t’s spring. The snow has melted off the deck. The day is beautiful. Sunny and warm, despite the stubborn patches of snow that have yet to melt, it’s gorgeous outside. But it’s also play-off time. You want to be outside but you don’t want to miss the game.

You remember there’s an old tube tv somewhere in storage. You rifle through that long neglected dead space under the stairs in the basement. You find the tv and haul it upstairs. You clear off some space on a deck chair, set up the tv (watch it, those old tube tv’s are top heavy!) and…nothing. It won’t turn on.

You haul the tv back inside, plug it in and it works. The tv is fine, but something is wrong with the plug. What could it be?

In our service-call experience a malfunctioning plug is one of the most common requests we get for repair. And in that time, most of what we see boils down to just a few simple issues:

1A) A tripped Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Because of moisture (which conducts electricity) content outside, the Electrical Code stipulates all exterior outlets must be GFCI protected. That way, if moisture finds it’s way into the receptacle when it’s raining and you go to plug something into it, the breaker on the outlet will trip and save you a visit from the ShockMeister. But what usually happens is a homeowner will forget to press the ‘RESET’ button on the GFCI. Open the outlet cover and look at both the switch and the indicator light (if it has one). If the outlet isn’t working, the ‘TEST’ button should be sticking out. Press ‘RESET’. The indicator light should turn on and the electrons will flow again!

1B)  We say 1B simply because this issue is related to the GFCI. The circuit protecting your outlet might not be at the point of contact. How’s that now? Well, a GFCI has two places to connect wires: Line and Load. An electrician can plug another receptacle into the Load side and it will have the same protection as a standard GFCI outlet. Check your other GFCI receptacles to make sure they’re still operational.

In most situations, the GFCI is where we’ll start looking to troubleshoot the issue. If that isn’t it, eegads, what else could it be?

2) It could be something as innocuous as a tripped breaker. But I checked the breakers and they’re fine. Did you check, or did you look? Instead of a visual inspection, push each breaker in the ‘ON’ direction. If a breaker is tripped it will settle somewhere in the middle between ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’. If it’s in the middle press it ‘OFF’ then ‘ON’ again. If it trips when you press it ‘ON’ then there is another issue.

3) What could that other issue be? Let’s say you tried plugging that old tube tv into the receptacle but it just wouldn’t go in all the way. No biggie. If you haven’t used the receptacle in a while, it’s a bit stiff. But the tv won’t work. Hmm. You might want to take a closer look. Even on a brand new receptacle, a plug should engage completely. Your whimsical three year old might have stuck a plastic fork into the outlet and broken off a piece. Or, another plug might have broken off inside. No matter. It’s an easy fix.

At WattSource we have all the diagnostic tools necessary to interpret your electrical issue and find the easiest solution!