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I have an electrical issue. My home was built in 1984. I have one room with no electricity. A heater pulling too much electricity was plugged in, then I plugged in the vacuum cleaner and blew out the electricity in the whole room/hall. I replaced the outlet I plugged vacuum in, and this didn't fix the problem...but once or twice the light came on, then off again...now it's off. This was bedroom 1. Now, bedroom 2...when I bump into the wall...the ceiling light flickers. I finally got the light to come/stay on this morning but I have an issue that must be fixed. Should I replace all the outlets? I'm caretaker of my special needs sister and must have light! Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  • Not an answer, but a concern: connections so loose that bumping a wall makes a lamp flicker are scary. Get help fast! – Daniel Griscom Nov 22 '18 at 3:12
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I am guessing that you have copper wires, right? Not aluminum, right?

Replacing receptacles is almost certainly not necessary. If your receptacles are connected with push-in, "back wire" connections with spring connections not screws, then an over-current event may have burned and loosened the connections. If your wiring is done that way, then changing the wires to the side screws would be strongly advised.

The fact that you can affect the light by banging on the wall indicates that the problem is in a wall receptacle (most likely or in a wall switch box (less likely but still possible).

You would need to check all the receptacles on the circuit. If you are providing care for a person with special needs, it might be best to call an electrician to fully check out the circuit. Electrical work can be dangerous and if you were to be injured you might not be able to perform the essential work you are now doing.

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The problem you describe is quite common. You have a bad connection usually at an outlet. Work your way back to the last working outlet on that circuit it will be this one or the next one first non working outlet. What has happened is the high current draw caused a failure. In my experiance this is 95+% caused by bad back stabs at an outlet that feed the rest of the outlets and lighting. Pulling the outlets with the power off inspect the wiring you may find some insulation melted or a wire will pull out of the back stab on the outlet. If this is the case screw terminals should be used to connect the wires possibly a new outlet if it shows damage but don't use the back stabs. You also may find a broken wire or a wire at a wire nut that has come loose but I find back stabs to be the cause most of the time. If you don't have any good outlets on that branch the failure could be at the breaker but I have very rarely found a failure at the panel for the cause and effect you describe. If you pull the last working outlet and first dead outlet and don't see anything but turn the power on and everything works those outlets need to be changed from back stabs to terminals as this will happen again and probably with a smaller load.

You can release the wire on a backstab with a small screwdriver or a piece of #14 wire to push down on the stab there is usually a slot next to the wire so you don't have to cut them. I would move the wires to the screw terminals when inspecting.

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Agreed, this is a wiring problem: and 99% chance it's at wire terminations, i.e. The ends of wires.

When changing receptacles, take special care to examine the metal "tabs" between the screws. The tab between the brass screws is often broken off, and the tab between silver screws sometimes is. You need to break off the same tabs the same way on the new receptacle, or you'll create more problems than you solve.

In my experience, receptacle damage is usually observable. Absent any visible damage, I just continue the receptacle in service, but move the connection from the failed backstab to the side screws. I do join the chorus warning that backstabs are no good.


A heater is ~12A and a vacuum is ~5, so it's within the range of a 20A circuit; and a 15A breaker will take 5-30 minutes to trip in that time. So even money whether it would even trip before the vacuuming is done. It is the wiring.

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