it now works.

Thanks for everyone's help and suggestions. I did learn one thing and that is how to isolate the entry point of a circuit into a room.

These forums are great and the moderators really know their stuff. Thanks again everyone.
 
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