for the past several days the lights and outlets to multiple rooms in my house have been going out, yet no circuits are tripped. This is happening to lights and outlets on multiple circuits. The weird thing is, the power is restored after several hours. The only common factor between the downed lights/outlets is that they are all on circuits that on the left side of the breaker box. I've check all GFCIs. The house was built in 1980.

Any ideas?

breaker box

  • 1
    Does this happen at a specific time each day? Has anything changed just about the same time this started happening? Does something cause this to happen (e.g. turn on a light, or appliance), or does it just happen seemingly randomly?
    – Tester101
    Jul 21, 2014 at 10:02
  • Could be the electrical utility is dropping one leg of your service. This could be caused by a nearby utility transformer failing upstream of the service entrance. It could also be a failure on your side of the service entrance.
    – user23752
    Jul 21, 2014 at 17:51
  • So what was the result? Did you ever find out what the issue was?
    – user44751
    Oct 20, 2015 at 13:59
  • The answer was there are two main power circuits going into the house. The affected line was cutting out due to tree roots which. PGE came out and fixes the line. We cut down the tree whose roots were tugging on the circuit. Aug 4, 2016 at 2:17

3 Answers 3


Before trying anything else, switch all four of those breakers completely off and then on. Many models of breakers do not visibly trip: to reset them, they need to be shut off first.

If that doesn't work, take the panel cover off to see what is going on inside. Be careful not to touch any exposed bare metal wires, especially near the main breakers. Look for disconnected wires (especially on the dead circuits). If they all seem connected, check for loose wires by gently wiggling each wire one at a time by grasping on the insulation near the connection.

Each circuit has a white wire which goes into a terminal strip which is the neutral and ground bus, like at both sides of the photo (from here). Wiggle all those wires too. If there are separate bus bars, they will be connected together with a wire (unless this is not the main service panel). Carefully scrutinize all the connections into the bus bars. enter image description here

It does not make sense that all four circuits failed and are clustered together in the panel like that. If one phase of the 240 volt service failed, it would affect every other circuit, both left side and right sides. Also, probably none of the 240 volt appliances would work right.

If all the connections are fine, obtain an AC voltmeter and check that there is 120 volts (±10%) between each breaker terminal and neutral. If all four of those breakers are providing voltage but the circuits are dead, there is a break between that end of the wire and the outlets. Maybe those wires go through a junction box which is disconnected? It might be necessary to look inside every junction box, switch, and outlet box until the problem is found.

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    It doesn't make sense that the 4 circuits are clustered if the problem is a failed hot, at least not on this model of breaker panel (really old panels had a hot on each side rather than alternating the way we do now). But it would make sense if the problem is a failing neutral bus on one side of the panel, or some other junction on the neutral side that is common to all of those breakers. I'd start looking there.
    – BMitch
    Jul 21, 2014 at 11:31

The answer is there are two main power circuits going into the house. The affected line was cutting out due to tree roots. PGE came out and fixed the line. We cut down the tree whose roots were tugging on the circuit.

  • Thank you very much for coming back and giving us the answer after so long; this will help future searchers with the same problem. Aug 4, 2016 at 10:31
  • Yes, thank you! I know this is an old thread, but it really helped me this morning when I had a similar situation. Waiting now for the hydro company to come and check the outside. Nov 25, 2016 at 16:48

Have an electrician come out and look at your box. You probably have a loose connection in there.

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    With respect, I don't think "Call an electrician" is a sufficient answer for a DIY forum.
    – Edwin
    Jul 21, 2014 at 5:56
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    It's very much an acceptable answer. You need to know where your limits are and have the right tools to do the job. An average person is going to open the panel and not see what is wrong. And from what we have, no one can give an answer as to what is wrong. And I personally don't want to tell someone to go poking around the panel when they don't know what is going on in there.
    – diceless
    Jul 21, 2014 at 6:13
  • 2
    While this may be accurate, just about every question on a DIY site can be answered "get a professional." If a project is impractical for DIY (such as requiring specialized tools or a license to handle the equipment, e.g. HVAC coolant) then be sure to explain that. Otherwise, the answers we are looking for should educate someone how to do a task and then explain when they cannot do it themselves.
    – BMitch
    Jul 21, 2014 at 11:24

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