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Kevin, Licensed Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 2830
Experience:  29 years as a Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, 5 year college Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma in Digital Electronics, Former Illinois Licensed Home Inspector
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I'm trying to figure out what the problem could be with the

Customer Question

Hi there. I'm trying to figure out what the problem could be with the receptacles in one room of my house. When I moved in 3 weeks ago, I plugged my phone charger into one of the outlets. It worked for about 2 minutes, then the outlet stopped working. I checked the breakers (none tripped) and scratched my head about this for a while.
Since this room is next to the kitchen, I thought I would check the GFCI outlets in there. Sure enough, one (on the adjoining wall to the room without power) had tripped. I hit the reset button and my phone started charging again. For another two minutes. Stopped working again. Checked the GFCI, not tripped. Checked ALL the GFCI outlets in the kitchen. None were tripped. REPLACED the GFCI outlet that had originally tripped. The outlet works, but none of the ones in the other room do.
Today, I pulled out all of the receptacles, expecting to see that they were wired in series, and thinking it was probably the case that the outlet that shared a wall with the GFCI that had tripped was maybe wired incorrectly or the wires were loose. Well, they're not wired in series at all. They're wired in parallel. In each of the boxes (except for one, see more later), there's exactly one black, one white, and one copper running in through a hole in the blue box. One of the outlets, though, (the one I would expect to be the fourth out of five in a series) still has one black, one white, and one copper running to it, but stuffed in the box are multiple sets of wires connected by butt connectors.
The power is still off in the room, none of the breakers on the main panel or the sub panel have been tripped, and none of the GFCI outlets in the adjoining kitchen have been tripped. All of the breakers are 15's or 20's. Any ideas?
Submitted: 17 days ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question.

1) Correct, wall receptacles are never wired in series, only parallel wired.

2) Most likely, there is a loose wire or a faulty wire nut splice in one of the wall boxes on that circuit.

3) Probably coincidental regarding the GFCI. If the home was built in the late 1980's or later, then the bedroom should not be wired to a kitchen GFCI as it was not a code requirement and is still not done today.

4) Do you have a 3 prong extension cord and a multi-meter available to take a few voltage measurements?

5) I also recommend to try the following Wiggle Procedure:

Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

1) In order to troubleshoot the circuit, you need to confirm if it is a neutral or a hot wire issue. You will need a multi-meter and a 3 prong extension cord.

2) Plug the cord into another know working receptacle that resides on a different circuit breaker. You can then use the wires at the female cord end and measure/compare them to the dead receptacles. This procedure will confirm if a neutral or a hot wire issue. Once you know which wire is causing the problem, now you will know what to chase and look for to correct the problem.

3) See attached diagrams:

Customer: replied 17 days ago.
I have a multimeter and an extension cord on the way right now (yay, 1 hour Amazon delivery!). Sorry to be a dumb, well, girl, but can you dumb it down a little more for me? Set the multimeter to ac and 200 volts, I understand that. Then you're saying black prong of multimeter into the longer slot on the dead outlet, and red prong of multimeter into the shorter slot on the female side of the extension cord?What are the "hot to neutral should = 120", "hot to ground should = 120" and "neutral to ground should = 0" on the drawing that you sent? Are you talking about the prongs on the multimeter?
Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

Thanks for the replies.

1) All of the 120 volt circuits in the house contain 3 wires.... ie...... 1 hot, 1 neutral and 1 ground.

2) The purpose of the 3 prong extension cord test is to use a known working receptacle from another circuit and compare it's wires to the wires at the dead receptacle.

3) Prior to using the extension cord test, take the 3 voltage measurements shown on the receptacle diagram that I provided. We can quickly come back to the cord test.

This may be a little faster than using the cord test for now. Let me know the 3 measurements at one of the dead receptacle:

H to G = ?

H to N = ?

N to G = ?

Customer: replied 17 days ago.
Okay. Here's all the measurements you asked for. I'm guessing you're going to say it's an issue with the hot wire, but I have no clue which one to start with. Please let me know if you can't view the image, and sorry about my crappy photoshop skills.
Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

Thank you for the replies and the excellent drawing. Pretty good photoshop skills if you ask me:)

1) Yes, looks like the measurements confirm a hot wire issue.

2) Is the kitchen controlled by a different breaker than the room without power? Please confirm?

Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

1) Have you tried the Wiggle Procedure? Any luck on that?

Customer: replied 17 days ago.
I didn't try the wiggle procedure, because the outlets that are in this house have outlets with little "doors" (for lack of a better term) behind the hot/neutral slots that make it really hard to plug anything in. I don't know if it's just because the outlets are new (the house just had a complete reno performed, down to the foundation), or if it's the design, but it wouldn't let me plug the prongs of the probe in. All of the readings were taken directly on the wires (where they connect to the screw).As for the circuit breakers, I have no idea. ALLLLLL of the breakers are labeled incorrectly, and since all of the outlets in the room next to the kitchen are dead anyway, I have no way of knowing if they would "turn off" when the power to the kitchen plug circuit is killed. Does that make sense?
Customer: replied 17 days ago.
After googling, I realize that these new outlets are the tamper resistant ones (that have a TR stamped on them), which I guess explains why I couldn't plug the prongs of the multimeter into them.
Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

Thanks for the replies.

1) Yes, you have tamper resistant receptacles installed. Therefore, can't insert meter probes into a separate receptacle slot shutter.

2) If you have a portable table lamp, you can still use the Wiggle Procedure on the tamper resistant receptacles. Worth trying it:)

3) If no luck on the Wiggle, then kill power to each of the single pole circuit breakers one at a time and make a note which rooms are without power. Create a circuit map of the home. See attached below for an example.

4) Leave each of the confirmed breakers in the OFF position. Once you have 1 remaining single pole breaker in the ON position, that shoudl be the one that controls the dead receptacles.

Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

1) Once you locate the controlling breaker for the dead room, kill power to it and temporarily back out all of the dead receptacles from the wall box but don't disconnect any wires on them. You will be looking for a dead receptacle box that contains a minimum of 2 separate Romex cables. Perform a visual inspection at each receptacle termination and/or wire nut splice. Then restore power and take 3 voltage measurements directly at that receptacle side screws. If no voltage, repeat the same and move onto the next downstream receptacle.

Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

1) What is the dead room used for? Dining Room or other? Please confirm.

2) The kitchen GFCI is for the countertop receptacles, correct?

Customer: replied 17 days ago.
I just wanted to let you know I'm working on the circuit map. It's a 2 story house with 2 breaker panels and I'm the only one here, so there's a lot of stairs involved.
Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

No problem as I understand it will take some time.

Just reply back to me at your convenience and we can continue. I will be logged on here tomorrow (Friday) throughout the day.


Customer: replied 17 days ago.
Hi Kevin,Here's the map for the upstairs (where the living spaces are, and where the dead outlets are. If I had to guess, I would maybe say that the dead outlets are on #4. They're the ones on the map with the red question mark. HOWEVER, I did notice something really kinda weird. All of the lights (recessed) on the upstairs floor (with the exception of the bathroom) are on circuit #2. Remember when I told you about the GFCI that tripped? It's ALSO on #2. I checked three times. All of the other plugs in the kitchen are on #8 (on a sub-panel downstairs). Just that one GFCI that tripped is on #2. Strange.
Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

OK, good job on creating the circuit map.

1) If your multi-meter has a built-in audible continuity tester, kill power to the GFCI controlling breaker and temporarily remove the GFCI LOAD side terminations. Then temporarily splice the GFCI LOAD side neutral and the LOAD side bare copper ground together. Leave the meter on continuity test and then go back to the dead receptacles and check for continuity from the white neutral to the bare copper ground at the dead receptacles. This test will confirm if the GFCI LOAD side wires are extending to the dead receptacles.

Make sense?

Customer: replied 17 days ago.
I replaced that GFCI outlet the other day. It doesn't have both line and load connected. There's only one black, one white, and one copper connected to that outlet.
Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

OK, thanks for confirming. So much for that idea then:(

1) The only other testing instrument that I can think of is to obtain a circuit toner and a probe. Kill power to the main panel circuit breaker and the sub-panel main breaker or sub-panel feeder breaker. Then place the 2 toner wires at one of the dead receptacles H to N or N to G or H to G and tone out and locate the circuit breaker inside one of the panels. You can use the probe end at each of the single pole breakers hot wire screw to locate the tone. Once tone is confirmed, then trace the hot wire and remove the corresponding neutral and ground wire and re-tone. Compare which circuit to the circuit map that you just created.

See link shown below for a toner/probe sold at Home Depot:

Expert:  Kevin replied 17 days ago.

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise,don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.


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