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My roommates share a room and they have been experiencing frequent outtages that last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. There are 4 outlets in the room, and when this happens only 3 go out. No breaker is switched either. They have 3 surge protectors, 2 in outlets that go out and 1 in the one that doesnt.

In one, they have an xbox, a ps4, 2 monitors, a computer, and desktop speakers plugged in. In another they have a TV, an xbox one X, a headset, and a dyson bladeless fan. In the third, which is in the outlet that doesnt turn off when this happens, they had phone chargers.

I assumed it was caused by too much power draw, but even when most of it was off it still happened. We managed to notice that when you wiggled the outlet that stayed on, the power would come on an off throughout the room as you wiggled. I took the outlet out and noticed that one of the hot wires was slightly exposed, so Im assuming it wiggled and touched the metal in the outlet. It also was slightly charred and looked as if it was heating up too much ("burnt" end and discolored insulation).

I took out that wire and capped it with a wire nut and electrical tap then put the outlet back in. Now the power still hasnt come back on, 2 hours later, but the outlet itself works (not the plug that isnt connected).

Im very confused by whats going on, and need some direction of what to do now. I want to avoid calling an electrician if possible (money is tight) but I also would prefer that over a fire if its an issue.

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The power coming into the receptacle that works is the power for the rest of the room. You need to make a clean and tight connection to the receptical with the wire you removed.

  • Do I just clean the wire, trim it to fit, and put it in as normal? I just capped it, so the original wire is still there, but seems slightly burnt or charred – ChrisM Feb 16 at 5:36
  • Yes that burnt wire supplies the rest of the room. Clean it up and get a good tight connection and you'll be good to go. – Joe Fala Feb 16 at 5:38
  • Remove any charr if you have enough wire. – Joe Fala Feb 16 at 5:39
  • Interesting, why do you wire it like that? I supposed it makes it easier to fix if, like in this case, it is the issue but it seems like that could cause issues. I will do this and let you know the results! – ChrisM Feb 16 at 5:48
  • They just use the recepticals as junction points. So each set of wires goes to the next closest box, to the next box and so on. – Joe Fala Feb 16 at 5:51
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What you just described are backstab connections and that kind of failure is typical with them.

The exposed wire you saw isn't good, but it may have just been a matter of the insulation being stripped too far back. It's also possible they cut the insulation correctly then didn't jab it in far enough. Regardless, backstabs are a low quality way to make that connection, and will tend to do this even if done by the book.

Your problems will be cured by switching to either side-screw connections already on the socket, or the "screw-to-clamp" type connections used by Leviton. Those Prograde outlets cost $3. Any competent handyman who owns a torque screwdriver can handle this task, so hit Taskrabbit or Craigslist.

Also have the handyman check the wire and compare it to the breaker. The breaker rating must match the wire capacity, sometimes fools change the breaker to too large a value, risking a fire. The fact that the wire was in backstabs means it is almost certainly 14 AWG, which means it should be a 15A breaker.

All that, however, does not take you "off the hook" for overloading the circuit. I suggest getting a Kill-a-Watt power measurement device and find out what your devices draw. Most of the things on your list (together) don't worry me, but PCs can be a real wildcard. A gaming PC with a top video card can absolutely push that circuit over the edge.

  • I didnt notice your comment earlier or I would have replied, I did as you suggested and as was suggested below by putting the wire in properly, trimming it and making sure no wire is exposed.Surprisingly, the connection already is a screw to clamp one, I think whoever installed it just stripped too much back originally. I was surprised that what they had was causing a overload, but figured that had to be the case since they have 2x the stuff any other room does and it was only theirs. Glad that I dont have to worry too much about a hazard from it! – ChrisM Feb 17 at 16:31

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