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For what it's worth, I have called an electrician to resolve this, but that doesn't mean I'm not curious as to understanding what could be going on.

I have an older home, built in the early 70s, so it has seen quite a bit of remodeling and both DIYers and electricians throwing Romex all around the attic. While trying to troubleshoot this on my own I found a plastic junction box with splices, pigtails, and wire nuts. Whether this poor craftsmanship has anything to do with the problem, I don't know.

At any rate, one afternoon an electrical outlet that did have a fair bit of electronics connected to it (computers, monitors, a laser printer, a Juniper switch) stopped working. I moved the equipment over to a different outlet in the same room and got back to work. Unbeknownst to me at the time there were three other outlets that were out, all in the same vicinity but not in the same room.

Fast forward to today where I got out a non-contact voltage tester and went to the four outlets and confirmed that none of the Hot lines are registering. I also confirmed with a Fox & Hound that these outlets are on the same circuit or at least their Hots are connected, though I don't know what other outlets are on it.

So my question is whether there's anything else I could do to troubleshoot why these four outlets are dark? Any speculation as to what could be happening? Once the electrician figures it out I'll post an update.

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    Could be a failed backstab connection on one of the outlets.
    – JACK
    Apr 24 at 17:27
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    As far as I know I didn't use backstab connections on any of the outlets, but regular ol' strip and screw. But either way, would the bad connection be in one of the dark outlets or somewhere upstream? I can definitely check for that.
    – Joe
    Apr 24 at 17:31
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    It could be right off the feed from a working outlet or the feed going into an outlet.
    – JACK
    Apr 24 at 17:37
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    Did you check if the breaker popped? Apr 24 at 17:43
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    Side screws, and I've located the outlet with the loose connection. Now to turn the circuit off, tighten things down, and save some money. Thanks for everyone's help in this!
    – Joe
    Apr 24 at 18:56

2 Answers 2

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Thanks to everyone who took the time to read my question and respond. In the end I canceled the call to an electrician after methodically looking at all of the outlets on the circuit for a loose connection, finding it in one of the working outlets, and tightening down the wire under the screw. Once I did that all outlets on the circuit are working.

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  • The next time this happens, you may find the loose connection by plugging a lamp into one of the dead outlets and then banging hard on the wall right near each outlet in turn. If the lamp flashes or turns on, that's where your loose connection is. Incandescent bulbs work best for this method.
    – MTA
    Apr 25 at 15:44
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This junction box you referred to is most likely what we call a pig hub. They are usually put in secondarily to the original wiring in order to add more outlets in the home. It's like a splitter. The outlet that you found the loose wire on if it had more then just 3 wires to it then its another split to another outlet and that split is a short circuit and a fairly dangerous fire hazard. You should put a newer outlet that has 4 screws on it and then its 1 wire per screw. NEVER wire an outlet with more than 1 wire per screw because that's a place for it to arc and cause a fire because the wires can shift and short out. Every time YOU plugin or unplug it wiggled the outlet which wiggles the wires and that is how stacked wires on a screw wiggle loose and arc out.

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