Multiple dead outlets in bedroom

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  #1  
Old 12-15-13, 09:17 AM
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Multiple dead outlets in bedroom

Hello all, hopefully if can get some help before calling in a pro.

In my master bedroom, I had 5 outlets suddenly stop working the other day. I used my outlet tester, and it reads open hot on all of the dead outlets. The next outlet that works appears intact, normal reading on the tester.

I open the boxes and check wires. My tester beeps hot at the working outlet infeed, and outfeed. The first dead outlet has no hot, as well as the other 4 non working.

The first dead outlet had an electric heater hooked up for about 4 days, on only at night as it is getting cold up here in CT

My guess is the wire got fried between outlets, or my in feed to the first busted outlet comes from somewhere else? My home was built in the 70's, and I've heard the feeds can all come from the light fixture? I can certainly check this.

I also did the usual resetting of all breakers, and I did trip and reset all gfci outlets in the house, after doing some reading. Nothing worked. All of the light fixtures do work including the closet, bathroom and master. I did also try toggling all of the switches, just in case. I found the end of the circuit, nothing there either.

Any help would be greatly appreciated, as I'm out of good ideas
 

Last edited by Jrock817; 12-15-13 at 09:38 AM.
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  #2  
Old 12-15-13, 09:38 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

Wires or cables do not just fail in the middle of a run so I doubt will need to open walls quite yet. However this is going to be a bit of an Easter egg hunt.

You problem is likely a splice that went bad. Start by checking all the outlets like you did, but if you have any devices with the wires stabbed in the back, remove them and connect them to the side screws or (Better method) splice them together and pigtail the devices. Your bad splice could be in the switch box or even a light fixture box. IF you do not have a meter, this would be a good time to get one. A inexpensive analog meter is only about $10.
 
  #3  
Old 12-15-13, 09:54 AM
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I think I'll just go buy new outlets and start the switching process... Most of them barely hold a plug anymore, and they are all back stabbed.

I'll grab my multimeter today and see if the circuit is open on the first dead outlet... All of the dead outlets should read open until I fix the problem right?
 
  #4  
Old 12-15-13, 10:03 AM
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Sounds like a good plan.

You should read zero volts between hot to neutral or ground. You should read continuity between neutral to ground, and in most cases, zero volts. The problem might not be in the first dead outlet, but in the last working outlet. Check there too.
 
  #5  
Old 12-17-13, 09:33 AM
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Ok so if I replace true receptacles, and all of my wiring is good, but my outlets are still dead, could it be inside the wall at that point? There is a good hot line out of the last working outlet, and it's dead by the time it gets to the first dead outlet. I have yet to open the lighting fixture, but if that isn't the case, is it time to call an electrician? I have no fear of fixing things, or looking for the wire.
 
  #6  
Old 12-17-13, 10:57 AM
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There is a good hot line out of the last working outlet, and it's dead by the time it gets to the first dead outlet.
Most likely the wiring from the last working outlet is routed somewhere else before the first dead outlet; possibly an outlet on the other side of the wall. How do you know the last working outlet is the last? You don't. You need to continue pulling outlets and checking voltages with a meter and maybe drop the light fixture in that room too.
 
  #7  
Old 12-17-13, 05:06 PM
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How do you know the last working outlet is the last? You don't.
I would plug a lamp or radio into every receptacle that could be on this circuit and turn them all on, then turn the circuit off with the circuit breaker, to find all of the attached devices.

Note that receptacles and lights above or below the one where you're seeing the problem could be fed by this same circuit.
 
  #8  
Old 12-17-13, 07:32 PM
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Be very careful if you have aluminum wiring.
 
  #9  
Old 12-17-13, 07:43 PM
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My home was built in the 70's
pcboss
Be very careful if you have aluminum wiring.
Good point pcboss, I totally missed that this house was built in the '70s when I first read it. Jrock817, do you have aluminum wiring?
 
  #10  
Old 01-02-14, 09:49 AM
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I do not have aluminum wiring thank god. I did check the fixture from the attic, and it is fed from elsewhere, with no feeds leaving it.

I started switching the outlets, but the dead outlets are still dead, I have not found any wire nuts inside boxes, and there are no hot wires in any of the dead outlet boxes.

I can see where the last working outlet has the "outfeed". Which is still hot and it seems to go in the direction of the first non-working outlet. I'm assuming there must be a loose wire nut connection either at the last working outlet, or near the first dead one.

Is there a way I can try and track the wire with power until it dies? Any fancy way of tracking the hot wire through Sheetrock?

I do understand the point of not assuming the outlets run in a series, I'm just out of ideas at this point. I don't mind taking some Sheetrock apart to investigate, I just wanted to see if there were any better ideas before I take a hammer out.
 
  #11  
Old 01-02-14, 10:27 AM
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There is equipment for tracing wire in a wall but it is very expensive.

As I posted earlier, unless there is a box/illegal splice buried in the wall, ripping up sheetrock is going to be random at best. It is possible that the circuit goes around the corner and feeds another outlet in another room so I would suggest checking boxes in there. You should also be looking at switch boxes and the outlets could be fed from there as well.

If it was me, I would be splicing the wires in the boxes and bypassing the devices until I found the fault.
 
  #12  
Old 01-03-14, 01:13 PM
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I guess ripping up Sheetrock was my plan because the outlets in question are in the corner of the master. I looked upstairs, nothing there, the outlets that are on the same wall as dead outlets in bedroom work fine also. It was my best guess. As far as splicing and bypassing, I'm not sure what you mean there, it may be beyond my abilities
 
  #13  
Old 01-03-14, 01:24 PM
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Gardner Bender make a fairly inexpensive toner around $35 or so called Lan Tracker.

Gardner Bender Products, Testers
 
  #14  
Old 01-04-14, 08:55 AM
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As far as splicing and bypassing, I'm not sure what you mean there,
To test for a failed connection, one technique is to turn the power off and remove some of the receptacles. As each receptacle is removed, the wires in that box are temporarily spliced together, color-to-color, with wire nuts. Then the power is turned on and a meter is used to test the voltage, hot-to-neutral and hot-to-ground, at the furthest point in the circuit. If there's a complete 120V circuit there, the removed receptacles can be replaced, possibly with new ones, using a pigtail to connect each spliced set to the appropriate screw terminal on each receptacle.

If there's not a complete circuit there, the testing is continued from box to box, moving toward the panel, until it is found. Then the problem is isolated to the connection between that good point and the first failing one.

See the sticky at the top of the threads in this forum: Troubleshooting a dead receptacle or light, Basic Terminology & Other info.

You can also use a meter to test for continuity of conductors. With the power off and the receptacles removed, use a wire nut to temporarily connect the white and black wires in any one cable together. Go to the next box in either direction and test for continuity across each black/white pair there. When you find continuity you've established two things: You've identified one box-to-box cable and you know that the insulated conductors in that cable are in working order.

There are also two tests you can perform before disconnecting anything or turning the power off. In addition to testing with a receptacle tester, you can plug the transmitter of a circuit breaker finder into a working receptacle and use the receiver to check for the signal at the other receptacles. You can also use a stud sensor that includes a sensor for electrical wiring to test for wire paths in the wall. A load will need to be plugged in and working for the sensor to detect the cable.

There are also toners, as PCboss mentioned, to use on disconnected wiring with the power off.
 
  #15  
Old 01-05-14, 11:10 AM
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I will definitely try that, but wouldn't a simple test light be easier to check for a hot line, as my problem is open hot? I am assuming that splicing the connections is to bypass a dead outlet,but will that help an open hot problem? Thanks again for all of the help, this forum is amazing!
 
  #16  
Old 01-05-14, 06:07 PM
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I will definitely try that, but wouldn't a simple test light be easier to check for a hot line, as my problem is open hot?
How do you know that the problem is simply and specifically a loose connection in the ungrounded (hot) conductor wiring in this circuit? If you're relying on the information supplied by a plug-in receptacle tester, those results may not be reliable - especially if there's a problem with the ungrounded conductors.

For reliable, meaningful results, a multimeter should be used. An analog one is usually preferable for use by non-professionals (and often by professionals), and a decent analog multimeter can be purchased for less than $15.

I am assuming that splicing the connections is to bypass a dead outlet,but will that help an open hot problem?
It couldn't hurt. Where do you imagine the likeliest location for a failed or loose connection might be?
 
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