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Mike G.
Mike G., Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 6994
Experience:  Proven Professional 46 years Experience
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I plugged a night light into a socket yesterday and it

Customer Question

Good morning,
I plugged a night light into a socket yesterday and it didn't come on. I reset the gfi linked to that particular area and the night light worked, but it was far less brighter than the rest of the night lights in the house. I unplugged the light. That particular gfi has always tripped for years ( the outside outlets are controlled by it, therefor affecting outside Christmas lights ). Am I looking at a wide spread problem or maybe just a problem with this one socket causing a chain reaction of problems? I appreciate any help that anyone can offer on this subject. Thank you and kind regards.
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Mike G. replied 2 months ago.

Hi, I'm Mike G and I'll be assisting you.

  • Do you have a 2 wire voltage tester?
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Good morning Mike, I'm pretty sure that my boss does. I would have to go search in the garage for it.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 2 months ago.

When you have it in hand let me know.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Mike, thank you but I can't find it. I know there is one here....shoot. Can you please give me instruction for when I find it? The worst that happens is that I go purchase one.
Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Secondly and if the voltage is low could this be the culprit that has been tripping the other outlets linked with it? I am concerned about a fire hazard using this outlet if it is the culprit....are my concerns valid?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 2 months ago.

Test affected outlets

  • Hot to neutral
  • Hot to ground.

Let me know the readings. A bad connection on the circuit will cause a low voltage problem. Arcing at that point could be either a minor or major hazard. You & I will find it.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Mike thank you. I will go search the garage again after my boss leaves for work and before I go to my second job. It will probably be much later tonight that I can respond to you if I can't find the voltage reader this morning. I do know that the other outlets read fine when they are not tripped, but when something is plugged into them they trip the gfi. This has been a years long problem that a solution couldn't be found for. After witnessing this particular outlet malfunctioning I suddenly had an ah hah moment. I will get back to you.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 2 months ago.

Very good.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
I found the voltage detector and used it on several sockets including the one of concern. They all glowed with 2 bright yellow lights except the one. The middle yellow light barely lit up while the right one glowed bright. The detector I have has 3 lights, 1 red and 2 yellow. I don't know if that is standard. From what the meter says and what I am assuming is that there is a partial connection with a neutral wire. I don't understand what that means or how to go about fixing it. Thank you for your help, Katherine
Expert:  Mike G. replied 2 months ago.

Unfortunately you didn't get a 2 wire voltage tester. That type of tester give readings not lights. A plug in tester is almost useless in troubleshooting.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Ah, okay. That's what I found in the garage. I'll see if I can pick one up today.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 2 months ago.

Very good.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Good evening Mike G.,
I finally obtained the 2 wire voltage tester. What are my next steps? The instructions on the tester are vague and I am very scared of electricity after having been previously electrocuted with the force of it knocking me off of an 8 foot ladder.
I apologize for the delay.....I hope you can still help me.
Kind regards,
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 month ago.

Hey Katherine, What kind of tester did you get? Let me know so I can direct you.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Good evening Mike,
It's a Volmate, VOL880 digital multimeter.
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 month ago.

Very good. Troubleshooting is a step by step exercise. Having a problem outlet or outlets, you first need to identify all outlets on the circuit in order to find the ones that are correct and those that aren't. Set your tester to 250 to300VAC the long slot is the neutral, the short slot is the hot, the small hole is the ground.

  1. Turn the breaker for the circuit off.
  2. Check the outlets in the area and adjacent rooms to know the ones on the circuit.
  3. Reset the breaker and check the outlets identified for that circuit.
  4. Keep in mind that a circuit issue is in one of two places. The first problem outlet or the good outlet ahead of it.
  5. Take a reading on the problem outlet hot to neutral for 120V
  6. Test the outlet hot to ground for 120V let me know the readings.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you Mike. I will not be able to do this until tomorrow as my boss is home this evening. The meter has a setting for 20 and then 200. Is the 200 okay vs. your request for 120?
Expert:  Mike G. replied 1 month ago.

200VAC is fine.

I'm sure that your panel may have some very lacking info as to what is on the circuits. They all do. You might want to take your troubleshooting to what will be one of the best results possible. I suggest making a circuit map.

  1. Sheet of paper per floor with a sketch showing the rooms on that floor.
  2. Show the receptacles and lights with electrical symbols or "R" for receptacles and "L" for lights.
  3. With someone to flip breakers, use your meter to know when the breaker is tripped, you mark the circuit number next to the letter.
  4. When completed you will be able to see exactly how the circuit runs. Knowing that as I said problems are either in the outlet not working correctly or the working outlet ahead on the circuit closer to the panel.

Making a nap will assist in correcting this issue but will make future issues easier to pin point and correct.

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