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We just moved into this house about 8 months ago. It was remodeled before we moved in, and a some outlets were added. Fast forward to now, some of those outlets added and possibly a few existing ones have stopped working. Unfortunately this affected outlets in both the kitchen and the garage, which prevented our two refrigerators from working in addition to lots of other trouble that isn't important right now.

I'll try to make this as simple as possible:

  • The breaker panel appears to be a Pushmatic panel. There are no labels of any sort on it.
    • It appears to be split bus.
    • I've pushed them all off and on firmly. From the outside they all seem fine.
    • I am not sure which breaker is for the circuit that is not working. On the lower bus, there are four 20A breakers and three 15A breakers, and I know I can rule out two of those 15A breakers.
    • In the past I have heard a faint buzz occasionally come from the panel's direction for a few seconds, but I am unsure if it was the panel making the sound.
  • The Outlets
    • There are two GFCI outlets in the house. The one in the kitchen appears to be fine. The one in the bathroom is not working, but when I checked it there was no voltage on the hot wire, so the outlet is probably fine. There are also no load wires connected.
    • I think there are a total of six outlets not working. The one in the bathroom, two in the kitchen, three in the garage. The other two outlets in the kitchen are working along with an outlet in the garage.
    • I have unplugged everything from all the affected outlets, then reset all the breakers. No change.
    • I know at least two of these outlets were installed before we moved in, possibly more.
    • I ran an extension cord from a good outlet to a bad one. Testing with a multimeter, there was 120v with extension cord hot -> outlet neutral, but nothing on outlet hot -> extension cord neutral.

What could the issue be? Right now I'm feeling it's either the circuit breaker or the wiring, and I feel like it's probably the breaker. I could take the cover off the panel and carefully test the breaker, although some of you may caution against that since I'm not a licensed electrician, but it seems like the easiest thing to rule out right now.

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    A Pushmatic panel is arranged in two or four columns, with some breakers bridging two columns. Are the breakers which no longer work all in the same column? (Alternately, the breakers that do work, are they all not in one or two columns? Do any of your 240V loads (which bridge two columns) work? Jun 26, 2017 at 10:12
  • bathroom-kitchen-garage makes me think you may have a full circuit GFCI that has tripped.
    – agentp
    Jun 27, 2017 at 3:29

2 Answers 2

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Myself, I would probably check the breakers too see if they have output voltage. Be careful. I suspect a bad connection. Check the connections at the GFCI breakers. I have seen poor connections when the push in connectors have been used (I always use the screws). I recommend a non-contact voltage tester. Some like the Klein one from Home Depot are sensitive enough so that it can be used to find a dead wire in a box if you if separate them a little.

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  • FYI - The buzzing is a sure giveaway that the connection between the panel buss and the breakers are arcing and burning up. The term "Pushmatic" is a sure sign of an old panel. Consider a panel replacement in the near future. Follow @BrainK's instructions on trouble shooting a GFCI. Jun 27, 2017 at 16:31
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When you say a GFCI outlet is not working because it has no voltage I'd start there. Can you reset it? If you cannot reset it then it is likely the issue. A GFCI interrupts the entire circuit, not just the outlet itself. SO a GFCI that you say doesn't have any voltage and you apparently cannot reset is where I would start.

You mentioned you aren't an electrician, but you're asking what to do. I take that to mean you feel comfortable making checks or replacing outlets. I would grab a new GFCI outlet, open the breaker for the circuit, test for voltage to make sure it's deenergized, remove the cover and replace that outlet.

CAn't stress enough... DO NOT WORK ENERGIZED, OR ON ELECTRCIAL ISSUES AT ALL, UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Safer to spend a few bucks and get qualified help if you or someone you know can't do it safely.

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