Lost Power but No Breaker Tripped

woman on couch in power outage with candles
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Our forum here at DoitYourself.com brings up many recurring topics common to homeowners and DIY enthusiasts. One circumstance seems to crop up repeatedly and it’s an electrical issue. The scenario is typically that portion of the house loses power, often affecting outlets, appliances, and light fixtures.

Sometimes these areas are closely connected and sometimes it seems a bit random within the space with some working and some not. Regardless of your situation, if you lose power to part of your house and no circuit breakers appear flipped, it’s time for some troubleshooting.

Step 1 - Check Circuit Breakers Again

Many times a circuit breaker needs reset even if it doesn’t look like it has flipped. Turn off the circuit breaker connected to the faulty area of the home and turn it back on. Then go through each breaker, turning them off and back on. Going through this process can save you a ton of time later on if you discover the problem was there all along.

person checking breaker panel in the dark

Step 2 - Look for GFCI Trip

Once you’re sure the problem isn’t a flipped circuit breaker, start the hunt for every GFCI outlet in your home. Even if the outlet is on the other side of the house, it can be the reason for your power shutdown.

Also look outside and in the garage. Even older homes typically have at least one while newer homes should have at least one for every bathroom and kitchen.

Step 3 - Remove Extension Cords

If you have items plugged into extension cords, try removing the cord and plugging the device directly into the wall. Some products will override and shut down if you are using an extension cord.

Step 4 - Test Electrical Wires in Outlets and Fixtures

Next, pick up a cheap electrical tester and check all outlets in the area, identifying where the problem starts.

Step 5 - Check Circuit Breaker Switch

Also use a tester to evaluate each breaker. Although it’s rare, breakers can go bad and need replaced.

Step 6 - Evaluate Wiring in Each Fixture

hand checking outlet with small electronic device

Now the real fun begins. The problem is likely a loose wire somewhere in the line. It could be from any fixture or outlet. If you’ve replaced something recently, start there. Otherwise, start your hunt with the last working outlet. Turn off the power, remove the faceplate and the outlet. Check all the wires for a solid connection and make sure all screws are tight. Even though the unit is working, a short or open connection can be the beginning of the problem for the next outlet in the line.

If the wires are fed through the back of the outlet, move them to the side terminals and wind them tightly. Then turn on the power and check things out. Sometimes, the act of stuffing the wires back into the box will cause one to short out, so check the connection before reattaching the unit.

If there is no change, move to the first non-working fixture and troubleshoot wiring. When you come to ceiling fans and light fixtures, ensure the wires behind the wire nut are twisted tightly for a solid connection.

gloved hands checking wiring behind an outlet with multimeter

Step 7 - Go Long

The problem may not be as close as you think it is. For example, if the central light and some outlets are out in the bedroom, the problem could be a fan in the attic or a light fixture on the floor below. Unless you have an accurate map of the electrical circuits in your home, you can’t really eliminate any possibility.

Step 8 - Call the Power Company

Once you’ve scrutinized every terminal in the area and beyond, call the power company. The problem could be away from your home. They will come check the area leading up to the electrical meter.

Warning: If you are not comfortable doing this type of work, call an electrician. Always turn off the main power to the whole house when doing this type of work.

Lost Power FAQ

Can one bad outlet affect others?

A bad outlet will not typically affect other outlets, but it can cause circuit breakers to trip. If you are having power problems but no breaker has tripped, a bad outlet is not your most likely problem.

Why won't my lights come back on after flipping the breaker?

If the power does not come on after you flip the breaker and turn it back on, the circuit could be overloaded or it could have a short in it. Short circuits can lead to potential fire hazards and may cause serious danger, so they need to be fixed immediately.

The breaker itself could also be faulty. In all cases, you will want to consult with a professional electrician who can further assess the damage.

Why would I lose power in part of my house?

If you lose power in one part of the house only, this is often due to a tripped circuit breaker. A loose wire or broken connector can also cause this problem.

How do I know if my circuit breaker is bad?

If your circuit breaker is bad, there are several signs to look for. A malfunctioning circuit breaker will not stay on and will repeatedly turn off.

You may also notice a burning smell or find that the circuit breaker box is hot to the touch.

How do you know if you have an electrical problem in your house?

Electrical problems can have a number of different symptoms that create noticeable problems in the house. You might find that outlets are warm to the touch or even that they hum and vibrate.

If you notice a strange burning smell, see sparks, or experience a lot of tripping breakers, you have some type of electrical problem that must be repaired.