Eight wall outlets, a portion of the electric "zone" named "family room" failed. The circuit breaker for the family room remained closed and passive. None of the other circuit breakers opened. All of the eight wall outlets were inoperable and had no current in them.

All of this happened immediately after a short circuit in a small appliance in one of the eight wall outlets.

An electrician was called, studied the problem, and decided to connect one of the failed outlets directly to the main source of power thereby restoring the use of the eight wall outlets. Nothing was done to identify any failed components in the circuit of the failed outlets, or to fix or identify the cause of this wall plug outlet failure.

What in your opinion might have been the cause of the failure of eight outlets in a room with many more outlets, all connected to a single circuit breaker that didn't open?

  • 1
    The power surge caused by the short probably melted a weak component or caused a poor connection to fail. Trace the problem to the last known good box and examine it closely. I bet you'll find a loose outlet screw, a bad nut connection, a faulty backstab socket, or something else along those lines.
    – isherwood
    May 31, 2017 at 18:48

2 Answers 2


The sad part is your electrician should have figured this out and properly repaired in a very short time line. It may be dangerous to properly repair the circuit now that it has been re fed from another location (and possibly from a different leg) causing a dangerous situation for a future repair, remodel. The proper way would have been to go to the last working outlet and check the connections then the first non working outlet these 2 locations are where 99% of these type of electrical failures are located when the breaker has not tripped and there are additional working outlets on the same breaker. Usually I find a loose back stabb. But sometimes a broken wire at a wire nut or screw terminal. If you do go back and repair this make sure the second feed from the main panel is removed.

  • The problem I see is: "What did the electrician do to kill off the lost circuit?" If you've back fed from the panel to reconnect the circuit, then somewhere in your system you potentially have could have a circuit connected to the panel where the hot leg with a broken ground is still hot. This needs to be found and disconnected asap. Your electrician didn't do you any favors if he didn't finish his repair. Jun 1, 2017 at 13:30
  • Just repeating what everyone has already said. Jun 1, 2017 at 13:31

You're saying you have a circuit, with a breaker, marked "family room". This circuit has more than 8 outlets. And then you had an event you call an "appliance short", and this did not trip the circuit breaker (!), and then after that, eight of the outlets do not work, while other outlets on the circuit continue to work. Ok.

Outlets are supplied from a breaker, usually in a string topology with wires or cable going from breaker to outlet 1, cable from outlet 1 to outlet 2, etc. etc.

However it is perfectly acceptable to have a tree-branch topology, with outlets 1-4 in a string, outlet 5-7 in a string coming off outlet 1, then outlets 8-10 string coming off outlet 3, and outlet 11 teed off outlet 6. This isn‘t super common since it's more work to wire this way, but sometimes the layout of the building demands it. Since you are not in the UK, loops are not allowed.

Both hot and neutral must go the same ways and follow the same paths. If you think of hot and neutral as two separate trees in parallel, they must be the exact same shape. You can't serve outlet 12‘s hot from outlet 10 and its neutral from outlet 11.

The good news is, everything should be accessible. It is mandated by Code that every junction be inside an accessible box, without disassembling any part of a building.

You start by making a map of the circuit, where it starts and which receptacles it connects to. Most of the time it's obvious. Sometimes you have to pop the cover off a box and see what's going on inside. As said, most of the time it's a plain string.

Once you know the layout, find the closest outlet which has failed to the circuit breaker. That is the first place you look. The next place is the next closer outlet. For instance in the complicated tree example above, if outlets 2-3-4-8-9-10 have failed, outlet 2 is the closest, so you start there and look at outlet 1 after that.

Failures in wires are rather unlikely unless you've been recently nailing things into the wall, and even that's a longshot. What's far more likely is a failure in a termination, and the usual culprit is the "backstab" connection method, where you jab a wire into a hole in the back of the receptacle, and a spring holds it.

It's quite possible that your appliance did indeed short out, and a weak backstab connection added a bunch of resistance, which limited current enough to keep the circuit breaker from instantaneous tripping. This turned it into a race between the circuit breaker's slow thermal-trip mechanism, and the outlet incinerating itself. The outlet won. A lot of houses burn down this way. Some electricians' approach is to never use backstabs, the NFPA's approach is to mandate arc-fault circuit breakers.

Perhaps your guy used the above methods to fix it. It's also possible he just ran some additional wiring to connect the dead half of the string back into the same circuit. That is OK if he made it a tree structure, by identifying and positively severing both hot and neutral at the failure point. You cannot rely on the failed wire to be the severing, because both wires must be cut in the same place to break the loop. One wire looping and the other not is an even worse situation!

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