Outside outlets not working anymore

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Old 05-20-14, 08:13 AM
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Outside outlets not working anymore

Hi all,

I live in a townhouse.

After it rained a lot, I found out that 3 outlets in my house do not work anymore:
- the one in the backyard
- the one in the front
- one in the garage.

Now, the problem is that there is a GFI in the garage too, but it works! and the outlet that's connected to the garage door opener also works.

I went ahead and replaced the GFI that works in the garage: it didn't solve things
I replaced the GFI that's in the basement: it didn't solve things.

I have two questions:
1- When I go to the circuit board, there is a circuit breaker that says "GFI:Outside/Basement" and I suspect it's the faulty one, but I can't find where it is...
2- If I can't find where "GFI:Outside/Basement" is, what else can I do to make the the 3 outlets work.

Thanks much
 
  #2  
Old 05-20-14, 08:44 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

Keep looking, there is a GFCI someplace. It could be hidden behind stuff or even under the stairs. It might not be in the basement. Look at all the other receptacles outside, in the bathrooms, etc.

Happy hunting!
 
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Old 05-20-14, 08:55 AM
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What do you mean you can't find "where it is"? Is the door of the panel labeled but the labeling does not match up with the breakers you have? It is rather common for breaker panels to be mis-labeled or the labeling not updated as there are wiring updates over time.

When was the last time you used or checked these dead outlets? It is possible the outlets may not be on the same circuit and some of them might have been dead for a long time and unrelated to the recent storm. They may be run off a circuit that is close by like outlets in the adjoining room.

It is possible you have a bad circuit breaker.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 09:46 AM
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Thanks guys for your quick reply,
I reset every GFI I could find in the house, and still the outlets are not working...

"GFI:Outside/Basement" I am not able to find the GFI related to that breaker... I looked everywhere, I even called the contractor. I heard that if the circuit breaker was not working, it would not even possible to have it switched back on.

I don't remember when I checked which switches are connected to what in the circuit breaker. and I can't find any architectural diagram or anything from the builder/electrical company that did that. the house was built in 2008... any other suggestions where the problem might be?

Before opening the circuit breaker box and see which one needs to be replaced?
 
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Old 05-20-14, 11:50 AM
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Before opening the circuit breaker box and see which one needs to be replaced?
You've been throwing new parts at your problem without checking the old ones first. It's possible you could have a bad breaker, but not likely. Check it before you replace it. I assume you have checked all the obvious places for a GFCI device that may have tripped, such as right by the panel. I saw one tripped right by the panel in the home of an electrical engineer, about 3 or 4 years ago, and reset it. To his surprise, the outlets in his spa room started working again. He was about to tear out a beautiful cedar wall looking for the problem. His wife was astounded!
 
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Old 05-20-14, 12:21 PM
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Also there is the cabinet or box that hasn't been moved in years. One poster here found one behind a receptacle multiplier that had been screwed over one. Another member found one behind a water heater only when he moved the water heater.

Do you have a multimeter, preferably analog? If not buy a cheap $8-$15 analog (not digital) multimeter. Don't waste your money on a non contact tester.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 12:24 PM
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I have to agree that there is still a GFCI hiding somewhere. You'd be amazed at the number of threads that are finally solved when the person finds a hidden GFCI behind some junk, or a piece of furniture. I seem to remember one that was in a drop ceiling.

Also...be sure the breaker itself isn't a GFCI type.

And are you able to turn off then reset the breaker? If it's actually a GFCI downline somewhere, then you should be able to measure the output of the breaker with it on. Breakers are pretty reliable devices...esp on a 6 y/o home.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 12:29 PM
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Thanks Ray:

Well, I assure you I looked everywhere. I even called the electrical company who worked on the house, when it was built in 2008. the guy could not help me more.

I changed the outside outlet, hoping that it might have been the problem. It was rusty, but still the problem was not solved.

I opened the circuit box, nothing seems to be faulty though. Why would I need a multimeter? if no power goes to the outlet, how would it help?

Also, is there a tool that tells me which outlets go to which?
 
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Old 05-20-14, 12:34 PM
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I turned off and reset all the breakers, even the whole main breaker, for the whole house. still nothing. Is there a tool that I an plug to an outlet, and tells me where is the GFI that's connected to it, or something like that?
 
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Old 05-20-14, 12:40 PM
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I'm still confused by your original post, but that's okay because I am easily confused some days. You said that you have checked and replaced GFCI's, I am assuming GFCI receptacles, but have you physically checked each breaker? Particularly since it sounds like there may be some confusion regarding the labeling, I would, except for the MAIN, switch each breaker, one at a time, OFF, then ON. Sometimes a breaker can be tripped and not easily identified as such by a glance.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 12:45 PM
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Yes: I checked each breaker on and off. I checked the GFIs I could find. clicked reset. and even replaced two of them: the one in the garage and the one in the basement. since nothing was resolved. I put the old ones back on and they are fine.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 01:37 PM
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Why would I need a multimeter?
To find out where the problem is. http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...ther-info.html
 
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Old 05-20-14, 06:13 PM
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Yep. I did all that. I'm left with trying to change all outlets and see which one fried.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 06:27 PM
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Since one of the breakers is marked as outside/basement, I would scour every inch of the basement for a GFCI receptacle. Bet it's there and you just haven't found it yet.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 06:55 PM
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Why would I need a multimeter?
Also, use this to check the circuit breaker rather than throwing money and time away and just replacing a good breaker with a new one.

I'm left with trying to change all outlets and see which one fried.
I guess I was wrong to try to save you a few bucks, money must be no object. If that's the case, call an electrician.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 07:18 PM
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Sorry, didn't mean to sound like that. Money is important. I'm not just buying stuff I don't need, if I change something and it still doesn't work, I return it...

even when I use the multimeter, I will return it... so trust me, money does not grow on trees for me. This is why I'm asking in this forum.

Your help, as well as others' is very valuable to me.
But wouldn't the multimeter work only when there is power? and evidently I don't have power running thru these outlets... no?

please advise.

Thanks again
 
  #17  
Old 05-20-14, 07:22 PM
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There are no magic parts in a non GFCI receptacle to go bad. They. are mechanical not electronic so unless it is burned on the outside it is very unlikely to be bad. Have you found any GFCI receptacles yet yet? There should be one per circuit. Of course if you found more than one that could be the problem also. If you have found a GFCI receptacle then lets do some testing starting there.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 07:29 PM
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Don't return the multimeter. It will be $15-20 well spent. And get an analog meter...not digital.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 07:29 PM
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I found 4.

The suspects are one in the garage and one in the basement: they both work well. there is light on them and they transmit power.

What should I test then?
 
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Old 05-20-14, 07:35 PM
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I found this one:
Elenco M105 15 Range Compact VOM - Voltage Testers - Amazon.com

should I buy it? will it show me if the outlet is bad or something else is wrong? there is no power in 4 outlets...
 
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Old 05-20-14, 07:46 PM
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That will work, but you can find something equivalent at HD or Radio Shack and have it in hand much sooner. And if it fails somehow you can take it back to the store.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 08:20 PM
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thanks.

will it show me if the outlet is bad or something else is wrong? even if no power goes thru it?
 
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Old 05-20-14, 08:21 PM
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Yes. You can do all sorts of helpful tests to determine what is wrong.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 08:22 PM
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It will show you if you have an open neutral and the hot wire is good or vice versa. It will enable you to test continuity, check switches, etc. Once you have one, you'll wonder why you haven't had one all this time.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 08:32 PM
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Are they each on a separate breaker or are they all on one breaker? As written before there should be only one per breaker in most cases.
there is light on them and they transmit power.
Do you mean when you plug a lamp in it lights up? Tell us if they are on four different breakers or what and we will go from there once you have a meter. To determine what breaker they are on plug in a lamp then turn off then on each 15 amp and 20 amp single pole breaker till you find the breaker that turns it off. A helper and two cell phones will speed up the process or use an extension cord long enough so you can see the lamp from the breaker box.
 
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Old 05-20-14, 09:33 PM
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A toner called a fox and hound can help identify dead wires.
 
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Old 05-21-14, 05:52 AM
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Are they each on a separate breaker or are they all on one breaker?
Yes. they are on a separate breaker.

Do you mean when you plug a lamp in it lights up?
there is a small light in one of them, and when I connect a lamp to others, they are working. They are all working!

I know which breaker controls which GFI. all the breakers are on, and none is tripped. no GFI is tripped, and I reset all the GFIs.

Thanks for your help.
 
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Old 05-21-14, 07:04 AM
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Your last post was unclear. Are you saying there are four breakers? That seems like a lot of breakers for those receptacles.

Open each and try tightening the screws on the pressure plates. Tell us how many two conductor cables in each one (call them A, B, C, D) so we can keep track). If two cables is one connected to the line side and one to the load side? Any 3-conductor cables in any of the four boxes.
 
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Old 05-21-14, 07:35 AM
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There are four breakers that control 4 GFIs.

Each breaker controls 1 GFI along with other oulets.

I opened two GFIs (one in the basement and one in the garage)

the one in the basement: has 5 wires connected to it: 2 white, 2 black and one grounded.
the one in the garage: has 3 wires. 1 white, 1 black, and one grounded.

I have a meter now.

what do you mean by "each" each breaker or each outlet that's not working?
 
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Old 05-21-14, 09:37 AM
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No need to mention grounds. They shouldn't be relevant except for testing. Which of these are nearest to a non working non GFCI receptacle? Are all of your non working non GFCI likely to be fed by that one. Here we make educated guesses based on the fact electricians usually take the shortest path.

Testing: Are there two wires on the line side and two on the load side? If so mark the two on the line side. There should be a marking on the GFCI to tell you which is line.
  • Using your multimeter set to AC volts, nearest scale at or above above 250v, measure the voltage between the two wires (black, white) removed from the line side. Is it ~120 volts?
  • If ~120v wire nut black to black and white to white.
Is the receptacle nearest to the GFCI a non working receptacle? Is it still not working? If not working:
  • Does it have two 2 conductor cables (four wires +ground)?
  • Pick a cable, and measure the voltage from black to white, black to ground, white to ground.
  • Do the same tests with the other cable.
I'll stop here with the testing and wait for you to post back before giving more instructions.

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Old 05-21-14, 02:26 PM
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Ray,

Thanks so much for your time regarding this.

1-
Is it ~120 volts?
I went to the GFI and tested the wires, if they are 120V. (Though I mentioned earlier that I even changed the whole GFCI, and still things were not working). The answer is Yes. They is 120V
2-
Is the receptacle nearest to the GFCI a non working receptacle?
Correct. it is NOT working. when I tested the wires, I get zero Volts coming out. voltage to ground 1.2V (put the scale at 200)

What do you think I should do next? should I do the same thing for the other dead outlets? maybe one of them is creating the issue?
 
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Old 05-21-14, 04:54 PM
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While I know you can't be sure are the other non working receptacles fed by the non working receptacle next to the GFCI you tested? If the answer is yes:
  • At the GFCI remove the two wire nuts you installed and disconnect the two cables from each other.
  • Wire nut together the black and white wires of the cable that did not read 120 volts.
  • At the non GFCI receptacle you previously tested test for continuity* between the black and white of each cable. One of the cables should show continuity. You may need to disconnect the wires at the next non GFCI receptacle if both cables show continuity.
*To test for continuity set your multimeter to the lowest ohm scale. Touch the probes together to see what continuity looks like. While they are touching move the adjuster wheel so the scale reads 0.

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Old 05-22-14, 07:33 AM
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OK - I started getting a little confused. Bear in mind that I'm a beginner in all that, but do remember some basic principles from high school physics class (15 yrs ago).

Some things I wanted to clarify:

1- When you told me wire nut black to black and white to white, did you mean in the garage?
remember, I have only 3 wires in the GFCI in the garage. white, black and ground.
2- you mentioned I previously tested. I never did. Though, when I tested for continuity in the non-GFCI (that's not working) there was no continuity.
 
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Old 05-22-14, 08:08 AM
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If you only have 3 wires, then it is a stand alone GFCI and feeds nothing. Time to check elsewhere. That doesn't mean that it's breaker isn't feeding other outlets, just an odd way of doing it.

Just a note...

Depending on the age of the house, the way it's wired can be real screwy. My 1990 house in VA had 2 1/2 baths. They were all controlled by a GFCI in the downstairs powder room.

It had one GFCI in the garage which (IIRC) controlled the kitchen outlets and 2 outside outlets. Guess it was ok then.

Remember...I said IIRC.
 
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Old 05-22-14, 09:53 AM
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When you told me wire nut black to black and white to white, did you mean in the garage?
remember, I have only 3 wires in the GFCI
No I didn't because I wrote:
Are there two wires on the line side and two on the load side?
And you didn't write back and say you only had two wires.
I have only 3 wires
No really two wires. Remember I wrote
No need to mention grounds
I would suggest you call an electrician. Sometimes because of convoluted wiring it is beyond a DIYer's skill level.
 
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Old 05-22-14, 10:17 AM
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That's fine. Thanks so much Ray for your time. I will call an electrician, and promptly update you guys on the outcome. Your help was very valuable.

Regards
 
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Old 05-22-14, 10:22 AM
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Thank you for understanding. Yes, please let us know what the problem was. It may help someone else reading the thread later.
 
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Old 05-23-14, 04:48 PM
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I thought we were focusing on the basement GFCI?
 
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Old 05-24-14, 07:32 AM
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I have stated on several threads that a lost circuit is often at the last non dead device . A corollary is it is often behind the heaviest piece of furniture in the room / house .

Look outside , behind all the hedges and bushes , behind the dog house , the storage building you have the hoes and rakes stored in , up at the eves if you have outlets for Christmas lighting ?

If you have an outside loadcenter , look there .

Did you take your new multimeter and test all the Circuit Breakers , to the neutral bar . With power off , tighten the screws on both the neutral bar and the individual CB's .

When you pull a receptacle out of its box to inspect it , use the multimeter to rest all the hots , to the earth ground , if you have one . If not , to the neutrals .

Then test the hots to the neutrals .

Then test the neutrals to the earth ground . If you get more than a few volts , you probably have a bad connection on a neutral and it is hot , " hunting a ground " .

Without removing a receptacle from its box , you can do that test by testing from earth ground ( 3rd / round prong ) to the hot and then to the neutral .

Bad wiring can be found in switch boxes and lighting outlet boxes , but more often in receptacle boxes .

God bless
Wyr
 
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Old 06-03-14, 11:53 AM
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thanks much ray and all.

I actually had called an electrician who wanted to charge me $500 to run his tool and find where the problem is. I said no.

I got my neighbor how has a GFCI in the attic. I didn't. he came in, we found the GFCI hidden behind the foil thing. he broke the found, and voila! it was there. the GFCI was not visible AT ALL.

saved me $500. Be good to your neighbors
 
 

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