Author Topic: Outlets in house don't work  (Read 974 times)

RussellMania

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 14
  • Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Outlets in house don't work
« on: June 29, 2017, 02:26:14 PM »
I have 4 outlets and a wall sconce in my house which don't work. They haven't worked since I moved in. Two are in bathrooms and one in the garage, so I suspect they are somehow GFCI related, even though none of the outlets are GFCI. I have poked into the boxes and none of the wires have power. I've also reset all my breakers without it fixing anything.

Any advice on how I can figure out how to get power to these outlets?

Spork

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5759
    • Spork In The Eye
Re: Outlets in house don't work
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2017, 02:35:17 PM »
Have you done any detective work looking for upstream GFI devices?  I think you might be on the right track to assume they are GFI (due to locations).   I've seen GFI receptacles clustered around the load panel.  In retrofits, I've seen them sprinkled in really oddball locations.

My first attempt would just to be to walk around and see if I could find one that was tripped *somewhere* in the house.  If that didn't work, I might try using a "fox and hound" tone generator to trace the wire back toward the panel.  If you know someone in IT... you might be able to borrow their "fox and hound".  I bet there is either a tripped GFI or a GFI that has gone bad.  (There seem to be some cheap ones that just don't last.)

This is what I mean by fox and hound:  http://www.homedepot.com/p/Extech-Instruments-Tone-Generator-and-Amplifier-Probe-Kit-40180/205556907?cm_mmc=Shopping%7cTHD%7cG%7c0%7cG-VF-PLA-D27E-Electrical%7c&gclid=CjwKEAjwytLKBRCX547gve7EsE4SJAD3IZV6sFPUJEDn6i8eC_7PzzEZ34q70RgwUUNjZ1tEpJa-RhoCvVnw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight

ixtap

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 621
Re: Outlets in house don't work
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2017, 02:37:21 PM »
Is your fuse/breaker box labelled? What else might be on the same circuit?

Vindicated

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1131
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Indianapolis
Re: Outlets in house don't work
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2017, 02:44:03 PM »
I had a few outlets that I couldn't get power to.  Turns out they were on a wall switch that I never used.

Maybe not the case for your bathroom locations, but thought I'd throw it out there.
My MMM Journal: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/my-almost-perfect-life-experience/

"Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck. - Dalai Lama

RussellMania

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 14
  • Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Outlets in house don't work
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2017, 02:54:56 PM »
I've reset all the GFI outlets in the house with no effect.

None of the circuits in the house were labeled, so I can't even tell which circuit they are on.

The previous homeowner rerouted some power through a switch to outside, so I wonder if these outlets are supposed to be on that circuit. I will check tonight.

paddedhat

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2162
Re: Outlets in house don't work
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2017, 04:43:20 AM »
I have had done several service calls very similar to this, involving really well hidden GFCI outlets. One was buried deep under a workbench in the garage, but supplied both bathroom outlets, others were in places like behind a bush in the back of the house. If that fails, I would first buy an inexpensive tic tracer. This is a $12 pen style electrical tester that detects voltage on the outside of a wire. Use it to see if you can find any outlet or switch near the failed ones that has power going into it, but not continuing on. Most residential work is done with the cheapest switches and outlets available, and then "push wired" by pushing stripped conductors into little slots in the back of devices. It's common for these connections to fail and for wires to fatigue and snap off inside the outlet. You might find a place where you remove an outlet and discover that the power does not go through it, but that the outlet or wiring is damaged.

RussellMania

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 14
  • Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Outlets in house don't work
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2017, 02:45:19 PM »
Probably no one cares, but I just wanted to share how I resolved this issue.

I bought a "Fox and Hound" wire tracer for $15 on Amazon, as suggested by Spork, and used it to trace backwards from one of the dead outlets. All the outlets were tied into a wire that was disconnected from a GFIC outlet in the 3rd bathroom. I reconnected that wire and everything works.

In the process of my investigation, I found that one of the outlets was miswired (both wires connected to the same side of the outlet). I suspect that the previous owner would have the GFIC trip every time he turned the power on, and eventually gave up and disconnected the whole circuit from the back of that GFIC outlet.

Thanks everyone for your help!

paddedhat

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2162
Re: Outlets in house don't work
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2017, 04:19:19 PM »
Isn't it delight to follow the path of previous idiots when it comes to butchered home wiring?

 I once wasted half a day, and nearly drove myself, mad at the MIL's house. She had a "pro" come in and rewire the kitchen during a remodel, and was now experiencing shocks, when standing on the metal door sill, and touching the light switches. After reviewing any rational potential problems, I finally determined that the bastard had shorted out a Romex cable while yanking it behind old wire mesh plaster lath. He couldn't keep the breaker from tripping, so he opened a junction box and cut the ground on the damaged cable. The best part is that he actually took the time to carefully cut the ground inside of the jacket of the damaged cable and hide the break, so that it was impossible to even see what he had done. This left everything from the wire lath, to metal electrical boxes and switch cover screws in the kitchen, with varying voltages available to the touch. It could of killed somebody, but at least the breaker stopped tripping.

lthenderson

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 916
Re: Outlets in house don't work
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2017, 10:05:31 AM »
Good to hear that you were able to diagnose and fix the problem. I've often discovered similar shoddy work and wondered how on earth the house never burnt down before now.