Common Troubleshooting Tips

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NEMA_5-20RA_GFCI_Tamper_Resistant_ReceptacleSome electrical problems have simple solutions that only require a little troubleshooting know-how to fix.

No matter your occupation, “troubleshooting” is a buzzword you might often hear at work.  While it might not have a pleasant association, troubleshooting can apply to some electrical problems as well.  With just a bit of know-how, you can save time and money by troubleshooting these issues yourself!

Device or Wiring?

Light bulbs going out might be the most common electrical problem most of us encounter.  Sometimes, however, you might find that replacing the old bulb with a new one doesn’t solve things.  This might be an indication of a larger issue with the fixture or wiring of course.  But before giving your electrician a call, try the new bulb in a fixture that you know works.  If the new bulb doesn’t work there either, the problem’s with the new bulb.  You’ll have to find another replacement bulb and try again.  We expect things to work properly right out of the box, but you might be surprised by how often new bulbs are defective in some way.

Similarly, if an electrical device that uses a wall outlet stops working, there are two quick troubleshooting options.  Plug another device that you’re sure works into the outlet to make sure the outlet is working properly.  If the “test” device works, the problem isn’t with the outlet.  You could also use a good extension cord to plug the malfunctioning device into an outlet you know works.  If the device starts running, the problem lies in the original outlet.  These troubleshooting steps can help you figure out which repair person to call and might save an unnecessary service charge.

Tripped Circuit Breakers

Troubleshooting an outlet sometimes involves finding a tripped circuit breaker rather than some kind of disrepair.

If an outlet in one of your bathrooms or an outside outlet doesn’t work, the problem might be that a Reset button has popped out somewhere along the circuit.  Check the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets in some of the less-used parts of your home, such as:

  • the garage, especially behind any boxes you haven’t moved in a while,
  • an unfinished basement by the electrical panel,
  • any half bathrooms.

Make sure the Reset button is not popped out of any of these GFCI outlets.  This indicates that outlets have been “tripped” and need to be reset.  If the outlets are tripped, press the Reset button in and see if this corrects the original problem.

This sort of thing can also easily happen in the kitchen.  If devices or outlets there stop working, check behind all of your appliances to see if you have a tripped GFCI outlet.  Quite often these outlets connect to a toaster, blender, or other some appliance that isn’t used often.

For more on GFCI outlets, see our blog post here.

Of course, tripped circuit breakers also occur in your home’s main electrical panel.  When this happens, the handle will go to the middle position, pointing straight out from the panel.  This can be difficult to find at times.  To locate the tripped breaker, lightly run your hand down the middle of the panel, lightly pressing the breaker handles to the outside edge of the panel.  When you find the tripped breaker, push the handle to the outside edge of the panel until it clicks.  Then press the handle back toward the center of the panel until it clicks again.  If the breaker immediately pops back to the middle, “tripped” position, do not force it back to the On position.  This can cause damage to the breaker, your home, or even you!

One troubleshooting tip to cover before resetting the breaker is to turn off all the lights and unplug any devices that are on the affected circuit.  Even a bad bulb or a storm-damaged clock radio have been known to cause an entire breaker to trip!  After resetting the breaker, start plugging things back in and turning on the lights again.  If the breaker trips again, it is more than likely the last thing you turned on that is the problem.  Avoid using that light or device and replace it if possible.  If you can’t, the troubleshooting can help save time for your electrician and thereby save you some money.

These are just a few electrical problems that, though a bit of troubleshooting, you can fix yourself.  Troubleshooting can get your lights or devices up and running again quickly and save you the time and expense of calling an electrician.  If you find you still can’t manage the problem, McCauley Electrical Service is here to help.  Give us a call at 678-362-2881 to discuss any of your electrical needs.  If you have any feedback you’d like to share with us, please leave a review through Google.  We enjoy hearing from our customers!