Having just moved into a brand new home, Jan Gerner of North Houston was busy arranging furniture and unpacking boxes. Her formal living room was not equipped with an overhead light so she chose several lamps to decorate the space, and one by one started to plug them in. She plugged the first lamp in, turned it on, but nothing happened. Figuring the problem was with the light bulb, she switched bulbs, but it still wouldn’t turn on.
“I didn’t think the problem was with my lamp because it worked perfectly fine at my old house,” said Gerner. “I started plugging other lamps into the outlet to see if they would turn on, but they didn’t. That’s when I realized my problem wasn’t with my lamp, it was with the outlet.”
Outlet failure is a very common problem that homeowners face. Sometimes electrical failure occurs because there are too many devices plugged into the outlet. But more often than not, wiring issues within the circuit are the main cause. Read on to learn about the common reasons for outlet failure so you will know what to do, and more importantly, know when to call in the professionals.
“The number one problem that we find and the number one call that we get is due to wires being backstabbed into their receptacles,” said John Moore Services Quality Control Specialist Mike Pace. “There are two ways to wire a standard plug or switch. The right way is to curl the wire around the screw and tighten the screw down. The wrong way is to backstab the wire.”
Backstabbing means that instead of using screw terminals to connect wires to outlets and switches, the wire is pushed into a connector that grabs the wire inside the device. This creates a loose connection, and loose connections cause the wires in outlets to burn up and kill the rest of the circuit.
Checking for backstabbed wires can be done without the help of a professional, although if any are found we highly recommend hiring a professional to fix them. To check, all you have to do is take off the outlet plate and remove the receptacle from the outlet box. You should then be able to see if the wires are properly curled around the screws or if they are backstabbed.
Numerous Wires Under Wire Nut
A wire nut is a connector for wires. This device is designed to keep all wires together and covered. After all, exposed wires are a no-no. Some electricians use wire nuts to make a connection between wires. But technically, they are only designed to cover wires. Using them for anything else will cause problems with inner wiring and will cause your electrical outlets to stop functioning properly.
Wrong Type Of Device For Your Wiring
When it comes to wiring there are two main types of metal wires available, aluminum and copper. Copper is a stronger, more durable metal and most devices are rated for copper wiring. Aluminum is also used, but it comes with a lot of problems. Aluminum is brittle, breaks easier, and has more resistance for electricity. High resistance causes heat to build up inside your outlet and will eventually cause all your wiring to burn up.
Because most homes are equipped with copper wiring, most devices are made to work with copper and not aluminum. If your home has aluminum wiring, it’s important to purchase devices that are rated for aluminum. Not doing so can be a fire hazard and will break your electrical outlets.
In Gerners’ case, the problem was a switched plug. In many homes, if a room does not have an overhead light, most builders will install a switch that controls half of the outlets in the room. They do this to make it easier for the homeowner to turn on and off the lights. Flipping a switch to get light is easier than walking over to a lamp and turning it on.
“A lot of homes have a room where one part of the receptacle will be constant power and the other half will be on a switch,” said Pace. “That just goes back to identifying all the switches in the house. Most people have at least one switch in their home and have no clue what it does, and they have probably lived in their house for 25 years.”
Electrical work can be tricky, and is something that the average Joe shouldn’t attempt to do himself. Calling a professional for even the smallest electrical problem is wise because you just never know what could happen. John Moore Services has trained and certified electricians that can diagnose and repair all electrical issues, especially when it comes to outlet failure.
“I called John Moore and the electrician came to my house and all he did was flip a switch and my lamp worked,” said Gerner. “I had lived in my old house for 52 years, so having an electrical outlet connected to a switch was new to me. He came out to my house, turned on my lamp, and didn’t charge me a penny!”