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Some (but not all) of the electrical outlets in my kitchen look like this:

dual-plug electrical outlet with two reset buttons and one green LED

(I don't know what this kind of outlet is called.)

One of those outlets is where I plug in my toaster oven. In the last 6 months, I've had two toaster ovens die (become unusable at any outlet) while plugged in there. The first time, the toaster oven was old, but the second time it was a new one of a reputable brand. Also, the LED at that outlet is now off, pushing the buttons does nothing, and the outlet provides no power.

I have only a vague idea that these outlets have circuit breakers for safety. It seems like the one with the LED out needs repair. But I'm concerned about the significance of the toaster dying. Should I be worried about my wiring? Might I have a safety issue here?

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    Those are called GFCI outlets. I'm presuming you determined the toaster had died by testing it in a known-good outlet? How old are the outlets (assuming you have any idea)? Outlets do have a finite lifetime. – Colin Young Dec 8 '14 at 14:45
  • I did test the toaster in a known-good outlet. The outlets are roughly 10 years old. – Nathan Long Dec 8 '14 at 17:56
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    10 years seems a bit early for the outlet to fail, depending on what sort of abuse it's received. It sounds to me as though you aren't particularly comfortable working with electrical circuits. I'd get an electrician to check it out for you, assuming you own the property. Otherwise insist that your landlord have a qualified electrician check it out. At the very least the outlet needs to be replaced. – Colin Young Dec 8 '14 at 18:58
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    IMPE 10 years is not at all out of the ordinary for GFCI failure. And GFCI's certainly do fail. As for the toaster ovens dying, "correlation is not causation" – Ecnerwal Dec 8 '14 at 22:00
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    Did you check the circuit breaker? If the breaker is tripped, "pushing the buttons" will do nothing. If the toaster oven has a short it could have tripped the breaker. – Jimmy Fix-it Dec 9 '14 at 2:41
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No. A toaster oven is (mostly) just a resister. You'd have to see a large surge to kill a toaster oven. I don't think any other electrical malfunction would kill it.

Your outlet is probably fine, and I think you're suffering from bad luck.

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    The dead GFCI with LED off is probably not fine (it will need replacement), but the toaster ovens expiring is likely coincidence. – Ecnerwal Dec 8 '14 at 22:01
  • Yes, at least something needs to be fixed regarding the dead outlet. Either the outlet itself or its power source. – Sophit Dec 8 '14 at 23:16
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I wonder if the voltage in your house is too high and causing the toaster ovens to burn out. You can check the voltage with a multimeter or a device like a Kill-a-watt meter, which is also useful for checking power consumption.

In the US, the nominal voltage is 120V, give or take some tolerance. I would say anything over 125V is probably worth looking into (you could call your electric company for more information about what the voltage should be in your area).

If you did have a voltage problem in your house, you would probably notice old-fashioned incandescent bulbs burning out faster as well (if you still have any, replace them with with LEDs!).

  • I wouldn't be surprised if excessive line voltage would cause GFCIs to die prematurely, as well. – ThreePhaseEel Dec 10 '14 at 2:22
  • Voltage over 125 isn't uncommon. The power company has to adjust voltage so that the first house and the last house in a segment are within tolerance. Voltage drops through the segment, so early houses are high while late houses are low. I doubt this is the problem. – Sophit Dec 11 '14 at 0:21
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    @Sophit: Every transformer is an opportunity for the voltage to be adjusted. In rural areas each house would have its own transformer, in a city you might have several buildings on one transformer. Either way it is not a large number of houses. I don't think there's a hard-and-fast rule for what the voltage should be; maybe 126V is not the end of the world but certainly by the time you get up to 130V that would be considered too high. It just something to look into. – Hank Dec 11 '14 at 2:36
  • Yes, I agree with your more detailed answer Henry. – Sophit Dec 13 '14 at 1:00
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I don't know whether you own the property or not but there are these devices that you plug into the outlet that have a color code to let you know if you have any faults with that outlet (as in problems with the wiring). See if this will help, otherwise call an electrician.

enter image description here

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Klein-Tools-GCFI-Receptacle-Tester-RT200/203195019

The above is for a GFCI tester which is the type of outlet you have a picture of. They are cheap and very easy to read. The one above is about $8, and a new GFCI usually runs around $12.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Leviton-SmartLockPro-15-Amp-GFCI-Duplex-Outlet-with-Red-Black-Buttons-White-R72-N7599-0RW/203425810

  • Detects wiring configurations and indicates: correct wiring, open ground, reverse polarity, open hot, open neutral, hot/ground reversed. RT200 also works on GFI outlets and confirms operation of the ground fault

  • Does not indicate quality of ground, multiple hot wires, combinations of defects, reversal of grounded and grounding conductors

  • Light sequence indicates correct/incorrect wiring

  • These receptacle testers are used to troubleshoot 120V AC grounded outlets

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