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I am trying to track down an electrical problem in my house. The house is track home (not custom) in California that's about 7 years old.

Last year, I got solar power and bought a couple of electric space heaters to use some electricity instead of gas for heat. The heaters have 1000W and 1500W settings but I keep them on 1000W.

Last March, one of the heaters tripped a breaker. I reset it and it was fine. About a month ago, the heater was on and the power went out again but this time the breaker WAS NOT TRIPPED.

There is still power to other parts of the same circuit from the breaker (blue dots) but the room with the heater has no power (except the shared wall with the living room - green dot). The room's light switch and three outlets have no power but there seem to be no other electrical issues in the house.

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I checked the outlets with an electrical receptacle tester with the two lights but no lights lit. I also have an AC detector (stud finder tool) that seems to work (I can detect electricity in the walls around working plugs) but since I don't know where the wires run in the wall, I can't figure out where it should be getting a hot reading. There's no electricity running near the switch or outlets (orange and red dots). I had replaced a couple of switches on the circuit with wifi switches. I pulled them out and checked the connections, but they look OK.

The hallways and bathrooms next to the bedroom all have working electrical outlets (blue dots) and switched lights. I would think that the bedroom light switch would be on the same circuit as the hallway light, but the electricity detector doesn't detect electricity between them.

Any ideas as to what to check next? I've checked the GCFIs, but there aren't any tripped (though the 1/2 bath left of the bedroom does NOT have a GCFI).

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    Turn off the breaker first. Go to the closest outlet and pull it out from the wall. If the wires are on screws check for tightness, if using the push in holes in the back change to the screws. Keep repeating, but check for no power at each outlet.
    – crip659
    Dec 1, 2023 at 18:23

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You've checked switches. You know the problem isn't the breaker. That leaves the receptacles.

Lots of power for long periods of time is a tough job for cheap receptacles. And tract builders usually put in the cheapest they can. In addition, they use electricians who want to do bulk work as fast as possible, so the electricians use "back stab" connections which save a minute per receptacle but are more likely to have problems years later, particularly with receptacles that use a lot of power for a long period of time.

The most likely receptacles to have a problem are the ones directly carrying the large load. However, because receptacles are used to daisy-chain a circuit around the house, any receptacle between the breaker and the large power usage can be affected.

  • Turn off the breaker
  • Open up each receptacle on the circuit
  • If the wires are connected with back stab connections, move them to screws. There is usually some easy way to remove a back stab connection. But those connections are not to be reused - they are truly single-use connections. When connecting to screws, make sure to loop around so that the screw tightens the wire instead of pushing the wire out.
  • If a receptacle shows any signs of arcing/burning/melting, replace it. Cheap receptacles are < $1. Really good ones are $2 or $3.
  • Consider replacing any receptacles that had back stab connections, even if they don't show other signs of problems. Why? Because you can get receptacles now with screw to clamp connections. They have a little plate under the screw that lets you put the wire straight in (like a back stab) and then tighten down with the screw (which you can't do with a back stab). So they are much easier to use for the novice than traditional screw terminals while being safer than back stabs.

After replacing all of the receptacles (or if you want, one at a time), check for power, 3-light magic 8-ball test, etc.

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    Recommended to get a torque screw driver and some ECX bits as well to properly set the torque on those side-clamp screws to ensure this doesn't happen again.
    – FreeMan
    Dec 1, 2023 at 18:45

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