Outlets Stopped Working?
You may find it odd that a few outlets randomly stopped working, seemingly for no reason. Perhaps you checked the breakers or fuses to make sure a circuit hadn’t tripped. After checking the breaker panel, you couldn’t find anything wrong but still no power to the outlets. This scenario takes place more often then you might think, especially in homes built in the 70s & 80s. Note: If you still have fuses that screw-in, it’s time for a Panel Upgrade.
Fact: The first wall receptacles were patented on Feb. 26, 1903 by Harvey Hubbel. Hubbell Lighting has a manufacturing plant right here in Greenville SC.
Why do outlets stop working?
The culprit is most likely a defective receptacle with the infamous “backstab” wiring feature that allowed electricians to stab the incoming Hot and Neutral wire into the back of the receptacle without having to worry about tightening the side screws — this practice allowed for faster install times and more profitability.
It soon became clear certain wiring methods were not compatible with the quick install feature. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) revised the requirements for the quick install receptacles and only allowed #14 AWG to be installed, #12 AWG now has to be wrapped around the screws and tightened down.
Fact: The NEC or National Electric Code does NOT restrict the number of receptacles allowed on a branch circuit. Although, this is not recommended. Read more about Overloads.
Although issues are still common with #14 wire “backstabbed” receptacles, the #12 wire option proved to be a total failure. The only thing holding the wires in place is a thin piece of spring metal. This temperamental contraption expands and contracts as the circuit heats and cools with the load changes. As time goes on the spring metal weakens, and the grip on the wires is lost resulting in loose wires that eventually fall right out of the back of the receptacle.
Loose connections are dangerous when electricity is trying to pass across a termination point — arcing starts when the electricity has to jump across the loose connection. This arcing creates heat which melts the insulation on the wiring and even melts the receptacle itself. This situation is a fire hazard.
Fact: AFCIs or Arc Fault Breakers "eliminate a significant source of electrically related fires. The National Fire Protection Association indicates future statistics on AFCIs will demonstrate a reduction in fires of electrical origin and the CPSC estimates more than 50% of electrical fires that occur every year can be prevented by AFCIs. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, each year home electrical problems cause nearly 70,000 fires, resulting in 485 deaths and $868 million in property loss. Thanks to AFCIs, better construction materials, and other fire prevention technologies, the number of fires in the U.S. has dropped more than 20% since 2004, down to 1,240,000 in 2014, per the USFA." - https://www.afcisafety.org/afci-nec-considerations/fast-facts/
What is the Solution?
After 20 years of electrical service work I have come to realize if one receptacle has failed because of loose wiring then most likely the entire circuit has similar issues with the other receptacles inline. I now recommend a circuit restoration that solves multiple issues. The circuit restoration consist of the following:
1. Replacing all switches and receptacles in the circuit in question. All new receptacles installed are tamper resistant and childproof for safety.
2. Changing the wiring in each outlet box, so the circuit is not "daisy chained." This wiring method prevents the entire circuit from failing because one device is faulty.
4. Changing the overcurrent protective device (breaker) to an Arc Fault Breaker. These breakers monitor your home's wiring for arcing and turn the circuit off before a house fire can occur.
The circuit restoration repair method has been so effective in reducing future wiring issues in the circuit and eliminating callbacks that I'm able to offer a 5-year warranty with the repair. If you are having trouble with receptacles not working this can be a sign of severe wiring issues in your home and repairs should not be put off.
Upstate Electrical Solutions LLC - Greenville Electrician