One of the most frustrating bugs you can encounter in your home is an electrical outlet that suddenly stops working. Plenty of things can cause it. But figuring out the exact cause is going to be the key to getting the outlet fixed and minimizing frustration. We will go over common causes of outlet failure in the home and the best way to tackle the issues.

What Causes an An Electrical Outlet to Stop Working?

We’ve all had it happen to us at some point. You’re using an appliance and suddenly it goes dead, the lights in your bathroom go out without warning. It can be sudden and lasting as well as a source of irritation for you and your family. There are several possible causes.

  • Tripped circuit breaker: This is probably the most common cause of an outlet going dark. If a circuit breaker trips and gets stuck in the middle without flipping back, it can cause a power outage to the area of your home for that the breaker is responsible.
  • Tripped GFCI outlet: A ground fault circuit interrupter is generally required by building code for outlets near sinks. You’ve seen them before, they are outlets with two center buttons and are designed to shut themselves off if they detect an overheat.
  • Burned out: It can be scary, but outlets have been known to throw sparks or even exhibit blackened burn marks from burn outs. This is the most dangerous reason for an outage as an outlet left to suffer through a burn out will become a fire hazard.
  • Faulty outlet: It is a common flaw in older homes that the outlets are past their best-by date. This could mean loose parts, damage from dust or particles in the air, or any other decay that comes with age.

How to Fix Electrical Outlet Issues

After you’ve identified the issue, how do you go about fixing an electrical outlet that’s not working? It’s important to remember that you’re dealing with electricity so there’s going to be a safety hazard if you’re trying to DIY. But there are some methods you can try implementing to fix minor problems.

Have you tried the electrical outlet reset button?

If your GFCI outlet goes out, the first step should be to attempt a reset on it as the most common reason for an outage with these types of outlets is an intentional shut down. Resetting the GFCI outlet is a fairly simply process.

How to reset electrical outlet

First, make sure all appliances are unplugged from the outlet. Once this is done, press the reset button in the center. Though outlets differ, generally the reset button will be red and/or the top button of the two. You’ll feel the button click and then the outlet should start functioning fine. To test which appliance caused the outage, try plugging them in and seeing which one trips the GFCI. Once you isolate it, don’t use the appliance again until you have an electrician rewire the outlet.

Are the electrical outlets not working on one wall?

It’s fairly common to find that one wall in the home has seemingly lost power to all its outlets. Tackling this starts with unplugging everything not currently working in these outlets. Then take a look at your breakers. It may or may not be obvious that the kitchen breaker is tripped, so flip it or turn it off and back on. Check to see if it fixed your problem.

If this didn’t work, take a closer look at the outlets. If one has gone out, it’s possible it’s knocked out power to the other outlets as well, not unlike a string of Christmas lights. If one of the outlets is a GFCI, try resetting it to see if it revives power to the rest. Otherwise, your outlets may need to be examined and rewired by a professional.

Are the electrical outlets not working in one room?

If the outage has gone farther than a single wall and into an entire room, you’re going to want to again take a look first at your breaker box and see if the room in question has been tripped. If a reset there does not work, look next for a GFCI outlet and hit the reset button. Many times a power outage in a room is an expansion of the same issues that can take out a single wall. If this reset does not work either, it’s time to call an electrician to get the outlets looked at and rewired.

Is it a blown electrical outlet?

As mentioned, sometimes these things can get dangerous. A blown electrical outlet is usually diagnosable with sparks or any sort of scorch marks around the outlet and requires immediate remedy. Immediately unplug anything with a connection to the outlet and turn off the breaker associated with the outlet. If you’ve had experience, you can replace the outlet yourself (the process isn’t too complicated for someone with experience and has done their research), but the safest way to handle the issue is to have a professional electrician examine the outlet and decide the best course of action.


Electrical outlets are tricky, a single problem can turn into a much larger one. But there’s some common factors that play a role in most outage problems with outlets. Diagnosing the problem properly, assessing your own abilities, and knowing when it’s time to call a pro will be the difference between frustration and a solution. Check out our qualified pros over at if it’s time to call in an electrician.

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