Why Is My Electrical Outlet Not Working?


Have you ever had the experience of an electrical outlet working perfectly fine one moment and the next… nothing. So you unplug your hair dryer (or phone or toaster) and switch outlets and voila! Your appliance is fired up and running again.

If this happens, there is a good chance that there is something is wrong with your electrical outlet. It’s usually more annoying than dangerous and there’s a chance you can do some troubleshooting on your own. (But if you suspect that it’s serious or out of your wheelhouse, don’t hesitate to call an electrician.)

So if you’re wondering: Why is my electrical outlet not working? Here’s a simple guide to help you.

Tripped circuit breaker

Are you drying your hair while making toast on the same outlet? There’s a good chance that you’ve tripped your circuit breaker. This is probably the most common reason why an electrical outlet might stop working, and luckily it’s an easy fix.

If you suspect that you’ve tripped the circuit, take a look at your circuit panel. If there are any breakers that are flipped to the off position, simply flip them back. Sometimes the knob doesn’t fully flip to the other side, it might get stuck somewhere in the middle so check for any that are completely one way or the other.

Following this, take it easy on your outlets and watch how many appliances you are using on one circuit and adjust accordingly.

Faulty or burned out outlet

Depending on the age of the outlet or electrical wiring system, sometimes outlets can just be at the end of their life span. Contacts and wires can become loose and the entire unit may need to be replaced.

Outlets can also burn out. In this case you might notice a brief spark or flare or a blackened residue. If an electrical outlet sparks or shows any sign of blackening, stop what you are doing and remove the device.

Faulty or burned out plugs should not be used, they should be replaced immediately.

Tripped GFCI outlet

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter and modern building codes requires outlets to be of this type if there is water nearby (ie. from a sink or tub). These safety outlets shut themselves off when they sense a short or an overload. In other words, they localize the problem rather than cause the breaker to flip off.

If you have a GFCI outlet that goes off — usually in your kitchen or bathroom — reset the outlet by pushing the button, and then check the rest of the outlets to see if they need resetting. All outlets further down the line on the same circuit can stop working if a GFCI outlet is tripped.

We don’t recommend that people attempt electrical work on their own as it can be dangerous and unsafe with drastic consequences if done improperly. At BPM, our qualified electricians are happy to come in and do a thorough and fair assessment.

If you are having issues with your electrical outlets, the best thing to do is call an electrician. At BPM, we have the right tools and expertise to safely fix any electrical problem that might be occurring.