Electricity is not something to mess around with. When you have electrical problems, in most cases it makes sense to call a professional electrical contractor.
However, you may occasionally come across problems that you might be able to handle yourself. For example, if you have outlets that are not working, you may be able to diagnose the problem and then fix it yourself. Follow these steps

  1. Determine if what’s plugged into the outlet isn’t working. Unplug whatever is plugged into the outlet and plug it into another outlet. If it works, the problem may be the outlet. To make sure, plug something that is working into the outlet that you think is not working. If it does not work, then the problem may be the outlet.
  2. Check and see if other outlets are dead. This is easy enough to do. Turn lights or appliances that are connected to other outlets on and off. If there is nothing connected to an outlet, plug in a clock or lamp or other appliance and test it. You can also use a voltage tester. If these items work in those other outlets, then the outlet may be the problem.
  3. Check the circuit breakers. Check to see if a circuit breaker has been tripped. Usually, a tripped circuit breaker will be in the off position, and all you need to do is flip it to the on position. But in some cases, you cannot tell. In that case, switch every breaker firmly to the off position, and then switch them back on. If the switched breaker won’t reset, you may have a breaker problem, and not an outlet problem. You may also have loose connections in the electrical box (see step 5). However, if there is nothing wrong with the circuit breakers, the outlet may be the problem.
  4. Check Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCIs) outlets. These outlets (with test and reset buttons) protect against electric shock (click here for more information). Look for these outlets throughout your house, but especially in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garages and your home’s exterior. Test and reset every GFCI. If the reset button does not pop out when you press the test button, there may be no power to the GFCI or it may be bad. This may be what is causing the problem. On the other hand, if the rest button trips again, there may be a current leak. If either of these is causing the problem, you might want to call an electrician for help. If not, the outlet may be the problem.
  5. Look for a bad connection. Shut off the main circuit breaker to the house (have a flashlight because everything will get dark). Then remove the outlet from the box and look for a loose connection. There are three areas to look at:
  • First, check for a loose connection under the outlet’s terminal screw. If it is loose, you should probably replace the outlet, since the connection can create excess heat that can damage the outlet further.
  • Second, there can be a loose wire at the stab in connection. Tug the wires to check if they are loose. If they are, cut and strip the end of the wire and connect it to the screw terminal on the outlet, or install a new outlet.
  • Third, there can be loose wires at wire connectors. Tug on the wires to see if any of them are loose. If there is a loose wire, remove the wire connector. Cut and strip all the wires and reconnect.

If none of these solve the problem, then indeed the outlet may be bad. If that is the case, and if you feel confident enough, replace the outlet yourself. Otherwise call a professional electrical contractor.