All electrical outlets in 1 room not working...???

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Old 01-03-17, 02:26 PM
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All electrical outlets in 1 room not working...???

First post here. I am a noobie/beginner home DIY'er.

PREREQUISITE:

I have no electrical knowledge or background. But I am very technical minded and am very analytical and logical when it comes to solving everyday technical, electrical, mechanical engineering type stuff around home, work and play. I have watched a couple videos on youtube about basic electrical wiring, outlets and switches. I have some experience replacing light switches and electrical outlets inside my home/apartment.

PROBLEM:

All electrical outlets (4) inside my bedroom are NOT WORKING.

POSSIBLE ISSUES:

1. An electrical short inside one of the 4 electrical outlets. Therefore causing a blockage in the rooms wiring system and not letting electricity circulate to the other 3 outlets. Therefore...I would need to find out which outlet short circuited and replace that one.

2. An electrical short inside the main breaker/fuse. Therefore...no electricity flow to my whole bedroom as the main breaker controls the electricity to this single bedroom. Therefore...requiring me to replace the breaker at the main breaker box that controls the electricity flow to my bedroom.

BACK STORY / SCENARIO:

I wanted to vacuum my bedroom. So...I took my Dyson into the bedroom and I plugged it into one of the outlets that was closest to me at the moment. After about 10 mins of vacuuming...I went to turn off the vacuum.

That's when I noticed that my computer, monitor and light stand that was plugged into another outlet inside my bedroom as well as the vacuum...all turned off completely. The vacuum would not turn back on as well as my computer, monitor and light stand. I went to check all the outlet receptacles with my cell phone and cell phone charger and found out that they are all now not working like before.

VARIABLES:

1. I live in an apartment complex that consists of 3 buildings and each of these buildings houses about 5 units.

2. All the buildings inside this apartment complex is old and dilapidated. Its in the 'ghetto' and not such a nice neighborhood. The building must have been built in the 40's/50's maybe. Been living here for about 5 years now.

3. All the electrical wiring inside the building looks old and in desperate need of repair, because there's always something breaking electrical wise. The original or last electrical wiring job looks really bad and was not done by a professional...as there are different colored wires thru out the different rooms and is not 'consistent'. Also...the wiring of the actual electrical receptacles is not consistent and looks to be done by a 'non-professional' or by a freelance contractor looking for quick money from the landlord/owner/renter.

4. Bedroom is small. About 10' X 15' X 8'. There are 4 electrical outlets and 1 light switch.

5. The light switch was already broken and not working before this happened.

6. There are a lot of appliances and personal entertainment equipment thru out this house and use up massive amounts of electricity.

7. Because its an old apartment building inside the ghetto...The electricity also looks to be not very efficient and clean running like a modern house would be with a proper electrical wiring job.

8. The breakers/fuse box looks really outdated and not like what I see when I look up an image or part replacement for breakers/fuses in a google search or inside a Home Depot/Lowes parts search.

9. Most importantly...All the electrical outlets thru out most of the house and other bedrooms/bathrooms is fine and working. The problem is only isolated to this one bedroom and maybe to one of the adjacent bedrooms also.

SOLUTION:

My original plan was to replace the electrical outlet that I originally plugged the Dyson vacuum into. Because my theory is that the vacuum short circuited the outlet that it was plugged into.

But...When I went to try and replace it...I found out that the electrical wiring looked really complex and a 'mess' due to the buildings old/out dated wiring. I didn't want to try and risk it by taking it apart and than putting a new one as I don't have much electrical knowledge/experience.

I did replace 1 of the 4 electrical outlets that had a easier wiring job and that was connected to my computer, monitor and light stand as that is the one I most need to work. But this did not work also.

HELP...?!?!?!

I am hoping there is a certified electrician in here with more electrical knowledge that can help me with this problem.

I am hoping its not a main breaker issue because I don't have the permission and access to the main breaker of the building in order to turn it off for the whole building so I can access the breaker box that's inside my apartment unit.

My only solution/last resort would be to contact the landlord and have her take care of it but I really don't want to do that and would rather try and fix this myself.

I will post pics soon so everyone can see what I am talking about.
 
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  #2  
Old 01-03-17, 02:46 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

First off lets talk terminology: A short, or short circuit, is when a circuit takes a path it is not intended to take. Almost all cases this would be to ground which would cause your fuse or circuit breaker to blow/trip. What it sounds like you have is an open circuit.

An open circuit is when there is a break in the circuit. This normally happens at some splice point of the circuit. By code all splices are required to be accessible and in a box. 99% of the time this is done so we can assume you will be ok

The real issue is that you are limited on what you can legally do because this is a rental and you don't own the building. If you did some repair wrong and things went bad (you burn down the building) you would be liable for it.

My suggestion is check all the circuit breakers by turning them off and back on. This will reset all the breakers. You should not need to get at the main breaker as you still have power in other places of the apartment so the issues is with one circuit.
 
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Old 01-03-17, 03:18 PM
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That's what I did.

I turned on and off the main breakers multiple times...But this did not work.

I was planning on replacing the outlet that I originally plugged the vacuum in. But after you suggesting that its a rental and that I would be liable for any repairs that might cause a fire/dangerous situation...

I am now thinking that going to the landlord is now my last resort and is all that I can do.

How long would it take a electrician/contractor to come out and fix this...? Half a day...? Couple hours...?

I really need electricity back inside this bedroom ASAP...as its where my main computer resides and where I do most of my work.
 
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Old 01-03-17, 03:40 PM
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It could take an electrician one hour or all day. It is kind of an Easter egg hunt as they will have to start opening up boxes to find where the circuit has failed . Most calls I have gotten like this I was able to fix in about an hour, but some times I feel it is dumb luck when I find the issue.

If you really don't want to get the landlord involved just hire your own electrician. Just make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured. Only down side is you will have to pay for it but it might get done faster.
 
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Old 01-03-17, 03:42 PM
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All repairs should be made in a timely manor. I would guess not more than 48 hours.
 
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Old 01-03-17, 04:13 PM
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What I don't get is...

What caused the problem...?

Was it the vacuum...? (i.e. High amp appliance plugged into a low amp outlet) Therefore...'overloading' the circuit.

Or was it something else...? (i.e. Having too many electrical appliances/accessories plugged into 1 outlet, inside 1 room)

Or...a faulty/old/dilapidated outlet (the one I plugged into) that could not handle the vacuum's amperage...?
 
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Old 01-03-17, 04:19 PM
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What most likely caused the problem is the original electrician used the stab back connections on the receptacles, which are second rate at best. This rather than bending the wire and attaching it firmly to the screws provided on the receptacle. The stab backs can, and often do, work their way out of the holding area and if it is a neutral, it can exhibit the same symptoms you are experiencing.

A good electrician will start at the one you were using, then move toward the first non working receptacle to inspect its wiring. Those two places are usually where it occurs.
 
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Old 01-03-17, 04:28 PM
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You didn't overload the circuit, but a high current item can put a strain on a poor wire connection. Poor connections create heat which makes the connection expand and then contract when it cools off. This has been occurring over many years until the connection (or device) failed.

Many posts we have here similar to yours, we always give the same advice. Remove the outlets and switches, check the connections in the box, and move any wires that are back stabbed into the device and properly connect to the side screws. Back stabbed devices are the cause of many issues like you have. This is likely what your electrician will do.
 
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Old 01-03-17, 04:59 PM
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AHHHH I get it....Now that you guys put it this way.....

GUESS WHAT I NOTICED...

When I went to go and try to replace the outlets...I noticed that ALL the outlets inside this room and most thru out the unit/house...

Are ALL WIRED with the 'STAB BACK' connectors by the original / last electrician/contractor's work...

The outlet I plugged the vacuum into...'STAB BACK CONNECTION' also...!!!

The 'IRONY'...

I have replaced multiple switches and outlets inside this apartment unit over the last 2-3 years. And I 'ALWAYS USE' the 'SIDE SCREWS' and not the Stab Backs. Because that's what I learned from a youtube video a couple years ago.

Aaaaarrrgggghhhhh....!?!?!?!
 
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Old 01-03-17, 05:11 PM
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Do you think replacing the original outlet where I plugged the vacuum into...Would solve my problem...?

Or...is it pretty much still a problem of a breaker/switch somewhere else in the circuit...?

Because...I already replaced 1 of the outlets inside this bedroom and it still does not work. Therefore...replacing the outlet where I plugged the vacuum into would be of no use too than...correct...?

I mean...even if I did change it and it still did not work...I would just be fixing someones else's old work...Thereby making the work of the next electrician / contractor 1 task easier...???

If so...screw that...I will just leave it alone and let the landlord's contractor/electrician do it.
 
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Old 01-03-17, 05:57 PM
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Receptacles without electronics inside have no magic parts that are likely to fail. The only reason changing a receptacles usually "works" is because you fixed a bad connection.
I have replaced multiple switches and outlets inside this apartment unit over the last 2-3 years.
You shouldn't have and we can't advise you now to move the wires to the screws because of the liability issues.
 
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Old 01-03-17, 07:24 PM
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Any break in the circuit can cause receptacles or lights downstream to fail. You happened to replace one downstream of the issue. Call the landlord to have the issue fixed.
 
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Old 01-04-17, 12:36 PM
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Here are some pics:

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This is the outlet that I replaced hoping it would fix the problem. But...still no electricity. This is the one with the easier wiring job. Pretty straight forward...2 white on the left and 2 black on the right with 1 bare copper wire for ground.

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This is the outlet I originally plugged the vacuum into and the one in question that I want to replace with a new one. As you can tell...its really old and dilapidated. Clearly needs replacement.

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Here is the wiring job for the outlet in question. Clearly...not a professional job and looks 'half-assed'. Probably done by a third party contractor and not a licensed professional electrician.

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As you can clearly see from this pic...ALL STAB BACK CONNECTIONS.
 

Last edited by Chew Bear; 01-04-17 at 01:00 PM.
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Old 01-04-17, 12:44 PM
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So far...

I have only encountered electrical receptacles that are...

1. 2 contacts/wires for the LEFT SIDE

WHITE colored wires are what I have encountered on the left for receptacles/switches inside this house/apartment and I am presuming white means NEGATIVE

2. 2 contacts/wires for the RIGHT SIDE

BLACK colored wires are what I have encountered on the right for receptacles/switches inside this house/apartment and I am presuming black means POSITIVE

3. 1 bare copper wire for 'GROUND' that connects to a green screw on the receptacle...usually on the left side just under the 2 negative/white wires/contacts.

What I don't get is...

Why are there 3 CONTACTS / WIRES FOR EACH SIDE, RIGHT & LEFT...for this one particular outlet...That just happens to be the one I accidentally plugged into with the vaccum and caused the problem/issue in the first place...?

Is this a BAD WIRING JOB gone wrong...?

I 'originally' thought that 'ALL' electrical outlets/receptacles only consisted of 5 contacts...(4 live and 1 ground)

Is there such a thing as a 7 contact receptacle...? (6 live and 1 ground)


Is this 7 contact receptacle/outlet meant for 'relaying' or being the 'first in line' outlet to distribute electricity to all the other outlets inside the room/circuit that its connected to...?

How do I replace a 7 contact receptacle/outlet...? Is this outlet even supposed to be a 7 contact receptacle...?

If not...Can I replace it with a regular 5 contact receptacle and still be good...? If so...How do I figure out which 4 wires will be live and which 2 wires will be 'terminated'...?
 

Last edited by Chew Bear; 01-04-17 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 01-04-17, 01:17 PM
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There is no positive and negative in alternating current electrical. The black side is what is typically called "hot" and corresponds to the side of the receptacle with brass screws and the shorter of the plug slots on the face. The white side is what is typically called "neutral" and corresponds to the side of the receptacle with silver screws and the longer of the plug slots.

The style of receptacle you pictured is used for splicing wires to downstream receptacles without use of separate wire connectors. That particular type is no longer available. The proper fix would be to use three 6" pigtails of wire and splice all of the black wires, all of the white wires and all of the bare wires together using wirenuts instead of the push in terminals on the receptacle. You would then have the black pigtail, the white pigtail and the bare pigtail connected to the appropriate screws of the receptacle, and the three bundles of wires carefully folded back into the box.

Nothing here appears to be a "bad wiring job". Receptacles are mechanical devices and eventually wear out after years of plug-in and plug-out cycles. High current devices like vacuum cleaners and space heaters can make them wear out faster. Receptacles which utilize push-in terminals wear out faster than other types, but they are very, very common due to the lower upfront cost. They're legal and approved, just not the best quality.
 
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Old 01-04-17, 02:08 PM
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Here are pics of the breaker box for my particular apartment unit...

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Does not look like what I find when I do a google search for breaker/fuse boxes.

Is this considered old and outdated...? Therefore...What is the possibility of finding a breaker/fuse for this particular box/style/part...?

Also...How do I figure out which breaker is broken...? Or in my case...the breaker that controls electricity to my particular room/circuit that is broken...?
 
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Old 01-04-17, 02:20 PM
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The reason you don't find it is because FPE panels are basically firetraps waiting to happen. Don't remove the cover and don't do anything inside the panel. You stand a chance of not finding a replacement breaker for that panel.

What Ben said was spot on with regards to your receptacle. Not bad wiring, just a bunch of wires that needed a place to live. The pigtail solution will help tremendously.
 
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Old 01-04-17, 02:45 PM
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So let me get this straight....

A. Replacing a breaker/fuse in the breaker box is clearly out of the question.

B. My only option for replacing the outlet in question...is to use a solution/process called "PIG TAILING".

Questions:

1. Will performing this pig tail solution fix my main problem...?

If so...I will try and do it myself. Can anyone point me to a youtube video that can teach me how to do this...? Also...what are the supplies needed...? I need a list of the parts so I can go buy them at Home Depot.

2. If the Pig Tail solution is not going to work and the problem might still be in the circuit or breaker/fuse box somewhere...

I would rather just leave the receptacle alone and call the landlord and have a professional electrician come out and fix this issue.
 
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Old 01-04-17, 03:08 PM
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Calling the landlord or hiring an electrician has always been your only two options as we have stated more than once.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 01-04-17 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 01-04-17, 08:31 PM
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Please get the landlord involved to protect both yourself and the other residents of the apartment.
 
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Old 01-05-17, 07:21 AM
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Honestly I would find a different apartment if the landlord is not willing to fix this. This is probably a separate issue from your damaged receptacle, but Federal Pacific panels are a proven fire hazard that should be replaced by a qualified electrician. Most older panel brands are OK, but Federal Pacific is not.

A company called Connecticut Electric does make new UBI/F replacement breakers for the old Federal Pacific panel which can be ordered through Home Depot, however they do not significantly improve the overall safety of the panel due to the flaws in the original design.
 
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Old 01-05-17, 12:11 PM
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Thanks guys for all your help and insight.

I think I learned a lot of information...much more than I bargained for and can not tell you guys how grateful I am.

Will definitely just leave this issue alone and let the landlord fix this.

On a side note...

I do have a friend that is a licensed electrician and he said he might be able to help me. How much would I (& landlord) be looking to pay him for a job/fix like this...?
 
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Old 01-05-17, 12:26 PM
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We can't say how much because rates vary and without being on site no way to know how long it will take. He may charge a trip fee plus per hour however long it takes.
 
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Old 09-18-18, 04:47 PM
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hi

i've been around
i have never seen this
why so many leads?
then
i read many f your posts
even in 1940
to wire the whole building from the breaker seems wrong

you do not mention a circuit breaker box in you apartment
usually in hall,
by main entrance, utility closet

my mom had a brownstone in brooklyn
5 stories
5 apartments
even in 1900
or when el became available
they put a fuse box in basement
eventually
she got an electrician
who place a circuitbreaker box
under each meter
you make no mention of either

it's not my business
wherever you live
bad el wiring is dangerous
best frankie
 
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Old 09-18-18, 04:53 PM
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yes
i just saw a picture of your circuit breaker
but
no tripped breaker?

like from your comments
are you sure this is your breaker box?
yep,
get a licensed electrician
to give you an estimate
give to landlord

best
frankie
 
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Old 09-18-18, 05:14 PM
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It's easy to get carried away when reading threads here as there are so many but keep an eye on posting dates. This thread is over a year and half old.
 
  #27  
Old 09-19-18, 08:26 AM
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hi
ooooppps
you guys are giving me good stuff
i wanted to contribute

what is an appropriate rsvp time
3 months?
 
  #28  
Old 09-19-18, 06:25 PM
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Most are not.going to.wait months for a reply. The board tries to give timely answers so the problems can be fixed.
 
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