Dead Outlets

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by Fudog, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. Fudog

    Fudog New Member

    Messages:
    28
    I have 3 electrical outlets that suddenly quit working in the living room.Checked breaker and it was not tripped and then manually tripped breaker and reset and still no power to outlets.Any suggestions as to what I should be looking for or where to start looking.Thanks
  2. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Be very careful.

    Likely a break in the line at a receptacle.

    If you are lucky, it is at either the left most or right most receptacle.

    If not, the break is at a receptacle to the left or right of those three.

    Do look: is the hot still there but the neutral gone away?

    Do you understand the last question?

    Has someone recently installed a gfi without having the first clue as to what he was doing? ( a recent service call for me!)
  3. Fudog

    Fudog New Member

    Messages:
    28
    No recently installed gfci.
  4. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    346
    Location:
    Colorado
    More info is needed. For starters - What happened to make you aware that the receptacles were not working?
  5. Fudog

    Fudog New Member

    Messages:
    28
    This is in an Apartment. Tenant had portable A/C unit plugged in and quit working but the A/C unit works in other receptacles and A/C unit is meant to be used on 120v and works fine.Everything else in the Apt works fine except fot the 3 receptacles.
  6. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    You may have overloaded a circuit and popped a fuse or breaker, but it could also be a bad connection developed in the system. Outlets in a room are "daisy chained"....power comes to one, then taps off and goes to the next, etc. Wherever the bad connection is, all the rest in the chain are dead.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,631
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    You need to connect a "toner" to one of the dead receptacles and then trace the sound to see where it stops. One way will be the end of the string and the other will be where the wire is separated. But the broken wire could be the hot or neutral so you should determine that first.
  8. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Messages:
    346
    Location:
    Colorado
    Sounds like a problem in the circuit. Heavy load from the A/C unit caused a poor connection somewhere to fail.
    Back-stabbed devices are notorious for this.
  9. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Absolutely.

    And backstabbed are nearly universal in the sort of contracting that builds apartments.

    I never use the blasted things. If I'm not paying two and a half bucks for a receptacle, I am very dubious of it.

    I am pretty insistent with the client that he be ready to pay for the moderately good stuff, at least.

    The receptacles that have a plate torqued down with the screw, so that I only have to bare a short straight bit of the wire, and not form a loop. Those really suit me.
  10. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA

    Have you pulled out this receptacle? After turning the power off, of course?

    Have some fresh, non-backstab receptacles on hand. Just replace receptacles until the power comes back, if you want the easy solution.

    Because as Dave says, this is almost certainly about daisy chained outlets and them being backstabbed.

    The one the AC was plugged into is your first likely culprit.
  11. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,534
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Homeowner
    I was planning on remaining silent but you have made back to back post that are based solely on your opinion and nothing factual therefore I must speak.

    The use of stab-loc devices has been around for a very long time. There are a lot of stories and fables floating around about how inferior these type terminations are but these stories are unfounded.

    When done correctly they are just as good as any other method used to terminate conductor. There are several different uses of the stab-loc methods in use today that are not on receptacles or switches. This technology is used with splice connectors of all types and sizes.

    When made correctly the failure is from overloading the receptacle not the termination. What we forget is that a 15 amp receptacle is rated for no more than a 12 amp appliance to be used. Yes this includes 15 amp receptacles used in kitchens for over the counter top.

    Wrapping the wire around the screw or using a receptacle that has jaws instead of the stab-loc does not increase the rating of the device. If you have ever plugged in a cord and it all but fall out, the receptacle has failed. It doesn’t matter if it was stabbed or wrapped it is still bad, it was overloaded to the point of the spring of the blades has failed.

    I did nothing but multifamily dwellings for a very long time in my career all over the state of NC. This was at the time when 20 amp circuits were allowed to be back stabbed. The sweet part of these multifamily dwellings is I also had the maintenance contract for these buildings for a period of five years after they sold. During this 12 year period I can count on one hand the number of failures we had and in every case the culprit was portable electric heaters or large kitchen appliances. Any 1500 watt load will cause a 15 amp receptacle to fail if run continuously. During this time period we had several receptacles that wouldn’t hold the end cap in place due to the spring metal of the slots being heated to the point of failure but very few of failures on the stab-loc itself.

    The question always comes up of just how many of these devices did we install. I can’t answer that question but I can say that in Sept. of 1988 we had 2000 units that were roughed in awaiting trim out so I would say there were quite a few as at this time I had been doing multifamily dwellings for more than 11 years and still had the maintenance contract on some of the first I did.

    The key to this post is “when done properly†they are just as good as any other method. When done incorrectly even the wrapping of the screw fails.
    I have found in my career, more wire nuts that failed due to improper installation than I have back stabbed devices. I suppose that I should jump up on my soap box and start saying just how inferior that wire nuts are compared to a set screw termination.

    Let me put to rest the adage that 15 amp receptacles have a rating of 20 amps of feed through current. This is true but the 15 amp receptacle is still rated for a plug and cord connection of no more than 12 amps. See Table 210.21(B)(2) of the NEC for more information.
  12. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    "Stab" the LANDLORD with a message to come fix HIS stuff. Thats why you pay rent.
  13. Chad Schloss

    Chad Schloss Member

    Messages:
    329
    Location:
    USA
    umm, he IS the landlord... (or caretaker) of the unit.. it may help if you read the 5th post.
    "This is in an Apartment. Tenant had portable A/C unit"
  14. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    My opinion regarding backstabs is based on my experience replacing backstabs.

    I have a client, owns an apartment building with about 30 units, built some decades ago. Probably late 50's or 60's.

    The power going into the kitchen and beyond is in each of four of the units (and almost certainly going to come out in all the others) a three wire affair, that splits the two sides of the phase behind a little cabinet under the wall oven. This cabinet is just large enough for some baking sheets. There is no chance that I can reach in from the front and get at the box.

    I need to pull the wall oven out.

    Four times. Backstabbed. Including the shared neutral. And this is not a receptacle that gets used over and over. The gas wall oven gets plugged in and that's it. No one can reach it.

    Four times now I have been called out to replace the receptacle. Of course, I use a pigtail.

    If you think backstabs are OK, fine. I would not give you a warm bucket of spit for one. I will insist that it is foolishness to use one for any purpose, I think they are junk.

    Yes. My opinion, and I am not ashamed of it.
  15. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,534
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I understand what you are saying but you need to understand that UL says different. When it comes to choosing which I will listen to UL will win every time.

    If there were so many documented cases of failure do you think it would still be an approved method today?

    When one fails one or two things has happened, one it was not done correctly or 2 it was overloaded plain and simple
  16. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    I have no intention of averting you from using that crap backstab is it suits you. Go to town. UL says it is OK? Yes? So? It can be readily overloaded? Is that your endorsement?

    I am perfectly ready to believe that the UL does not pull products off the market as quickly as they might. Especially in this case, where it is much more a matter of reliability than it is safety.

    If anyone asks me, back stabs are worthless. They are part of the CHEAP design where the yolk does not cross behind the entire receptacle.

    I simply will not use them. The stuff I use has a yolk that wraps all the way around the back of the receptacle such that the stress of plugging in the vacuum cleaner is fully supported physically. And the electrical connections can be torqued down such that you KNOW it is never coming apart. And without forming a loop, so I am not loosing all that much time. I don't wire whole apartment complexes, I'm not looking to trim five seconds off every last operation.

    The fact that the UL is permissive of such limp equipment does not persuade me to use it. That is my opinion. Period. Ask me again? backstabs are worthless.
  17. Homeownerinburb

    Homeownerinburb New Member

    Messages:
    525
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    Oh, and I don't accept that all receptacles (as you know full well) have the same quality blade contacts. This is patently not the case. 17 cent back stabs have the thinnest, flimsiest blade contacts imaginable.

    Sure, it is better to use 20a receptacles in heavy use applications, kitchens and baths. I try desperately to get the clients to plump for those as well.
  18. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,534
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Homeowner, don’t get angry as this is not meant to be ridicule toward you in any way. You made a comment that just isn’t true.

    If it is you gig to not use the stab-loc that is perfectly fine with me but to make a statement that the stab-loc is somehow inferior is incorrect.

    The yoke of all receptacles goes all the way through the device. This is what the grounding prong of the end cap plugs into. You can see it over the back of some and in some it is encased within the device but all of them pass from one end to the other.

    All 15 amp receptacles are rated at 15 amps no matter how much they cost. All 20 amp receptacles are rated at 20 amps no matter how much they cost. The fin tab on all receptacles are rated for 20 amp pass through current. This is why that a 15 amp receptacle is okay on a 20 amp circuit.

    What about these items?
    [​IMG]

    Are you saying these are junk also?

    ADDED TO ADD:

    Someone that does nothing but service work has an advantage over someone who is bidding a job against many.
    The service man will usually work for time and material but the man doing a bid for profit must make installations in a manner that turns a profit.

    Then something else comes into play, the experience of the one doing the work. Should it be someone who has limited their experiences to one area they will not have the knowledgeable experience of someone who ventures into different aspects of installations. We learn from our mistakes.

    A good example is the electrician who stands pat on not having receptacles and lights on the same circuit. They defend their thoughts with the statement of, I don’t want to be standing in the dark should the receptacles get overloaded and trip the breaker. I always ask a simple question, what if there is a power outage, where are you then? Did that waste of our natural resources somehow cause the light to stay on? I have been left standing in the dark due to power failure 1000 times for every time I was left in the dark due to a tripped breaker.

    This line of thought that the stab-loc is somehow inferior just because we have found improper installations would be no different than someone saying that twist on wire connectors are somehow inferior because I am constantly finding wire nuts that have come loose. I think that all joints should be made using an exothermic welding process.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  19. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,127
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Lets not forget "UL Listed" and "UL Approved" are different units of measure.

    "UL Listed" means that it may work.

    "UL Approved" means that it will work safety.
  20. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    If you look closely these days , you will find many electrical items bearing not a "ul" but a certifying label from another agency, typically "ETL".

    Regardless of who labels it, I have my suspicions about the whole process, which takes place under cover of darkness IN CHINA!
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