We’ve all experienced power outages. Maybe during a storm, or maybe that time you had eighteen cords running off that one socket (oops), or maybe totally randomly and for seemingly no reason at all. And the whole house is dark and all the appliances go quiet and it’s quite clear that something’s gone wrong in a very centralized way.
But what about when it’s not all or nothing? Have you ever had the power go out in just one room? And maybe you change the light bulb, and maybe even change it again, before you realize that the alarm clock is also out and it’s not the bulb that’s the problem – it’s the whole room.
It’s weird when it’s just one room in the house, with everything else humming away all bright and cheery like nothing happened. There can be many causes for this, some of them standard and easily remedied, but some of them a bit more serious.
If you find yourself with a power outage in just one room, here’s what you should do to troubleshoot:
Look for a Tripped Breaker
The most likely cause is a tripped breaker. This can happen when the electrical circuit is overloaded, or a defective appliance or damaged cord short-circuits the system. First, you need to unplug all the appliances in the room, since one of them likely caused the safety device to blow. Then, locate your circuit breaker panel, formerly known as your fuse box (often in the basement or garage, or in back of the house). One of the switches should be down – this is the one that has tripped. Simply flip it up to restore power.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell which breaker has been tripped. If you’re lucky, your fuse box will have each breaker clearly labeled with the corresponding room ... but this is often not the case. To locate the correct breaker, look closely – sometimes it will only move very slightly down, instead of completely into the “off” position. To reset it, first pull it all the way down (to “off”) and then move it back up into the “on” position.
If the breaker re-trips, unplug one or more small appliances or electronic devices and try again. The cause may be a faulty plug on one of your devices or an overloaded circuit.
Reset the GFCI Button
If the power is still not working, check your socket plates for a GFCI receptacle. This is a safety device located in the middle of the plate, between the upper and lower socket. It appears as two little buttons, one for “test” and one for “reset”. Try clicking the button marked “reset”, and if it has been triggered, you’ll be able to depress it completely. If it was an issue with the GFCI receptacle, then this should restore power.
Keep in mind that the GFCI receptacle may be located in a different room, maybe even a room that still has power. If you cannot find a GFCI receptacle on any of the socket plates in the room experiencing power loss, then look around in other rooms for a GFCI receptacle.
When to Call an Electrician
Once you have checked and reset the breakers, and checked and reset the GFCI receptacle, your power should return. If it does not, then it’s time to call an electrician for help. There could be many different causes of the problem – such as faulty wiring, a defective breaker, or termite damage – but electrical issues are serious and need to be evaluated by a professional. Remember that if you ever have an outage accompanied by hissing or popping, or smell something burning, a qualified electrician should be notified immediately. Good luck!
Sayward Rebhal writes for Networx.com.
This article was updated November 21, 2017.