About a year ago we started noticing outlets in our upstairs bathrooms not working, and eventually none of the bathroom outlets worked at all. Hallway outlets, bedroom outlets still work fine. However, two downstairs outlets eventually stopped working entirely.

I've checked around the house and only place I can find a GFI reset is on an outlet in the garage. Pressing it does nothing that I can tell. I've checked the switch box and everything is properly turned on.

Before I get an electrician, who I'd rather not pay right now, I wanted to see if anyone has anymore suggestions.

  • 3
    Sounds like your panel dropped a leg on your panel. It's probably a good idea to get an electrician.
    – lqlarry
    Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 22:50
  • 1
    Try to determine if the problem is on the even/odd breakers or one side of the panel. Also, are you sure the problem is getting worse, or are you just noticing other places with the issue? If you have a short, it can be a fire hazard, so don't delay getting it fixed.
    – BMitch
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 0:05

2 Answers 2


Residences have two 120 lines coming into the main box, for a total of 240Volts. Obviously something is wrong with with one of the lines, or even the neutral. You can make some voltage checks on the lines if you have a meter, to see if there is partial voltage on the outlets that aren't working(bad neutral). You can also check the main box, but realize you are dealing with 240Volts. If you have any 240V dryer outlets you can check those too if you have an AC meter.

Beyond inspecting the main box for anything obvious(loose screw terminals, etc), it is probably time to bite the bullet and call an electrician. Be sure to turn off the master breaker if you play with the panel. The main terminal where the wire comes in will always have voltage, so be careful.

  • 2
    Sometimes when a breaker trips you cannot tell because the tripped position sometimes not far from the on position. If it trips it does not go to off. Something you can do is turn each breaker on and off. If that does not get it flip the main, but if the main is bad you might loose all your power.
    – lqlarry
    Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 23:14
  • 1
    If it were one of the 120v service lines that was out, you would have many more plugs in your house not working, and all your 240v appliances wouldn't be working either.
    – Zach
    Commented Dec 6, 2011 at 19:13

It is very common for wall plugs in bathrooms, on exterior walls, and garages to all be on the same GFI protected circuit. In most cases, all these plugs are protected by the GFI plug in the garage.

When you press the "test" button of a GFI outlet, it's supposed to make a clicking sound, and the "reset" button is supposed to pop out. If you pressed the test button and you didn't hear anything, it could be a couple of things:

  1. Your GFI has already been tripped. You just have to press the reset button in all the way, and test it again to see if it trips.
  2. This GFI has no power going to it at all. Check your circuit breaker panel for tripped breakers. If you can't identify any tripped breakers, try lightly pressing the breaker switch towards the center of the panel. If it has little or no resistance, it might be tripped. To re-set it, turn the breaker off, then back on again. If it is tripped, and after you reset it, it flashes, or goes right back to the tripped position, you have a larger problem somewhere and need to call an electrician.
  3. Your GFI is faulty. If you know you have power on that plug, and you press the 'test' button, and the power doesn't go off on that plug, you should replace the GFI, or have a licensed electrician replace it.

If you go through all these steps, and it doesn't provide a solution to your dead plugs, then it might indicate a larger issue (like a cracked or broken outlet on the circuit). You should call an electrician if you're not comfortable with electricity.

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