Exterior Outlets


Old 06-03-09, 09:38 PM
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Exterior Outlets

I have an exterior outlet in the front of my house, as well as the back. Neither are GFI, however, none are getting juice (I removed the outlets and checked with a wire tester on all spliced wires). They are covered by an exterior waterproof cap.

I've checked all my breakers, all my interior GFI's (one in the bathroom, 2 in the kitchen), as well as all switches inside the house.

I find it odd that both exterior outlets are not working, but don't know what else I can have checked without having an electrician check? I have never known them to work, am the second owner of this somewhat new house, from 2001, and doubt they would have done such a shady job as to connect all the wires but not ensure it was at least functioning.

What equipment can I purchase from Lowes or Home Depot to troubleshoot myself?

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Old 06-03-09, 10:04 PM
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First thing to check would be to look for another GFCI receptacle that you might not have noticed before. The basement, crawlspace or garage would be likely candidates. Sometimes they're even hidden behind furniture, storage shelves, etc.

Next would be a broken or burned-off wire somewhere. However, if you don't know which circuit these are powered from or what other devices are on this circuit, it would be very tedious to find the break. If it's not at either of the non-functioning receptacles, it's basically a needle in a haystack.

Perhaps a wire tracer would be helpful. It's basically a transmitter type device which you hookup to the wire and broadcasts a "ping" signal that you can then try to follow through the house with a receiver device similar to a stud finder. It may be cheaper to hire the electrician to do it rather than buy the tracer yourself.
Old 06-04-09, 08:07 AM
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Yeah, needle in a haystack is the right phrase, but if you think you can competently remove a plate, pull out an outlet (or even a switch), check the connections and splices, then put everything back together again, do it. It's the least expensive option, although most time consuming, and you'll learn a little about how the place is wired for the next issue you need to diagnose.
Old 06-04-09, 08:52 AM
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Do you know what year the house was built? This could help us narrow down the possible circuits the outdoor receptacles might be on.
Old 06-04-09, 06:53 PM
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Since you said the house is fairly new, I am willing to be you have a bad splice somewhere. (most likely in a junction box in the attic, basement or under the house. Have you tried using a noncontact voltage tester? This is a pen shaped device that usually lights up and makes an audible noise when voltage is detected. These are great tools because they will let you know if a wire or outlet is hot even if there is no nuetral or ground to test to. Anyways if you don't have one of these then get one! Once you get one test the two outlets to see if they are getting any voltage. If they are then your culprit is a lost nuetral. Most likely since your house is relatively new the original electrician put both of the outside receptacles on the same circuit connected together in a junction box somewhere. No matter what you find after testing the circuit, the problem will most likely be fixed in the junction box. Another possibility is a short. The way you find a short is by running a continuity test on the problem circuit. This is done by using a multimeter with a resistence test setting. Take the cover off of your panel that feeds the receptacles and shut off the breaker that you think is feeding the problem receptacles. Touch one test lead to the screw where the wire is landed and the other lead to the ground bar and then to the nuetral bar. If your meter has an audible setting for continuity test then it should not make a sound when this test is done. If it does then you indeed have a short and you need to trace out all the junctions and boxes that this circuit is present in until the problem is found. One other common problem is simply a faulty breaker. While you have the panel cover off you can test your breakers individually. With your multimeter set on the VAC setting touch one test lead to the nuetral bar and begin from top to bottom touching the wire terminal screw on every breaker one at a time. You should get a reading of plus or minus a few volts of 120V. If the voltage reading is zero on any breaker with the breaker in the on position then you have a faulty breaker. Good luck to you, I hope this helps.
Oh yeah and a noncontact voltage tester is a fairly cheap investment. They usually run about 20 to 30 dollars.

Last edited by journeyman ken; 06-04-09 at 06:58 PM. Reason: forgot to include some info

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