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Troubleshooting Electrical Issues

Electrician working on electrical components in a new house.
If you experience electrical problems in your rental, like flickering lights, dead outlets, or frequently tripping circuit breakers, you might be curious about solutions.

Although it’s vital to prioritize safety and think about hiring a licensed electrician for major issues, you can still attempt some troubleshooting for common electrical problems. Taking steps like checking for tripped circuit breakers, testing outlets, and inspecting light fixtures can help you understand the problem and decide what to do next.

Visual Inspection

If an appliance, lamp, or electrical device stops functioning, initially inspect the outlet and cord for any signs of damage. Power outlets can occasionally fail and become inactive. Damage might be visible, such as discoloration. Likewise, check all plugs and cords for any breaks, fraying, or other damage. If the outlet or cord is damaged, it’s likely time to replace them.

Try a Different Outlet

If your outlet and power cord appear undamaged, the next step is to try your lamp or device in another outlet. Determining whether the outlet or the electrical item is the problem is essential. If plugging your device into a different outlet (especially in another room) makes it work, the outlet is the main problem.

Reset the GFCI

An outlet often stops working because it is linked to a GFCI outlet that has tripped. Many outlets include a reset button. If it’s not visible, the reset button will be on another outlet in the circuit.

The reset button for the entire circuit is on a GFCI outlet, commonly located in bathrooms or kitchens but sometimes in less obvious places like garages or laundry rooms. You may need to search for it, but once located, resetting a GFCI outlet is a quick fix for a dead outlet.

Check the Breaker Panel

Sometimes, the issue isn’t with the outlets but with a faulty circuit breaker. Frequently, you can spot the faulty breaker by looking at your home’s electrical panel. Numerous breaker boxes are clearly labeled to show which circuits serve which areas of the house. If this applies, simply turning the breaker off and then back on can often fix the problem. In some instances, the breaker may be faulty or have a loose connection. If so, the breaker needs to be replaced.

Call Your Landlord

No matter the electrical problem, always call your landlord to report the issue and describe the troubleshooting steps you’ve taken. If these problems happen regularly, it could suggest more serious electrical issues.

When troubleshooting doesn’t fix the non-working outlets, your landlord must call a professional electrician. In any case, clear communication with your Raleigh property manager is the key to quickly resolving electrical problems.

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Originally published: April 2, 2021

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