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  #1  
Old 08-08-2009, 09:10 AM
Runs With Scissors Runs With Scissors is offline
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How could one electrical outlet in my house stop working?

A little background:

I installed a ceiling fan in my bedroom. Connected at the same junction box were wall sconces that went off and on via a dimmer switch. This caused sparks and tripping breaker switches, although yesterday when I dismantled the entire ceiling fan I didn't realize that the dimmer switch was the culprit. After figuring out that my wiring job at the ceiling was fine, I reconnected the dimmer switch. I had disconnected it because I didn't want to accidentally turn on the wall lights and trip the breaker switch again.

When I reconnected it, it left the lights on permanently and no longer dimmed them or turned them off. This is when I remembered that ceiling fans not only shouldn't be run on a dimmer, a dimmer shouldn't even be installed near them. (The dimmer only ran the lights, not the fan, but the white wire from the switch circuit did go back to the white wire that the ceiling fan's white wire was connected to.)

I installed a regular switch, reassembled and reconnected the fan, and now both work independently and without throwing sparks. All of this involved turning off and on all the circuit breaker switches various times.

And now one outlet in my room doesn't work. Every outlet in the rest of the house works. And I have no idea what to do about it, but it's behind my bed. So before I drain all the water out of it and move the frame out of the way, I thought I'd ask the experts here.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 08-08-2009, 09:48 AM
the first supraliminal the first supraliminal is offline
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I do construction work, and the sad fact is that outlets fail for no better reason than lightbulbs, namely that they don't last forever. If it's behind the bed then I personally would use an extension cord from another outlet and forget about it until I did move the bed.
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  #3  
Old 08-08-2009, 10:37 AM
JFLuvly JFLuvly is offline
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How many wires were in the electrical box for the switch, how many in the box for the light? Did the plug only work when the light switch was on or was it always on? I get suspicious when an outlet stops working after doing minor electrical work. This could potentially develop into an unsafe situation. I would definately get it checked out to be on the safe side.
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  #4  
Old 08-08-2009, 11:04 AM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
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Your story scares me. I think it would be irresponsible to encourage you to do further electrical work. Call an electrician.
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Old 08-08-2009, 12:48 PM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boytyperanma View Post
Your story scares me. I think it would be irresponsible to encourage you to do further electrical work. Call an electrician.

This is good advice. 1st if you were working on an electrical box and caused sparks and tripped the breaker, it sounds like you were working on it live. You say the fan is connected to the same box as other wires. This sounds like the fan is not connected to a fan box but a standard electrical junction box. For your safety and to keep from burnning down your house call a pro.
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  #6  
Old 08-08-2009, 01:17 PM
Taters Taters is offline
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Hmm, interesting. Not to hijack, but maybe someone can answer this for me.

We moved into a brand new house, just over six years ago. We didn't realize one of our electrical outlets wasn't working properly until some time after we had moved in, but here's the deal.

The bottom half works, the top half doesn't. How the hell does that happen? I guess it's not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but still it would be nice if it worked.
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Old 08-08-2009, 01:30 PM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taters View Post
Hmm, interesting. Not to hijack, but maybe someone can answer this for me.

We moved into a brand new house, just over six years ago. We didn't realize one of our electrical outlets wasn't working properly until some time after we had moved in, but here's the deal.

The bottom half works, the top half doesn't. How the hell does that happen? I guess it's not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but still it would be nice if it worked.
Bad outlet or split outlet. The bar between the two outlets can be broken leaving one outlet to be powered by one source and the other by a second power source. The outlet not working may be on a switch somewhere.
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  #8  
Old 08-08-2009, 01:36 PM
the first supraliminal the first supraliminal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taters View Post
Hmm, interesting. Not to hijack, but maybe someone can answer this for me.

We moved into a brand new house, just over six years ago. We didn't realize one of our electrical outlets wasn't working properly until some time after we had moved in, but here's the deal.

The bottom half works, the top half doesn't. How the hell does that happen? I guess it's not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but still it would be nice if it worked.
If there is a wall switch "that doesn't seem to do anything", it's attached to the top half of your outlet. Everyone has trouble with these type switches. Under the coverplate you will see the outlet has blue sides to warn the electrician. I put little labels on the coverplate to warn the occupant.

Alternatively, someone might have installed that type of outlet where a regular one should go. In that case, I'd replace it with a regular one. Also, the top outlet could just be defective, have a loose contact, etc.
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Old 08-08-2009, 01:41 PM
the first supraliminal the first supraliminal is offline
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Originally Posted by Runs With Scissors View Post
...This caused sparks and tripping breaker ...
Sorry, on my first post I missed that you were working with live wires. You definitely should not be doing your own work. While 110 voltage is not always fatal to adults, it can be, especially if you are working on a ladder and fall. Or set fire to something.

Last edited by the first supraliminal; 08-08-2009 at 01:45 PM..
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  #10  
Old 08-08-2009, 02:29 PM
IvoryTowerDenizen IvoryTowerDenizen is offline
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You should probably be careful with the scissors, too.

Username/Post combo winner.

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 08-08-2009 at 02:29 PM..
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  #11  
Old 08-08-2009, 10:23 PM
Runs With Scissors Runs With Scissors is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the first supraliminal View Post
Sorry, on my first post I missed that you were working with live wires. You definitely should not be doing your own work. While 110 voltage is not always fatal to adults, it can be, especially if you are working on a ladder and fall. Or set fire to something.
The script monster ate the part where I talked about turning off and on the breakers while working. There was a weird glitch when I posted...the boards seemed down, so I went back and reposted, but it left that part out (I do multiple previews when posting). I always work with all circuit breakers off.

The breaker getting tripped was from a dimmer switch. It's now replaced with a standard switch and everything works fine. It's only the electrical plug outlet that doesn't work.
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  #12  
Old 08-09-2009, 12:15 AM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Generally, I'm all for people learning to do things themselves, but in this case I really think you need a pro. Based on the descriptions given in this thread, I'm not entirely convinced that the fan is even wired correctly.

If you insist on doing things yourself, I think it's most likely that the outlet has failed due to the OP's work. Outlets and switches are all wired in series, from one outlet to the next, etc. If you disconnect either the hot or the neutral somewhere (like at the fan where you were working) then anything downstream on the chain isn't going to work. What you may have thought was an unnecessary wire may have been the feed to the outlet that no longer works.

If you are anywhere close to Baltimore or southern PA, I'd be happy to come over and take a look at it. I don't want to see you burn your house down, or worse.
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  #13  
Old 08-09-2009, 08:40 PM
TBG TBG is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taters View Post
Hmm, interesting. Not to hijack, but maybe someone can answer this for me.

We moved into a brand new house, just over six years ago. We didn't realize one of our electrical outlets wasn't working properly until some time after we had moved in, but here's the deal.

The bottom half works, the top half doesn't. How the hell does that happen? I guess it's not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but still it would be nice if it worked.
You think that's weird, I've got one next to my bed where the bottom half works, and you can't even get a plug into the top half. It just won't go in. There is nothing already shoved in there. I don't really know what's going on, so I just don't bother trying to use that top outlet.
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