Troubleshooting Electrical Outlets: How Do Experts Do It?

electrician troubleshooting electrical outlets

Electrical outlets are the unsung heroes of our daily lives, powering everything from our smartphones to kitchen appliances. However, when these outlets fail to function, it can be a perplexing situation for homeowners. 

In this guide, we’ll explore common outlet issues and learn how professional electricians work when troubleshooting electrical outlets. Keep reading below!

Troubleshooting Electrical Outlets: Common Issues and Solutions:

1. An Overloaded Circuit

overloaded circuit


One of the common culprits for multiple outlets ceasing to work is an overloaded circuit. This happens when the demand for electricity exceeds the capacity of the circuit breaker, leading it to trip. 

Warning Signs of Overloaded Circuit:

  • Flickering or dimming lights
  • Sizzling or crackling sounds from outlets
  • Burning smell from the receptacle
  • Warmth around the outlet
  • Electric shocks from appliances

How to Fix:

  1. Unplug all devices from the affected outlet.
  2. Locate the main breaker and look for a tripped switch.
  3. Flip the switch to “off,” then back to “on” to reset the circuit.

2. Tripped GFCI Outlets


GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters), common in bathrooms and kitchens, can trip if they detect an electrical imbalance. 

GFCI Outlet Tripping Signs:

  • Moisture in the receptacle
  • Overloaded circuit
  • Electrical fault in wiring

How to Fix:

  1. Unplug devices from the outlet.
  2. Push the reset button on the GFCI outlet.
  3. If the outlet won’t reset, there might be a wiring issue or a defective outlet. Your electrician will recommend potential solutions to fix your specific problem.
tripped gfci electrical outlet

3. A Bad Electrical Outlet


Outlets can burn out due to excessive electrical currents, posing a significant fire risk. 

Red Flags for a Bad Outlet:

  • Sparks
  • Blackening around prongs
  • Warm to the touch

How to Fix:

4. Loose Connection


Normal wear and tear can lead to loose wiring connections. This can result in the outlet not functioning properly and poses a fire hazard.

Indications of Loose Connecting Wires:

  • Front plate of the outlet is warm
  • Scorch marks around the outlet

How to Fix:

  1. Turn off power from the circuit breaker.
  2. Remove the cover plate to check for loose connections.
  3. If wires are loose or corroded, it’s advisable to replace the entire outlet.

5. Blown Fuse


In homes with a fuse box, a blown fuse can cut power to a specific circuit. Check for melted metal pieces or discolored glass in the fuse box.

Signs of a Blown Fuse:

  • Melted metal or discolored glass in the fuse box

How to Fix:

  1. Identify the blown fuse, unscrew it, and replace it with a new, identical fuse.
  2. Consider upgrading to a circuit breaker box for enhanced safety.

6. Half-Hot Outlets:


A half-hot outlet means one plug of the outlet is always powered, while the other is controlled by a switch. If you’re unaware of this setup, it may lead to confusion when troubleshooting.

Identifying Half-Hot Outlets:

  • One plug not working while the other is operational
  • Use a lamp to test for switch control


  1. Check for nearby switches that control the outlet.
  2. Test with a lamp or other devices to confirm functionality.

Why Are My Outlets Not Working but the Breaker Not Tripped?

There could be several reasons why your outlets are not working even if the circuit breakers are not tripped. Some possibilities include:

  • Tripped GFCI Outlets: Check if any GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets in the area have tripped. These outlets are designed to shut off power when they detect a ground fault.
  • Loose Connections: Wiring behind the outlet may have become loose, disrupting the electrical connection. This can happen over time due to normal wear and tear.
  • Bad Electrical Outlet: The outlet itself may be faulty or burned out. If there are signs of sparking, blackening, or warmth, it’s best to call a professional electrician to replace the outlet.
  • Half-Hot Outlets: In some cases, one part of the outlet may be controlled by a switch. Make sure to check if there’s a switch that could be affecting the functionality.
sparks on electrical outlet

How Do You Fix a Dead Electrical Outlet?

The approach to fixing a dead electrical outlet depends on the underlying issue. 

Here are general steps to troubleshoot and potentially fix dead outlets:

  • Check for Tripped GFCI Outlet: Look for any GFCI outlets in the area and reset them. They can impact power to other outlets in the circuit.
  • Inspect Circuit Breaker: Ensure that the circuit breaker panel for that particular area is not tripped. If it is, reset it by flipping the switch to the “off” position and then back to “on.”
  • Test with Other Devices: Plug in different devices or a lamp into the dead outlet to confirm that the issue is with the outlet itself.
  • Inspect for Loose Connections: Turn off power from the circuit breaker, remove the outlet cover, and check for any loose or corroded wires. If found, tighten or replace as needed.
  • Replace the Outlet: If the outlet is damaged, burnt, or shows signs of wear, it may need to be replaced. This is a task best performed by a licensed electrician for safety.

Get Professional Electrical Outlet Check

Troubleshooting electrical outlets may seem daunting, but with a basic understanding of common issues, homeowners can often address the problems themselves. However, if issues persist or if there are safety concerns, it’s crucial to consult with a professional electrician. 

Regular checks and preventive measures can protect your home from the risk of electrical fires, ensuring a safe and functional electrical system.

For electrical inspections, repairs, or installations within the Prescott, AZ and nearby areas, don’t hesitate to contact Assurance Electrical Services at (928) 713-2177.

Founder, CEO at Assurance Electrical Services | (928) 713-2177 | | Website | + posts

Jeff Brandlin is the founder of Assurance Electrical Services, LLC. He started in the electrical industry when he was 21 and had worked in several electrical firms before founding Assurance Electrical. Jeff is dedicated to providing the best quality service to his clients and always puts their needs first. Outside work, Jeff enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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