You know that feeling of frustration you get when all of a sudden an appliance shuts off?  Or the computer that you thought you had plugged in suddenly goes dead, and it turns out it really was plugged in?

The problem may not be your appliance or computer.  It may be the electrical outlet.  Here are some tips on troubleshooting electrical outlet problems.

  1. Make sure the appliance, computer, etc. is not the problem.    Plug a small appliance that you know is working (like an alarm clock) into the problem outlet and see if it works.  Check both outlets to make sure the problem is not associated with a single socket.  If the appliance works, you know the problem is with the outlet.  If that is the case…
  2. Make sure you have the expertise to fix the problem.  Electricity is not something to mess around with.  If you make a mistake, it can cause damage, injury and even death.  So unless you are certain you can fix the problem, call a licensed electrician.  If you do think you can fix the problem…
  3. Switch off the circuit breaker to the electrical outlet.
  4. Unscrew the faceplate.
  5. Unscrew the mounting screws holding the electrical outlet to the metal box inside the wall, and pull the outlet out from the wall.
  6. Check to make sure all the wires are connected snugly to the screw posts. If any wires are loose or disconnected, wrap the wire around the post and screw it in tightly.  Check and see if that solves the problem.  If not…
  7. The outlet is probably bad.  Disconnect the wires from the outlet, making sure you remember which wire was attached to which post.  Take the outlet to a hardware store so you can make sure you are buying the right replacement.
  8. Wrap the wires around the appropriate posts of the new outlet, and then tighten the screws.  Place the outlet back in the metal box and secure it.  Reattach the faceplate and turn on the circuit breaker.
  9. Test both sockets in the new electric outlet.  If it works, congratulations.  If not, you should contact a licensed electrician.