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Problem: No power in two receptacles.

Note: Both receptacles on same circuit.

What I have done:

  1. Checked the 15 amps circuit breakers with a volt tester. Each breaker reads 125 volts.
  2. Bought a Commercial Electric Outlet Tester (MS6861H) from Home Depot. Used the tester on both receptacles. Tester shows “correct” on both receptacles.
  3. Checked GFCI. GFCI was O.K. I do not believe the two receptacles are connected to the GFCI. I have one GFCI and it is in the bathroom.
  4. Checked all the receptacles in the home. These are the only receptacles not working.
  5. Checked out a receptacle in another room. The examination showed that they used the push-ins to connect the wires to the receptacle.

Back story: I used one of the receptacles (nearest to the breaker box) to power my computer, printers, small TV, etc. I used three multi-outlets to connect all the stuff to the receptacle. If everything is on the watts would be around 400 watts. When I connected my 1500 watt portable electric heater to the system the power went out. I checked the breaker. It was not tripped. Next, I thought it may have been one of the multi-outlets. I checked the multi-outlets and they checked out O.K. I then checked the receptacle. I found out that that there was no power to the receptacle. I checked the receptacle downstream of the “computer” receptacle. It had no power to it.

Note: I have been connecting the portable heater to the “computer” receptacle for the last 6 years and up to now no problems.

Note: I have not looked at the “computer” receptacle. The reason is that it is a bit difficult to get to being that my computer table is in the way. I also wanted to know what could be the problem before working on the receptacle.

Questions:

  1. Could the “computer” receptacle be bad even though the outlet tester reads “correct”.
  2. Could I have a short in the circuit? If so, how can I check for this?
  3. Could the breaker be bad even though it reads 125 volts?
  4. Why no power????????

I would appreciate any help you can give me.

It is late as I write this so it may not be until tomorrow (4-01-2014) before I can respond.

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1900W is a lot to draw from a single 15A outlet, and could have tripped the breaker. But, since you said it's not tripped and the fact that the outlet tester said that it's ok (and apparently there's enough voltage to light the lights), then it sounds like a loose/bad connection at the outlet (which could be fire hazard). I'd replace the outlet with a new one (using the screw terminals instead of the backstab connectors even if they are used in the current outlet). Turn off power and follow safe procedures or hire someone to do it if you aren't sure how to replace an outlet. –  Johnny Apr 2 at 0:13
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Occasionally breakers do not look like they have tripped when, in fact they have. Did you try to turn off the breaker and turn it on again? –  bib Apr 2 at 1:27
    
If the tester lights lit up there must be some power there. –  user20029 Apr 2 at 2:59
    
I came across a situation recently where a 1500w heater was plugged into an outlet behind a piece of furniture, and the plug got pulled partway out. The heater still worked, but the poor connection made the outlet get hot, and it damaged the outlet and the wires in the box. I replaced the outlet and a short section of cable, which involved adding a box for the splice as you can't have a splice inside the wall. –  user20029 Apr 2 at 3:16
    
How are you determining that there's no power to the receptacles? Are you plugging in a lamp, etc.? Are you using the same "lamp" to test all the receptacles or just these two "bad" ones? –  Tester101 Apr 2 at 10:52

1 Answer 1

If you are using a simple outlet tester you could get a false positive. You should always use something that draws some decent current, like a lamp. Here is a related story. I unplug the electric clothes dry recently while cleaning the ducting. My wife plugged it back in afterward. From then on, although the drum turned fine, the heat was intermittent. After checking a couple other things, I pushed the plug all the way in. Apparently, the motor ran on 120V, where the heater coil ran on 220V. Needless to say, I checked the plug and outlet for burns.

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User19121, thank you for you comment. After working with the outlet tester I have learned two things: 1.The tester can tell you if you have power to the receptacle. I know that this should be self-evident but all the literature (residential electrical books from the local public library) I have read says nothing about this fact. The literature does tell you how to tell if the receptacle has power to it using a volt meter and various other methods, but nothing about using the outlet tester. –  user20786 Apr 3 at 0:41
    
2.The outlet tester can tell you what breaker goes to what receptacle. Again, the literature says nothing about using the tester to find the breaker. The literature tells you various methods to find what breaker goes with what receptacle. The tester is not mentioned as one of the methods. –  user20786 Apr 3 at 0:42
    
Using the outlet tester I have learned the “computer” receptacle and the “downstream” receptacle are on a single throw two 20 amp breaker. Because of the complicated circuitry in my kitchen it was difficult to know what breaker went with the two receptacles. Based on my volt meter the breaker is O.K. There has been some question how I am ascertaining if there is power to a receptacle. I am using a trouble light. I also used the trouble light to see if there was power to the receptacles throughout my home. –  user20786 Apr 3 at 0:43
    
It is curious that the trouble light does not light up, but the outlet tester does light up. Johnny’s comment states that it is the receptacle—I agree. I will replace the receptacle and use the screws to attach the wires. I will follow all the safety measures via the residential electrical books. –  user20786 Apr 3 at 0:44
    
Because it is difficult to reach the “computer” receptacle I will practice on an easy-to-get-to receptacle. I will replace the push-in receptacle with a better quality receptacle and I will use the screw terminals to attach the wires. I will use the volt meter and outlet tester to check that my work is up to specs and to make sure that the power is off or on. –  user20786 Apr 3 at 0:45

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